The first 24 hours of Dr. Yohanna Katanacho’s life read like an action thriller. A Palestinian Christian born at the apex of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, he spent his first waking moments in a hospital in East Jerusalem, then part of Jordan, as it was being captured by the Israeli army. His father and mother risked their lives to cross what is now occupied territory to return home. After arriving, they saw a bomb explode in the house next door, killing their neighbors.
This beginning would be the backdrop for a journey that would lead Katanacho through the bitterness of injustice to the belief that God can cure even the most hopeless and violent situations. …
Katanacho admits that reconciling the evils of the world with God’s grace is a spiritual pilgrimage, and he is continually growing. A major turning point was accepting Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies.” He admits, “When I first read that I was shocked. I thought that was impossible.” He adds that, at that time, Israeli soldiers would routinely ask for his ID card and were allowed to shoot any Palestinian that did not respond to them. “It was not confusing for me who was my enemy.”
One evening, he was coming home late and carrying church pamphlets written in Arabic (which could easily be assumed as political). Three soldiers called out to him. He unzipped his jacket as he approached them, which they took as an aggressive action. Within seconds, he was looking down the barrels of three rifles. He then put his hand on his heart and said “I love you.” Slowly the rifles were lowered and a dialogue about Christ ensued. As he left, one soldier called to him, “I wish all Arabs were like you.” He replied, “No, I wish you were like me. Love is not a feeling. It is a commitment rooted in knowing Jesus Christ.” …
Katanacho hopes to “build bridges instead of wars” between the diverse peoples of his homeland. “As a theologian, I hope to help local people find spaces in which they can interact and celebrate together in a common heritage.” …
Currently, he is working on a study called “Arabs in the Bible.” He is particularly fond of the Arab heroine, the Queen of Sheba, who journeyed to meet King Solomon to learn about his faith. As an Arab woman, she can be a great model, and she is part of the heritage of all Arabs including Muslims. … Such traditions provide a framework for interreligious dialogue and presenting the Christian faith to Jews and Muslims in a non-threatening way.”
Katanacho extends a heartfelt invitation to those around the world to come to Bethlehem Bible College and get involved. “Visit the land, hear our theology, hear our hearts. We have a lot to offer. God entrusted us with wonderful land and we love to share it. The strength of one part of the body of Christ means the strength of all the parts. If we are stronger, then all the parts get stronger.”
Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Each issue of Bible Study Magazine provides tools and methods for Bible study as well as insights from people like John Piper, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Kay Arthur, and more. More information is available at http://www.biblestudymagazine.com. Originally published in print: Copyright Bible Study Magazine (July–Aug 2011): pg. 16–18.
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