The murder of a Christian Arab young man provided a painful platform for the man’s father to publicly display the power of Yeshua’s love and forgiveness.
The stabbing death of Jonathan Nueseri, 24, after a traffic altercation in a village near Nazareth, rocked the small community of Arab Christians many of whom are also believers. Jonathan’s father, Michael Nueseri, is a well respected believer and pastor in the North. Many Arab Christian leaders credit him with their coming to salvation or nurturing them in the faith.
If ever there was a time to learn from his example, it was after the death of his only son — a child for whom they waited and prayed 14 years.
When a group of Muslim dignitaries came to visit the Nueseri’s to seek a sulha (reconciliation agreement), Michael Nueseri publicly declared his faith and forgiveness.
“For 38 years I believe in the education I received from the Messiah and I am not prepared to throw that all away, even in spite of the murder of my son,” he said. “I have no enemies, I forgive everyone and the law will deal with this issue.”
“I love all of them, Muslims and Christians, I do not say this out of weakness, but I know what I learned from the Messiah, and I beg everyone to follow this path and to stay calm,” Michael said.
Despite the sulha tradition, some families refuse reconciliation attempts and reserve the right to take revenge, causing concern that violence could run rampant in the community. According to an article in Come and See dozens of relatives and neighbors were gathered at the Neuseri’s home when the sulha dignitaries arrived.
“Michael gave a five-minute speech that was shocking to many: He told the dignified group that he forgives the murderers and does not have any demands. He said that he would like to share something with them, and proceeded to share about the love of Jesus who he follows and serves. He said that he has been walking with the Lord for 38 years and is not going to be shaken because of circumstances, as hard as they might be. He then explained that we have all sinned and need to repent. He continued by explaining that ‘I do not have an enemy’ and he forgives the murderers because this is what His Lord taught him, and this is not an act of weakness. He also approached his extended family in the crowd – some of whom were outraged because of the murder – and asked them to calm down so as not to ruin the testimony that was built over years, and to let the judicial system handle the case.
“Suddenly, one of the dignitaries, a Muslim Imam from a large mosque in Acre, came to Michael and said: ‘This is faith, real faith,’ kissing him on his forehead as a sign of deep respect. The chairman of the Sulha committee was also astonished by Michael’s reaction. He told the audience that he has been visiting bereaved families all over the country from the far north to the deep south, but has not met a man like this.”
Michael has since been asked to share on news outlets and he begins with why he named his son Jonathan, which means God gave: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
“He also explains why he took the stand of forgiveness that is so uncommon in our society,” the article continues. “In a traumatized society that has suffered lately from violence and revenge, Michael sharing the good news has been like ‘cold water to a weary soul.’”
Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, are a minority in Israel, but Christian Arabs are an even more marginalized group comprising about 1 percent of Israel’s population. Most Christians here adhere to Greek Orthodox or Catholic theologies. An even smaller minority of Christians are born-again believers.
Nueseri’s murder underscored the violence that Christians face in Muslim-majority communities. On a regular basis Christian properties are vandalized and residents are intimidated in Muslim-majority towns. Jonathan was attacked by nine suspects and stabbed to death over a minor traffic dispute.
Christian Arab groups on Facebook mourned Jonathan, a volunteer with the Israel police and beloved friend, and demanded that the situation cannot go on like this for Christians.
“Today we said goodbye to your body, dear brother, but your soul and your memory will will remain engraved on our hearts,” an Aramaic Christian group posted on Facebook. “Instead of a wedding, we got a funeral.”
The same group exposed several vitriolic comments by Muslims on social media after Jonathan’s killing. “Infidels, the people of the book, are evil and hell is their eternal place,” one person wrote. Another, commenting on pictures of Jonathan’s funeral, wrote: “In accordance with the religion of Islam, it is forbidden for Muslims to pity the death of infidels… because they are the people of hell.”
The group also quoted a family member of one of the suspected killers who threatened Christians for exposing the social media comments: “You’ve talked too much beyond your computer. Is there one Christian with the balls to take it up with us? You accepted the reconciliation because you are a cowardly people. You agreed to the sulha like mice. So stop threatening from beyond your computer screen because whoever tries to play with us, his fate is known — and its not in peace and not in talking.”
Another family member of one of the suspects also made the shocking comment: “We are the bosses of Rayna… Whoever doesn’t like that, the cemetery is waiting to absorb you.”
Following the Sept. 1 murder, police arrested nine people on suspicion of involvement in the murder. The town of Rayna declared two days of mourning after the incident. Thousands attended Jonathan’s funeral that day, including people from nearby towns who had never met him.
Let’s pray that the power of his father’s message of forgiveness and Yeshua’s love transcends the messages of hate that are being spewed.
Friends of Jonathan composed a song for him, which you can listen to here [in Arabic]. The friends lament: “Jonathan, we won’t forget you, murdered in cold blood, we won’t forget you, stay engraved in our hearts.”