“At the Crossroads”: Promoting Unity in a Region of Turmoil

Arab and Jewish women hold hands in prayer during the At the Crossroads 2016 (Conference Press Release)

“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria … Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” – Isaiah 19:23-25

For three days, March 21-23, 2016, Christians from all over the greater Middle East region and further gathered at Christ Church in Jerusalem for a unique and engaging experience, called At the Crossroads. Before the conference began the delegates participated in a 4-day tour of the Galilee and Jerusalem covering the life and ministry of Jesus, which provided a historical context, eye-opening for many. This lead into the 3-day time of fellowship, prayer and brainstorming. Reverend David Pileggi, rector of Christ Church and one of the organizers of the conference, noted that the emphasis of this time is “not just to talk but to do reconciliation”! Those in attendance worshiped and prayed together in Hebrew, Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish and English. It was a time for sharing testimonies and hearing the realities of following Jesus in this region; both the blessings and the challenges.

Members of the Jerusalem Evangelical Alliance Church lead worship during At the Crossroads 2016 in Jerusalem, Israel, on March 22, 2016. (Conference Press Release)
Members of the Jerusalem Evangelical Alliance Church lead worship during At the Crossroads 2016 (Conference Press Release)

As one can imagine, a gathering of this kind requires much planning and there was no shortage of administrative red tape to wade through. Regardless of bureaucratic obstruction; approximately 80 visas were granted slowly but surely by the Israeli government to citizens and ex-pats from countries like Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Egypt, Kenya, Cyprus, Iran and Iraq. Permits were also granted to participants who came from the Palestinian Authority and in total about 220 invited guests – Believers in Jesus from many varied backgrounds and ethnicities – joined together in the spirit of reconciliation, including former Muslims and Yazidis.

While the western world was waking up to news reports of the terrorist attacks in Brussels’ airport and subway system, Rev. Pileggi led the conference attendees in prayer. It was a sobering opportunity to reiterate the importance of the “At the Crossroads” Conference. Taking the attacks into consideration, he emphasized, “We’ve tried to confront radical Islam with imperialism and F-16s, and now it’s time to give Jesus a try.”

This is the third time the conference has been hosted in Jerusalem, the first being in 2012 where there were 70 delegates in attendance. In 2014, they also met in Yerevan, Armenia in the month of April to coincide with the commemoration of 100 years since the Armenian Genocide. In what can only be described as a true spirit of reconciliation, an Armenian pastor washed the feet of a Turkish pastor after the latter had asked for forgiveness and blessing in Jesus’ name.

Rev. Pileggi explained that the Crossroads project aspires to “Think Biblically and Act Regionally.” He emphasized the need for education and relational evangelism, and their desire to intensify these in a practical way using their Discipleship school in Cyprus as an example. They have chosen Abraham as their model and feel called to follow his example to risk everything to obey the voice of God to bless the nations. The foundational verses for the ministry are Genesis 12:1-3 and Isaiah 19:23-25; believing that these blessings will be realized when Isaac and Ishmael, two of the sons of Abraham, and those from around the Isaiah 19 region can join together in faith in the Messiah. Then all the believers in the region will be able to walk together in worship, reconciliation, and blessing. This vision blended really well with the focus for “At the Crossroads” 2016, inspired from a phrase found in the book of Ezekiel:

And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. – Ezekiel 36:23

The organizers have made great effort for the conference to be as politically neutral as possible, neither anti-Israel nor pro-Zionist, putting their hope in knowing the sovereignty of God in the midst of the turmoil, injustice and destruction. They believe it means that His glory will cover the earth and His divine purposes will prevail. In this way, the nations will know that He is the Lord.