Many leaders in the Middle East once thought that Christians and Israel were their primary enemies, but there is a “tectonic shift” taking place in the region, according to ALL ARAB NEWS Editor-in-Chief Joel Rosenberg.
And with these shifting alliances and emerging threats, the Arab world is reassessing who is an enemy and who is a foe.
“Look, Christians have always been thought of in the region as the problem,” Rosenberg said in a recent interview. “This is not the case currently. People see Iran as the main enemy, rightly so.”
Rosenberg had a front-row seat to this change, having led several delegations of Evangelical Christians to meet kings, crown princes and presidents over the past several years in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, accompanied Rosenberg on these visits.
In an interview with Rosenberg on his show, Washington Watch, Perkins asked about these meetings which are recounted in “Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey inside the Fast-Moving and Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East” – Rosenberg’s new nonfiction book.
“We sat down and talked for hours. It’d be great if you had 15 minutes with a world leader to just try to raise one question,” Rosenberg noted. “But these leaders invited us as Evangelicals. That was unique.”
In fact, the main topic of conversation revolved around the dismal situation for Christians in the region. The Evangelical leaders advocated for religious freedom, human rights and peace with Israel in these countries.
“So rarely do Christians – people who love Jesus – have a chance to talk about the challenges that Christians face in a region that has been beset with war, terror and genocide against Christians,” Rosenberg said. “It was a hugely important opportunity not just for religious freedom, though, but also a discussion piece for the Iran threat, and so many other issues.”
The delegations were discreet and did not reveal for nearly two years that UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) told them he was ready to make peace with Israel.
“As I describe in the book – you were in the room – he said, ‘Joel, it’s going to be me.’ We were like, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘I’m ready to make peace’ – and he walked us through why he was ready and the path he was hoping to take,” Rosenberg recalled. “It was off the record at that time. We were sitting on a huge headline, but we kept our word.”
It was also an opportunity for Christians to explain to the crown prince what they believe and why.
“I said ‘there’s three things that we want you to know about Evangelicals when it comes to peace and Israel,” Rosenberg said. “Number one, we love Israel. We love the Jews. You can’t shake us on that. It’s because it’s theological to us. It’s not political. Two, Jesus commands us to love our neighbors. So we do love Palestinians. We do love Arabs. We do love Muslims. It’s not either or. But, third, we’re looking as we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, who will be the next Arab leader to make peace, even if the Palestinian leadership is not ready.”
Nearly two years later, former U.S. President Donald Trump announced the historic peace agreement between Israel and the UAE, setting in motion the Abraham Accords.
“He was making peace and his courageous decision set into motion Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan – Kosovo also – making these decisions absolutely fascinating. This is the only book that tells that story,” Rosenberg said.
MBZ also shared with the delegation a little-known fact – that he was born in a hospital built by Christian missionaries. The couple, who were doctors, helped bring MBZ to term after his mother had experienced several miscarriages.
“That’s an amazing story, because normally you think the term ‘missionary’ in a Muslim culture or a Jewish culture would be anathema, but there was such goodwill birth out of that,” Rosenberg said.
The hospital is still run by Evangelicals today.