Arab and Jewish AG Leaders Share on Current Crisis, Prayer
There are currently 24 ethnic fellowships within the U.S. Assemblies of God. These fellowships serve to form a network of churches along language or ethnic lines in order to better facilitate evangelism, exchanging information, and establishing churches.
AG News recently asked the leaders of the AG National Jewish Fellowship and the Arabic AG Fellowship about the current crisis in the Middle East. Michael Calise serves as president of the National Jewish Fellowship. George Rafidi serves as president of the Arabic AG Fellowship.
AG NEWS: Tell us about your fellowship.
MICHAEL CALISE: The National Jewish Fellowship (NJF) is a fellowship of Jewish ministers and workers in the Assemblies of God serving the Messianic Jewish Community and the Gentile Body of Messiah worldwide. We operate as a nationally recognized ethnic fellowship within the Assemblies of God and are committed to the preeminence of Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah and empowerment of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) in all aspects of our Fellowship.
The NJF exists to provide support and encouragement to those in the field of Jewish Ministry and Jewish believers worldwide through forums, conferencesand publications. We seek to formulate strategies, teachings and leadership development while fostering Messianic Jewish life and awareness.
The burden for the National Jewish Fellowship began with the understanding that less than 1% of the world’s Jewish population has received her Messiah. With this continual burden, the vision was born among laborers in this vital field of ministry to unify our efforts.
The purpose of the NJF is to proclaim the truth of Yeshua as the Messiah, to establish Messianic Jewish outreach and communities, and to serve as a resource to the Assemblies of God General Council and the greater Body of Messiah.
RAFIDI: In October 2004, fifteen ministers to the Arabs met at Maranatha Chapel in Evergreen, Illinois, for the Arabic Pastors’ Forum. This group's vision was to pioneer a fellowship for Arabic Pentecostal ministers, and provide them with a network of resources that could increase their effectiveness in spreading the gospel. On Aug. 2, 2005, at First Assembly of God in Aurora, Colorado, an official foundation for an Assemblies of God ethnic fellowship was established, and on Oct. 27, 2005, the Arabic Assemblies of God Fellowship, USA, was birthed. The fellowship meets annually for business and connects virtually throughout the year for fellowship and prayer. The Arabic School of Ministry (ASOM) was launched in September 2023, with 17 students enrolled in the ministry preparation program. The course work is designed to lead to licensure and ordination with the Assemblies of God.
AG NEWS: Have you seen an escalation in antisemitic or anti-Arab hate in recent weeks?
CALISE: A security professional from New York recently said to the New York Jewish Week: “The world is different from what it was on Oct. 6 . . . Everyone should be concerned.” The reason for this concern is that there has been a 400% increase in antisemitic acts in the U.S.
Incidents range from graffiti saying, “kill the Jews,” and the chanting of “gas the Jews,” to physical violence and harassment. One Israeli student was assaulted with a stick at Columbia University, which is the university my daughter recently graduated from so it hits close to home. Someone pushed a Jewish woman shouting, “This pig has got to go.” In another incident a man punched a woman in Manhattan saying it was because she was Jewish. Synagogues and Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized. Any known Jewish establishments are at risk. The famous 2nd Avenue Deli was defaced with a swastika. If you are Jewish, you are a potential target of persecution in this current climate.
RAFIDI: In recent weeks we have witnessed a Palestinian boy killed and his mother beaten and hospitalized by their landlord in a hate crime following the Oct. 7 attack. Others, even government officials, have insinuated that no Gaza citizens are innocent and all should be treated as terrorists.
AG NEWS: What are some ways you see people being personally affected by the current conflict?
CALISE: People are concerned for their safety and the safety of loved ones in Israel. Members of the fellowship have family and friends that live in Israel. Some are fighting in the war and others are helping displaced families from the bombings and attacks who are in need of material, psychological, and spiritual help. Some have been injured. For example, a young Messianic Jewish soldier, lost his legs in the battle and is in critical condition now.
This has resulted in people being nervous about attending services. While it is a good thing that local law enforcement agencies and homeland security has increased their presence around Jewish congregations, including ours, their presence is both reassuring and disturbing. People are concerned about openly wearing anything that would identify them as being Jewish for fear of harassment and attacks of violence.
RAFIDI: The current conflict is resulting in thousands of people dying without Christ. At the time of writing this response, the death toll in Gaza is in the thousands, including many children. We know Palestinians in Gaza have lost family and loved ones, and in some instances entire bloodlines have been wiped out. The ones we hear from express that they feel invisible as the world watches their annihilation. Since the recent conflict began, we receive requests from Christians in Gaza asking us to remind their brothers and sisters in Christ to not to forget about them. They wonder if people pray for them. In America, we see Palestinians hurting as they watch the destruction of their homeland, and the death of their people. They wonder if people care about them at all. When we share their concerns with people, some tell us they are afraid to pray for Palestinians because they’re afraid of supporting Hamas. The Assemblies of God is represented on the ground in Gaza with an active ministry to both Muslims and Christians. The ministers there are concerned that when this conflict is over, they may have lost their entire Gazan staff.
AG NEWS: In what ways are you praying regarding the current crisis?
CALISE: First, we are attempting to rally the church to pray and stand with the Jewish people and not repeat the mistake of what happened in World War II when the Church was silent concerning the Jewish people and six million died.
We are praying for hostages to be safely returned, for protection over the land and the people, against the rise of global antisemitism, and that the good news of Messiah will go forth in power and bring many to salvation. We heard the story of a Messianic Jewish soldier who had her Bible with her as she was deployed. Her captain called her in and had her Bible in his hands. He said to her, “Yeshua (Jesus) is OUR Messiah.” Other soldiers in her unit asked for a Bible so she ordered some to be sent to her and was sharing her Bible with her friends until she could get more.
RAFIDI: The current conflict is a result of the horrific incident that took place on Oct. 7; however, the conflict itself is 75 years old. Knowing that not all Palestinians in Gaza are Hamas, and not all Palestinians in Gaza are Hamas supporters, we urge the church to remember people on both sides of this conflict with hearts motivated by the compassion of Christ.
• We pray for the miracle of resolution and peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
• We pray for mercy on all people being oppressed, injured, or killed, especially the innocent children who are so afraid on both sides of this conflict.
• We pray that Christian Israelis and Palestinians will feel the presence of God in their time of despair and be at peace.
• We believe for the supernatural removal of physical pain and suffering and for peace that passes all understanding for the hearts and minds of those experiencing trauma.
• We pray for God to be close to those overcome with grief.
• We pray for safe places to shelter, food, clean water, and medical care for everyone in need.
• We pray for quick resolution and the strength to endure until it comes.
• We pray for opportunities for the believers and Christ followers in Israel and Palestine to share the love of God with those around them.
• We pray for strength and encouragement for our Assemblies of God ministers and their work in Gaza to be sustained.
• We pray that God will draw people to His side and comfort them.
• We pray that justice will not be perverted based on racial or ethnic status.
• We pray that the Church will see Palestinians through the eyes of Jesus.
• We pray for the miracle of peace, for encouragement, and for hope in this very desperate time.
AG NEWS: How can we pray for believers in your fellowship?
CALISE: Pray against fear and for courage to stand firm and not get disillusioned. Pray for protection from acts of antisemitism and Jew hatred. Pray that we would continue to be a light to our Jewish brothers and sisters and see many of them come to know our Messiah.
• Please pray for God to give us more compassion and wisdom and His perfect perspective on the world we live in.
• Pray we communicate God’s love through every action and every word, spoken and unspoken.
• Pray that God will continue empowering us to serve.
See previous articles on Israel.
LOWER PHOTO: George Rafidi (left), and Michael Calise