After 12-year struggle, Palestinian Authority officially recognises evangelical group

Munir Salim Kakish, president of the Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land (left), and Bishop Efraim Tendero, secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance (right), hold up a document from the Palestinian Authority giving Kakish's group legal recognition in the West Bank. | WEA

The Palestinian Authority has granted permission for the establishment of a regional branch of the World Evangelical Alliance, ending a 12-year struggle for formal recognition.

The Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land had been forced to operate in the West Bank up until now without government recognition. 

Confirmation of the approval was granted last week, just before the World Evangelical Alliance opened its General Assembly in Bogor, near Jakarta, Indonesia. 

With official recognition, the council can now grant marriage licences, register churches and open bank accounts. 

Council President Munir Kakish thanked President Mahmoud Abbas and general director of the Palestinian National Fund, Dr Ramzi Khoury, for the outcome. 

"We have been granted our full civil rights as a religious organization," he told delegates.

"This is a historic moment as other countries nearby do not have recognition ... Our hearts are full of thankfulness to God for this new declaration." 

Bishop Efraim Tendero, secretary general of the WEA, welcomed the news, telling delegates that the promotion of religious freedom remained a key area of advocacy for the organisation. 

"We just enjoyed a wonderful success this week when the Palestinian National Authority granted full recognition to our evangelical alliance in Palestine, which they have been seeking for 12 years," he said. 

"Christians all over the world are suffering for their faith. It is gratifying to know that we play a significant role in standing up for them and encouraging them."

He continued: "This advocacy is essential to our goal of enabling the Gospel to be preached throughout the world. We also, as a matter of principle, support religious freedom for all people, not just Christians. In doing so, we gain respect and partners for our efforts."