Christ at the Checkpoint 2018: Jesus Christ at The Center
The 5th Christ at the Checkpoint Conference (CATC) took place in 28th May, 2018 in Bethlehem, Palestine. This is a five-days conference hosted by Bethlehem Bible College that has gathered every other year since 2010. It is a rare opportunity for Christians throughout the world to hear Palestinian voices integrate theological reflection into their present day-to-day circumstances. However, it also hosts a rich array of global speakers from North America to Asia. This year nearly 300 global Christians attended from about 20 countries including New Zealand, S. Africa, Switzerland, Brazil, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Germany, Britain, Peru, Canada, Singapore and the U.S. As one attender from England said on the last morning, “This is the perfect expression of evangelical engagement with both faith and the challenges of this world.” CATCP also invites speakers from the Messianic Jewish community so that conference attendees might promote understanding and reconciliation. But above all, CATCP provides a platform for a stronger, viable Palestinian theology that is anchored in a robust faith in Christ and a prophetic engagement with the Palestinian occupation.
The theme of CATCP was “Christ the Center.” It explored how commitment to Christ affects every dimension of our lives – from worship to political engagement. In many respects, CATCP exhibits to thousands of western Christians what global Christian thinking looks like in the 21st century. This engagement is taking place on every continent, particularly where Christian thinking is engaging with poverty, violence, structural evil and political oppression. This is the Palestinian expression of it.
Yet throughout the world, such conferences also inspire critics. CATCP is no exception. Those who benefit from the status quo or who are recipients of the privileges of power will never celebrate conferences like this if they are in India, Guatemala, Nigeria, Indonesia or Palestine.
Participants in CATCP (or similar gatherings) experience two things. First, they develop a healthy degree of self-criticism and begin to learn how their own faith has been shaped by their national culture. They learn to hear “the other” and this experience changes them. Second, they join afternoon field trips where they meet refugees, the poor, and the oppressed and they make friends. For most, it is their very first such friend who helps them see across major cultural divides.
Christ at the Checkpoint will continue in 2020. It will be the sixth conference and will again bring to Bethlehem prominent world Christians as speakers. But more, it will bring together hundreds of participants from around the world who will study, travel and share meals with people they would never meet in their home cities.