The ‘tb Joshua Storm’ In Nazareth

By Godwin ikechukwu
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Nabil Awda from Nazareth wrote an intriguing opinion piece in Arabic for the prominent Palestinian newspaper Donia Al-Watan regarding the aftermath of the controversial visit of TB Joshua, titled ‘Words To Think About After The TB Joshua Storm In Nazareth’.

“I followed the uproar raised before and during the visit of Christian preacher, TB Joshua, to Nazareth. I decided not to write. I know of an Arab Christian preacher from Jaffa, Tel Aviv, who has settled in the United States and has a great community that follows him and practices Joshua's style of ministering. I will not talk on the genuineness of his methods; the most important is his message of love, brotherhood and peace among men. Whoever believes in his therapeutic abilities – it is their concern and not the problem of anyone else who sees it differently.

“Protesters are not sincere when they oppose this and leave hundreds of more negative phenomena with the ugliness and hatred of different social or religious groups. It is essential to note that Joshua did not declare hostility to any different religious approach – Christian or non-Christian. He rather insisted on the essence of Christianity – love and peace. His slogan in Nazareth was: "Love as Christ loves you", and I do not think there is a religion that opposes love and peace.

“The hostility to Joshua's visit stemmed from other reasons unrelated to preaching and Christianity. It was a political expression of hostility to the Nazareth municipality and Mayor Ali Salam, who gave Joshua the opportunity to visit Nazareth and offer a sermon on Mount Precipice. Joshua may be practicing an approach that is misunderstood by the Christian communities, and unacceptable to Islam. But we live in the reality where there are thousands of religious clerics who hold different positions and interpretations of religious texts.

“Do not forget that Nazareth is a tourist city. Since the implementation of the Nazareth tourism project, Nazareth has witnessed a very important economic renaissance – opening up jobs for hundreds of citizens, filling hotels with tourists, activating the commercial movement in Nazareth, which our city cannot do without. What prompted such an outcry of noise from the opposition then? There remains only one explanation: exploiting the visit of a Christian missionary in agreement with the municipality of Nazareth to challenge the municipality and the Mayor Ali Salam.

“How can the visit be assessed now that the noise has ended? It was a visit by a Christian cleric who had his own faith and did not ask anyone to leave their way and faith to join him. The right of every human being to believe in what he sees is consistent with his thinking. A peaceful visit reflected an important positive impact on Nazareth economically.

“For information only, the visit resulted in the booking of thousands of families in local hotels – a very important and necessary income for the city of Nazareth. The visit resulted in a very broad activation of the commercial movement in Nazareth. 12,000 visitors (tourists) came with Joshua and we had information that our ‘falafel’ was sold out in Nazareth from the high demand from Christian visitors. Tourist shops operated extra hours; clothing shops also benefited from the sale of clothing. And do not forget that the transport companies operated their buses for additional hours to transport tourists accompanying Joshua. All of this is accompanied by a very large financial return for Nazareth! And remember – the visit was not to coerce anyone to change his religion and faith.

“For those who demonstrated against the visit – do they have suggestions to revitalize commercial life in Nazareth? Of course, the aim is to direct arrows against the municipality of Nazareth and its Mayor Ali Salam. So, the protesters' failure was loud and funny with the small number of recruits and marchers against the visit. I hope they might learn the lesson in the future.

“The most important project of the municipality of Nazareth is to revitalize the commercial life in the city. There is no way to achieve this except by tourism. Christian and non-Christian tourism is the area serves Nazareth economically. Do we protest against the visitors of our city? It is funny that the demonstration of opponents of the visit to Joshua was attended by fewer than twenty demonstrators! They said the time was not allowed for recruitment. They were recruited for another, more extensive demonstration in the presence of less than fifty people – in a city with a population of close to 100,000 people. Do we say to anyone who wishes to visit Nazareth you are not welcome? Do you have any alternative proposals to revitalise economic life in Nazareth?

We should be happy to receive Joshua every day – alongside his 10,000 followers, perhaps even 40,000 – whilst knowing our faith and beliefs are not for sale. We should be welcoming to all who visit Nazareth, who come with a message of peace and love to her and her history. Shame on anyone who thinks that opposing the municipality's steps to stimulate trade and build projects will open the way for them to return to the municipal administration of Nazareth! We are tired of your minor thinking! Shame on all who stand in the way of the development of Nazareth!