During his decades of ministry, Labib Madanat repeatedly passed through Israel’s main international airport. If security regularly detained him and searched him thoroughly, he developed his own response.
“Ben-Gurion is my field of mission,” said Madanat. “When I tell them that I am a Palestinian Arab Christian and that I love the God of Israel and their Messiah, I get their undivided attention! “
Son of Jordanian missionaries who later led his father’s church in Jerusalem, Madanat’s role as director of the Palestinian Bible Society (PBS) and later coordinator of all Bible societies in the Holy Land offered him a platform for living the gospel in a polarized region. . He died on November 14 at the age of 56, after suffering three consecutive epileptic seizures during a ministerial trip to Baghdad, Iraq.
“There are people in the world who work and give help to different groups who are not like them but who do not always have love for these people”, wrote his brother-in-law Daoud Kuttab, secretary of the Evangelical Council of Jordan. “It wasn’t Labib. He sincerely and sincerely loved all those with whom he was in contact, Arabs or foreigners, Palestinians or Israelis, Iraqi or Sunni Shiites, Amazighs of North Africa or Kurds in Erbil.
The good book in Gaza
Although he is an outsider to many of his fellow Palestinians because of his Christian faith and a perceived enemy of many Jewish Israelis because of his heritage, Madanat has consistently found ways to confuse the two communities by insisting on recognizing dignity. of those who disagreed or traumatized. him.
This persisted even after enduring terror and tragedy. In 1998, PBS opened a Christian bookstore in Gaza City, where Christians made up less than one percent of the territory’s roughly 1 million population. (Brother Andrew later recounted how he obtained permission for the bookstore in Madanat’s name after presenting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat with a Bible and a copy of smuggler of God.) The ministry quickly had an outsized presence, delivering aid and development projects in the coastal strip during a tumultuous decade that included significant bloodshed during the Second Intifada and Hamas’ 2006 electoral victory over Fatah.
In April 2007, a bomb destroyed the storefront of The Teacher’s Bookshop. (A year earlier, local activists detonated two small homemade bombs which destroyed the doors of the store.) Then, in October 2007, his colleague Rami Ayyad was kidnapped and murdered.
Madanat traveled from his home in Jerusalem to Gaza, tried to offer comfort to Ayyad’s widow and her three children, and then searched for Hamas leaders to find out who was behind the attacks. He shut down PBS’s Gaza ministry, including the bookstore, which had offered public computer classes and other educational opportunities to an economically depressed region. Then he began the process of relocating his already dislocated Palestinian Christian staff.
After the 2006 attacks, the local community, both Christian and Muslim, mobilized to support the bookstore. After the April bombing, Madanat defiantly reopened the bookstore.
“We have sent a message to the people of Gaza that we are continuing our ministry,” he told CT. “We will not give up. We sent a message of forgiveness to the people who attacked us.”
“There is so much love for the people of Gaza that it will take a tremendous amount of hatred to extinguish the love of the team,” he told Christian Today. “I don’t think there will be enough hate to extinguish this love.”
But Ayyad’s murder was a breaking point.
“It is a test for us now of the trust we place in the people of Gaza, not Christians but Muslims,” he said.WORLD magazine. “This is what is difficult for Americans to grasp. As Christians we should be the last to stereotype people because when we do, we are saying to God, “You can’t do something different. It’s beyond you. ‘ I reject that. It is not naivety. I live the reality.
Madanat was born on March 3, 1964 to Odeh and Maha Madanat, Jordanian missionaries of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church who ministered in the Old City. Their son did not immediately follow in their footsteps. After the family returned to Jordan in 1977, Madanat studied at the College of Agriculture at the University of Mosul and then continued his Masters studies in Soils and Irrigation at the Jordanian University in Amman.
But his studies of the natural world couldn’t help but pay attention to the larger geopolitical context around him. While Madanat previously viewed Muslims as neighbors and friends, “there was a fundamental and ingrained hatred for everything Muslim in my heart,” he later wrote.
“I needed two more conversions: to love Muslims and love to Jews,” he said. “I carried all the prejudices of a typical Arab Christian.”
Something in him softened when he saw Muslims go to war with each other when the conflict between Iran and Iraq erupted. He started handing out pocket-sized New Testaments to his classmates and reading his Bible in front of his three Muslim roommates. When a roommate expressed interest one day, Madanat offered it to him. But his roommate refused, saying he was unclean, and asked Madanat to read it to him:
I read the story of the crucifixion to him a bit. Halfway through, he had tears in his eyes, and as I finished my short read, he said, “I felt my whole body shiver, it must be the word of God!” The words of the Bible trembled [my roommate] Hussein, but Hussein’s words shook me and had a similar effect on me as my Bible reading on him. The challenge of my worldview had already begun. My attitude towards Muslims started to change.
Madanat’s relationship with the Jewish community also developed from his closeness to them. He returned to Jerusalem in the early 1990s, shortly before Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. (The accord created the Palestinian Authority to administer the West Bank and Gaza but had nothing to say about Israeli settlements in the West Bank or Jerusalem.) Upon returning to his hometown, Madanat moved to a Jewish part of the city, learned Hebrew, and began to speak of his faith in the members of the Israel Defense Forces.
“Ever since I lived life with them, I knew how I felt when terror struck. I remember the noise of suicide bombers on the buses, ”Madanat said. “In a way, my love for my Jewish neighbors came from being immersed in their life and culture.” It also led him to play a pivotal role in securing funds to support a translation of the Bible into modern Hebrew.
Enemy and loving neighbor
This empathy moved Madanat, even when Israel’s 2008 invasion of Gaza killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians. Not wanting to be overwhelmed by bitterness, he brought toiletries and gifts to the hospital to treat IDF soldiers. He visited the wounded individually, identifying himself as a Palestinian soldier and praying for them.
Madanat urged Christians to do the same, to practice forgiveness and to be “a fulfillment of the good news of God for our wounded human family,” as he told CT readers in January 2009:
To engage in the blame game is to perpetuate the effect of violence and evil; he adds fuel to the fire. It does not mean acquitting the guilty, it means that we submit the case of all the guilty, and I am one of them, to the one who judges with justice and whose doors of mercy are always open for those who ask for it.
So what do we do? Say it’s God’s business and run away? Absolutely not. He took responsibility for righteousness and gave us the responsibility of compassion. “Love your enemy” in those days means a lot, as does “love your neighbor as yourself”. In Luke 4, Jesus tells the assembly of the synagogue in Nazareth. “What you just heard me read has come true today.” We are the continuation of this achievement. So be it today.
In the body of Christ, we are people who also belong to our nations. This belonging and this citizenship should be given meaning, value and form from our belonging to our heavenly citizenship.
Madanat often demonstrated a willingness to learn and change from those he served. One of those friendships was his correspondent Firas, a Palestinian prisoner serving three life sentences. Madanat visited Firas’ family in a refugee camp outside Beirut, where he was struck by misery and despair. Later, Madanat learned that Firas’s father read the Bible regularly:
I wondered why he wasn’t a Christian yet. But, was it for me to decide what was to be the fruit of the Word in his life? I must first be a Christian for him, love and serve and all that it means to bear the name of Christ, before allowing myself the right to expect him to conform to my Christianity.
Madanat spent 14 years as the executive director of PBS, growing the ministry from 3 to 30 staff members including Muslims, later reflecting that “they taught us to love them.” In 2008, he helped restructure the ministries in the Middle East into the Arab-Israeli Bible Society, the Bible Society in Israel, and the Palestinian Bible Society and helped them collaborate with each other. He also advised the American Bible Society on Middle Eastern issues for nearly a decade.
“Her heart was so full of love for Jesus and commitment to the biblical cause. His vision of sharing the Word had no geographic boundaries, ”wrote Hrayr Jebejian, secretary general of the Gulf Bible Society. “Labib was a bridge builder who tirelessly wanted and aimed for our Bible Societies to be interconnected and interdependent.
“He wanted the kingdom of the Lord to spread wherever it was, and never stopped doing his best for this precious cause. “
Madanat is survived by his wife, Carolyn Gladstone, their five children, his mother and his brother.