Students challenged to fight persecution and stand up for Israel in Convocation
Liberty University students gathered in the Vines Center Wednesday to honor the culture, heritage, and accomplishments of past and present Jews during a Judeo-focused Convocation that both challenged and encouraged students in their own relationship with God.
The Convocation kicked off with a performance by Israeli worship band Miqedem, who led the crowd in a worship set that was sung entirely in Hebrew. During the set, students were taught how to pronounce certain Hebrew words and were encouraged to sing along to the lyrics. The songs were directly inspired by passages found in the book of Psalms, all of which encouraged the Jews of the day to boast and proclaim the word of God in the face of tribulation.
The band was followed by a message from Wayne Hilsden, co-founder of the King of Kings Community in Jerusalem, a congregation that seeks to unify the faith-based community in Israel. It also started the National Bible College of Israel. Hilsden, a native of Canada who moved to Israel in 1983, also serves as founder and president of Fellowship Israel Related Ministries.
Hilsden spoke strongly about the need for Christians and Jews alike to come together to fight against the secularization of the world and to speak out against those who persecute believers of their faith. He brought up specific cases where Israel has been targeted by Middle Eastern armies and terrorist groups for its belief systems as evidence of a declining tolerance toward the Jewish faith.
“For us to openly declare that we will not tolerate the hatred of the Jews means that we will not be very popular in our present society,” Hilsden said. “There may be a day when your life and mine will be at risk because of our unwavering commitment to love and bless the Jewish people.”
He related this message and focused the majority of his speech on the passage of Daniel 11:32, which states, “But the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” In breaking down each part of the Scripture, Hilsden stressed the importance of knowing God, standing up for God, and taking action in a sinful world.
Describing the story of Daniel in the Bible, Hilsden spoke about the many times where the biblical figure overcame obstacles of persecution in the face of corrupt kings and rising secularism. He challenged students to “be a Daniel” through fighting the current societal trends and pronouncing the love of God through their words and actions.
“As hatred of Jews and even hatred of evangelical Christians is spreading throughout many places in the world, we need to be reminded of Daniel’s exhortation: ‘But the people who know their God will stand firm and take action,’” Hilsden said.
The longtime pastor also commended Liberty’s founder, Jerry Falwell Sr., for his work in establishing Liberty and living out the words of Daniel. At the end of his message, Hilsden quoted Liberty’s “We the Champions” declaration that further demonstrates the university’s mission of Training Champions for Christ and compared it to the mission that Jews and Christians should have today, to be a “light in the darkness.”
Liberty has continued to nurture a relationship with Israel. In February 2016, Liberty hosted Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer. In May 2016, Liberty announced a financial investment in leading-edge development projects in the technology, medical, and defense industries in Israel.
Following Hilsden’s message, Virginia state senator and ethics lawyer Jill Vogel took the stage to share with students why she is running as the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in this year’s November elections. Vogel talked about her time as a child listening to Jerry Falwell, Sr.’s “Old Time Gospel Hour” and described her continual fight in the courtroom for the preservation of religious freedom.
Proceeding the Convocation, a reception was held in the on-campus Argo Tea Lounge where students, faculty, and staff had a chance to meet Hilsden as well as Michael Mistretta, also from the Fellowship Israel Related Ministries, and Robert Potts from the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
Liberty students who are interested in becoming fully immersed in the culture and history of Israel also have the opportunity to travel there through LU Send-sponsored trips this fall, spring, and summer. Students are able to receive class credit through these trips, and can find information about them on LU Send’s webpage.