A pro-Israel, evangelical Zionist Facebook page for prayer and worship with around 76 million "likes" was banned after it claims to have been inundated by a cyberattack of over 2 million comments, many of which were anti-Semitic in nature.
Mike Evans, an American pastor and founder of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center and the Jerusalem Prayer Team, claimed in an interview with The Christian Post that the Jerusalem Prayer Team Facebook page was the largest online church in the world at the time it was shut down last month.
“What did we do wrong?” Evans said. “All we were trying to do was pray. So basically, [Facebook co-founder Mark] Zuckerberg tried to cancel prayers of 77 million people. The crime was praying. Because surely they didn’t write anything anti-Semitic. Because these were Christians, we combat anti-Semitism, we don’t promote [it].”
Jerusalem Prayer Team’s Facebook page had a weekly engagement of around 3 million users per week and the page's posts received an average of 20,000 comments per day, according to the ministry.
JPT was founded in 2002 and was inspired by Corrie ten Boom (who helped save Jews during the Holocaust) and the biblical command to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as found in Psalm 122:6.
The Facebook page hosted online church services since many of the followers, millions of whom lived in Arab countries, could not worship at home.
As Evans’ son was leading a Wednesday night prayer service on May 12, around 850,000 virus-like comments were posted to the page, filled with anti-Semitic, anti-Israel hate speech.
Evans shared that some of the anti-Israel posts had derogatory photos of Jesus Christ and Hitler, saying, “I should have killed them all [the Jews], but I kept a couple of them alive so you could see how wicked they are.”
The inundation of hate-filled comments from an outside source continued for three days, the ministry alleges.
The Facebook page was shut down on Saturday, May 15, with no notice.
“Without warning or notice, Facebook deleted the largest pro-Israel group in the world from its service,” the Jerusalem Prayer Team website explains. “A carefully coordinated attack launched from several Muslim nations brought bogus and baseless complaints against the Jerusalem Prayer Team. Facebook believed the lies and unpublished a page with 77,000,000 followers. We are not going to be silenced. We are going to continue to take a stand for Israel and speak out.”
This cyberattack was a “coordinated campaign with the direct intention of bringing the page down,” a spokesperson for Evans said.
Evans claims the cyberattack was traced back to a Jordanian man who coordinated the inundation of anti-Israel comments. Evans contends nothing was done about the attack by the social media platform. He said the JPT’s requests for assistance were ignored.
“WE DID NOTHING WRONG – and there has been no denial of that fact by Facebook and NO factual explanation by them as to why they took their amazing and devastating action,” a statement from JPT reads.
The Christian Post reached out to Facebook for a comment regarding the JPT page but did not receive a response by press time.
Facebook told The Washington Times that it removed the JPT page for "violating our rules against spam and inauthentic behavior." A company spokesperson added that “we are not seeing any evidence that this page was a victim of a cyberattack." However, Evans disputes that claim.
The group filed an appeal to Facebook on May 16, which was rejected. They were told the decision was final.
“They have shut us down,” Evans said. “They robbed us of the ability of our freedom of worship, freedom of prayer, and they’re on vacation. I feel like you are saying to me, ‘I burned your house down, I killed all your children, but don’t worry about it, it’s no big deal because you’re nobody, we’re Facebook.’”
Evans’ organization is headquartered in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis just signed a bill to be enacted on July 1 to provide residents recourse against social media censorship.
The legislation allows Floridians who have been affected by “inconsistent and unfair actions by social media platforms” to sue the companies.
Evans intends to be one of the first to utilize this new legislation to sue Facebook through multiple lawsuits. He argues that the platform has done “enormous damage to the evangelicals.”
“By the grace of God, we’re going to do something about it,” Evans proclaimed.
He said the corporation is “hiding behind ungodly tech provisions" and "circumventing the law."
"All of that’s going to end with us,” Evans said.
Evans wants U.S. senators to investigate his page's removal and hopes to appear in a hearing under oath to discuss this with Zuckerberg.
“This will be the last evangelical that Mark Zuckerberg will do this to,” Evans boldly proclaimed. “... I have a lot of support from a lot of very, very powerful people. So everything will be just fine. The only thing that’s breaking my heart is … to think that in America, the home of Christianity and a refuge for the Jews, that a Christian ministry that has a worship service … for him to attack a church and a religious ministry, it hits to the core of the very reason America was created.”
Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: email@example.com