World Evangelical Alliance head calls for recognition from Israel and Palestine

(Photo: © Peter Kenny / Ecumenical News)World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General Bishop Efraim Tendero photographed in Tirana, Albania on Nov. 4, 2015.

World Evangelical Alliance secretary general Bishop Efraim Tendero has called for official recognition of evangelical churches by the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

He spoke on "the Gospel and Religious Extremism" at the fourth Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem from March 7 to 10.

There he called for religious and political leaders to move away from exclusive territorial claims and instead commit to dialogue on common issues, WEA said in a statement released from New York on March 16.

Ten churches are officially recognized under Israel's confessional system, for the self-regulation of status issues, such as marriage and divorce.

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These are the Greek Orthodox, Melkite (Greek Catholic), Roman Catholic (Latin rite), Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Maronite, Syrian Catholic, Syriac Orthodox churches and Anglicans.

Tendero also met with Israeli and Palestinian government representatives and renewed WEA's call for official recognition of evangelical churches by the state of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"Christian teaching about salvation and obedience to God rejects extremism and religious nationalism," Tendero said, citing passages and stories from the Old and New Testament of the Bible.

As a practical illustration, he shared his personal experience of peace building when leading a delegation of pastors and imams on a peace mission to the Headquarters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines.

Tendero delivered the key note address at the opening of the conference where he spoke about common misconceptions about religious extremism, biblical perspectives that counter religious extremism and religious nationalism.

'EXTREMISM NOT LIMITED TO ONE RELIGION'

"Extremism is not limited to one particular religion or one particular part of the world. Muslim extremists are blamed for the Paris attack in 2015 and the beheading of Coptic Christians on the beach."

He noted that Mahatma Gandhi had died at the hands of a Hindu in India, Yitzhak Rabin was killed by a Jew, and Indira Gandhi was killed by a Sikh.

"All three of the perpetrators were extremists who sought revenge, for what had been done to their community.

"In North America the Ku Klux Klan killed hundreds of African-Americans and burned down many schools and churches in the name of a 'pure' Christianity. In European history we find too many examples of Christians promoting violence against Jews. Such extremism is everywhere and people, women, men and children alike, are caught up in its violence."

Tendero also spoke about WEA's continued efforts for peace and reconciliation among people of different faith traditions.

Other speakers included Jesuit Catholic priest David Mark Neuhaus, Patriarchal Vicar for Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Israel and Coordinator of the Pastoral among Migrants and Asylum Seekers in Israel.

Also speaking was Sami Awad, the founder and Executive Director of Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem; Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali President of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue (OXTRAD); Mark Labberton president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California and Lutheran pastor Munther Isaac an assistant professor at Bethlehem Bible College and director of the Christ at the Checkpoint conferences.

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