World Christian legislators meet in DC to buttress support for Israel

World Christian legislators meet in DC to buttress support for Israel

May 22, 2008 ETGAR LEFKOVITS, Washington , THE JERUSALEM POST

A delegation of Christian parliamentarians from around the world whose countries have formed pro-Israel parliamentary lobbies gathered Thursday on Capitol Hill in an effort to buttress support for the State of Israel.

The two-day conference, which was hosted by the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, brought together pro-Israel lawmakers from nine countries whose parliaments have formed alliances with the Knesset's increasingly-influential Christian Allies Caucus, which works to garner Christian support for Israel worldwide.

"If you have legislators speaking up and getting engaged, then you have a profound impact on national politics," said US Representative Dave Weldon (R- Florida), co-chairman of the US Congressional Caucus.

Weldon said the aim of the bipartisan American caucus, which was established last year to expand on the Knesset lobby's success, is to bring about grass-root support for Israel globally on a nation-by-nation level through dialogue and education.

The event, "Israel at 60 and looking forward," comes at a time of burgeoning relations between Israel and the largely supportive evangelical Christian community worldwide.

In all, the cross-party Israeli parliamentary caucus has formed, or is in the process of establishing, sister caucuses with 13 countries - including the US, Canada, Uruguay, Brazil, South Korea, Philippines, Malawi, Japan, Switzerland, South Africa, England, Norway and, most recently, Germany.

"Christianity is rooted in Judaism and we cannot separate ourselves from our roots," said South African MP Rev. Kenneth Meshoe, the president of the African Christian Democratic Party, who is planning on launching an Israel caucus in the South African parliament in the coming months.

"Many Christians in South Africa fear speaking out for what we believe in and what our convictions are, and so there is a real need in our country for a caucus to stand up in defense of Israel," he said.

"We are trying to teach our people how to preserve the history of the people of Israel and help them be strong as a nation," said Manoel Ferreira, a member of the Brazilian parliamentary lobby, who is also a pastor of a church with six million members. "The Bible teaches us that we must bless the people of Israel," he said.

The chairman of the Canada-Israel inter-parliamentary group, which includes both Christians and Jews, said it was logical for Israel to reach out to evangelicals, who are among Israel's strongest supporters, as the country struggles to deal with fateful and existential challenges and threats.

"These are complex issues which are not amenable to superficial solutions which people from afar want to apply - 'band-aid solutions,'" Canadian MP Dr. James Lunney said. "Illusions ultimately lead to disappointments. If there is a just solution than it has to be based on history and truth."

"We have a lot of work to do to counter-balance the pro-Palestinian attitude of both the Swiss government and public opinion," said Giovanni Isella, a former chairman of the Swiss Christian Political Party, who hopes to launch a pro-Israel parliamentary lobby in Switzerland this summer. "We want to bring about a change and we have the faith that we can do it," he said.

"The argument for close ties with Israel comes from both the heart and the head," said Senator Ruperto Long from Uruguay, noting his country's close ties with the Jewish people pre-dated the creation of the Jewish state. "We need to keep the light turned on for the future generations," he said.

The Capitol Hill conference included an address Thursday by Ambassador to the US Sallai Meridor on the peace process with the Palestinians and the Iranian nuclear threat, as well as a session on the controversial role of UNRWA in dealing with Palestinian refugees.

"There isn't a better place to express support for Israel than the bipartisan support of the US Congress for the State of Israel," said Meridor.

MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party), who has spearheaded Israel's relations with the evangelical world, added that "the time has come for Israel to return to its core roots honesty and traditions based on Judeo-Christian values, instead of the standard talk which has never brought peace, and instead has become a shelter for criminals."

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