World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Secretary General Bishop Efraim Tendero spoke on ‘the Gospel and Religious Extremism’ at the fourth Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem, calling for religious and political leaders to move away from exclusive territorial claims and instead commit to dialogue on common issues. He also met with government representatives and renewed WEA’s call for official recognition of evangelical churches by the state of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Delivering the key note address at the opening of the conference, Bishop Tendero spoke about common misconceptions about religious extremism, Biblical perspectives that counter religious extremism and religious nationalism, and WEA’s continued efforts for peace and reconciliation among people of different faith traditions.
“Christian teaching about salvation and obedience to God rejects extremism and religious nationalism,” Bp 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.
He then highlighted ‘Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World’, a joint document of the WEA, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican that speaks about doing mission ‘with full respect and love for all human beings’. Bp Tendero said: “In that same document, we addressed religious extremism, saying ‘Christians are called to reject all forms of violence, even psychological or social, including the abuse of power in their witness. They also reject violence, unjust discrimination or repression by any religious or secular authority, including the violation or destruction of places of worship, sacred symbols, or texts.’”
In November 2015, WEA participated in the Global Christian Forum’s consultation that reinforced the same message by stating: ‘We repent of having at times persecuted each other and other religious communities in history and ask forgiveness from each other and pray for new ways of following Christ together.’Representatives of all the Christian churches and traditions together named as a sin, all forms of persecution of other religious communities.
Bp Tendero went on to say that “we Christians have asked for forgiveness from each other and from other religious communities for practicing discrimination and persecution in the past. Please do the same! Let us uphold the dignity of every person who bears the image of God. Let there be respect and humane treatment of all the residents of this place that is called the ‘Holy Land’. We Christians believe that reconciliation is possible. And any form of respectful dialogue is a step toward reconciliation.”
“As the Christian community, we ask our neighbors, to consciously step back from religious extremism and violence. Step back from making exclusive territorial claims related to your religion, such that people, who do not share your religion, cannot live in peace with you.”
He concluded by urging participants to move from vindictiveness to forgiveness in order to change the whole dynamic of conflict.
During his stay in the Holy Land, Bp Tendero also met with Israeli and Palestinian government officials, reiterating WEA’s request for official recognition of evangelical churches. Together with its two national member bodies, the Evangelical Alliance of Israel and the Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land (Palestinian Territories), WEA continues to advocate for evangelical churches to be recognized as faith communities like the other religious groups in the land.
(This article was shared with permission from the World Evangelical Alliance website. Click here to read Bishop Tendero’s entire speech.)