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A group of Palestinian pastors who live in the Palestinian Authority have joined a Canadian-based Evangelical alliance, the organization's international director said on Tuesday.
The group, composed of 15-20 Palestinian evangelical pastors, most of whom live in the greater Bethlehem area, have joined the World Evangelical Alliance, a network of churches in 128 countries that says it represents 420 million Evangelical Christians.
"We are trying to be a megaphone for their voice on the global stage, to stand with, pray for, and serve them," said Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe, the international director of the World Evangelical Alliance, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Some 1.5 percent of Palestinians are Christian, and Evangelicals represents a tiny minority - estimated in the hundreds - among them, he said.
The alliance, which is holding its annual leadership meeting in Israel this week for the first time, takes great pains to be nonpartisan.
Tunnicliffe stressed that his organization, which aims to represent the diversity of the Evangelical community around the world, was not unequivocally pro-Israel, just as it was not pro-Palestinian.
"There is this great stereotype that all Evangelicals think alike - like the myth that all Evangelicals are Republican - when in fact there is great diversity in our communities and not one Evangelical viewpoint," he said.
Tunnicliffe said the media tended to pick up on certain voices in the community that were not necessarily representative of Evangelicals as a whole.
He said for example that his group would not take a position on Israel's stance that Jerusalem was the united capital of the Jewish people.
His remarks stand in sharp contrast with the unequivocal support for Israel of senior American Evangelical leaders and of Jerusalem-based Evangelical organizations such as the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, whose strong pro-Israel views have drawn the wrath of Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah.
"We speak out for justice, and justice for all," Tunnicliffe said.
The Palestinian pastors' new relationship with the World Evangelical Alliance comes more than a decade after the group representing Evangelicals living in Israel forged ties with the alliance. The United Christian Council in Israel, which serves more than 30 Evangelical churches and organizations, joined the World Evangelical Alliance instead of the left-wing World Council of Churches.
Harry Tees, general-secretary of the United Christian Council in Israel, said that he was working to get Evangelical churches recognized by the government in the same way that Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches are, as well as to implement changes in the educational curriculum about Christianity.