Rev. David Loganathan recalls being quite pro-Palestinian many years ago, back when he was a Hindu living in his native Sri Lanka.

“I was informed by the media and thought that the Palestinians were persecuted,” he told The Jerusalem Post during a tour of the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv on Monday.

Since then, Loganathan emigrated to Canada, where he became intrigued by evangelism and eventually converted to Christianity. Today, he is the pastor of the Miracle Family Temple in Scarborough, Ontario, and his opinions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have changed.

“Now I’m visiting Israel and I see the Jews are the ones persecuted – they have to carry guns for their safety,” he said.

Loganathan is part of a group of evangelical pastors from the Toronto area on a weeklong tour organized by B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem which cooperated with Canada Christian College and, if deemed successful, could turn into a regular event.

“This is not a Christian pilgrimage,” said Frank Dimant, the CEO of B’nai Brith, which raised money to fund the tour. “The main purpose is to provide an intense education for people to know better what’s happening and give them an understanding of what modern Israel is about.”

So far the delegation has been to a host of sites in Jerusalem including the Old City, the Knesset and Yad Vashem, as well as to other parts of the country such as the Galilee.

The worldviews of the pastors are steeped in the Bible. To them, the scripture’s promise of the Land of Israel to the descendants of Isaac rings loudly.

“After the Oslo Accords things change negatively,” said Rev. Charles McVety, one the most politically powerful evangelicals in Canada, who helped organize the visit. “Back then I could travel anywhere, to Ramallah and Bethlehem, feel safe and have a good time.”

McVety, who is the president of Canada Christian College in Toronto, has been here more than 20 times since 1974.

“Our main focus is to tangibly teach Canadian Christians to support Israel,” he said of the current visit. “Christians need leadership, and we tremendously regret the persecution of the Jews throughout history.”

A big chunk of the pastors’ trip is being spent in Shilo and Ariel, which according to McVety are not Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“First of all, they’re not settlements but towns and villages,” he said. “Second, this is Judea and Samaria, not the West Bank, and to say that a Jew cannot build a house in Judea is stupid, moronic and anti-Semitic.”

Other members of the delegation hold similar views regarding the right of Jews to live in the area.

“The Jews and Christians have the same enemy,” one female pastor, originally from Jamaica, said. “It is the spirit that talks of us as the infidel.

We need to involve God in our struggle. Islam’s agenda is global domination.”

Do the pastors see any merit in the Palestinians’ claim that this is their land? “I disagree fundamentally because the Jews are God’s people,” said Donald G. Reynolds, director of development at Canada Christian College. “I’m not interested in listening to a people that says anything but the Bible, and the Koran espouses violence.”

Later, Reynolds clarified his position, saying his “enthusiasm for Zionism cannot be confused with a lack of compassion for the Palestinians” and that he “wished them no harm.”

The Canadian group’s diverse ethnic makeup is striking, a byproduct of Ottawa’s policy of encouraging immigration.

Besides Loganathan, who is an ethnic Tamil from Sri Lanka, there are several black and Asian pastors.

Rev. Dominic Tse, 50, was born in Hong Kong and is head of the North York Chinese Community Church in Ontario.

“This is my second time here,” he said. “Before I came here I thought it was better to divide the land, but coming here I don’t know if that’s possible. I drove through this land and it isn’t like Canada, it’s hard to divide.”

What of the fact that a majority of Israelis and the government had expressed agreement in principle to a two-state solution? “I understand that because you want peace so desperately you would be willing to give land away, but can’t you turn the clock back? I came here with simple views, and I see how complicated it is here,” Tse said.

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