President Reuven Rivlin with Zion Church Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane in Jerusalem, October 2017.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Leaders of the Zion Christian Church, southern Africa’s biggest Christian movement, have undertaken a peace mission to Israel.
The ZCC boasts a membership of about 15 million people across southern Africa.
The delegation, which also includes members of the South African Zionist Federation and South African Friends of Israel, arrived in Israel on Tuesday.
This is a first official visit to the country for the movement’s leader, Bishop Dr. Barnabas Lekganyane. However, he has previously been to Israel on pilgrimage.
Reverend Emmanuel Motollo, the spokesman for the ZCC, said, “The mission will primarily be focused on engaging and nourishing the spiritual life of the church and its Christian heritage.
“Much time will be spent in prayer at holy sites in communion with God,” he said.
“It is well known amongst believers that there are many blessings that flow from an immersion with the Holy Land,” Motollo said.
On Thursday, Lekganyane met with President Reuven Rivlin and South African diplomatic representatives in hope of strengthening relationships between Israel and the Christian community in South Africa.
Rivlin welcomed the bishop and spoke about the importance of the strong friendship between the Jewish people and the Christian communities in Israel and around the world.
“We have never had a religious war with Islam, we understood that we had to live in harmony. We are now 50 years as the sovereigns of a united Jerusalem, and everyone can worship God according to their beliefs,” the president said.
“We can hear any kind of criticism, but the idea to boycott Israel, against the very idea that the people of Israel has a right to live in our homeland – this is something that we cannot accept.”
Rivlin stressed that “Israel is a Jewish, democratic state, there is no contradiction between the two ideas.”
During the meeting, the delegation told Rivlin about the tradition they have where millions of the Church’s followers gather together three times a year, and of the importance the community places on praying for peace for all mankind.
Rivlin was also the first Israeli president to be presented with a special star worn by members of the ZCC.
The delegation also met with Gil Haskel, deputy director-general of MASHAV – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation in the Foreign Ministry.
Expertise from across Israel about water, technology and innovation was shared during the meeting to help develop and spread this knowledge in South Africa.
Ambassador to South Africa Lior Keinan said, “The ZCC and the people of Israel share a deep and historical connection, reverberating through our joint practices and shared values. Yet another example of the importance and magnitude of the strong people-to-people relationship between Israel and South Africa.”
During the course of the peace mission, Lekganyane engaged with several other Israeli officials including Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
Motollo said the bishop “will use the opportunity to convey a message of dialogue and continued engagement between Israelis, Arabs and South Africans and continued efforts for peace and stability in the world.”
The group also spoke with other organizations and individuals with expertise “that Israel is famous for, including sustainable energy, education, and agriculture that can help develop our nation and people,” he continued.
“At this time our own beloved country [South Africa] is in desperate need of many blessings such as rain, peace, prosperity and stability. The Church will as part of its mission pray for the well-being of our country,” Motollo added.
The delegation will be touring the country until Sunday.
The peace mission was organized by the Zion Christian Church in conjunction with South African Friends of Israel.