Evangelical and Israeli leaders rekindle ties amid spread of radical Islam.
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
Attempting to stem the tide of rising Islamic fundamentalism in Europe, a group of British evangelical leaders hosted a conference in London on Sunday seeking to rekindle the faded force of Christian Zionism in the United Kingdom.
The first-ever Jerusalem Summit Europe, which was held at London's Central Hall Westminster, brought together Israeli right-wing thinkers and members of the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus with leaders of Britain's small, pro-Israel evangelical community who feel increasingly threatened by the spread of radical Islam in Europe, and specifically the UK.
"We are in a critical season and crossroads for Great Britain which is a test case for the challenge of Islam," said Christine Darg, the head of the UK-based Exploits Ministry which organized the event.
"Now is the time to rekindle the almost unique relationship Britain has had with the Jewish people over the last couple of hundred years."
The event, which was held nine decades after the landmark Balfour Declaration spelled out the British government's support for a "national home" for the Jewish people in Palestine, coincided with worldwide events marking the Holocaust. Christian Zionist in the UK are forced to contend with growing Islamic extremism coupled with mainstream political correctness among many Christians.
In an unusual turn of events, Israeli speakers at the event encouraged Christian revival based on Biblical beliefs, while members of the British Jewish community called for coordination among members of both faiths in supporting Israel, and in lobbying the British government on its behalf.
"The Bible is the real bridge between us," said the chairman of the Christian Allies Caucus MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party).
"This basic connection should overcome the mistakes that have soured our historic relations in the past."
"The main message we are bringing is not a request to support Israel but to support Christian revival in Europe, not to save Israel but to save yourself," said Dmitry Radyshevsky, the executive-director of The Jerusalem Summit, a right-wing Jerusalem-based NGO which debuted four years ago.
Radyshevsky, a Moscow-born Harvard Divinity school graduate, noted the irony that an Israeli Jew was calling for Christian revival in Europe, but said that it was part of a common struggle against radical Islam which required both Jews and Christians to believe in the moral right of their Bible-based values.
"Either it will be a fundamentally Christian Europe or a Europe of Islamic fundamentalists," he opined.
Labor MK Orit Noked, whose political views were to the left of the other participants in the conference, said that she was nevertheless overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for Israel in the evangelical world.
"From a historical point of view, it is especially important that we are having this meeting here in London," Noked said.
The gathering, which received the blessing, if not the attendance, of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who serves as the religious leader of the Church of England, also was attended by several British Jewish leaders who called for greater cooperation between the two communities in making their voices heard by British politicians.
"We are very much aware of your unfaltering support for the State of Israel, and your consistent and unfailing belief in the righteousness and return of the Jewish nation to its ancestral land," said Cyril Stein, a philanthropist and chairman of the non-profit Go to Israel tourism campaign.
His remarks were unusual in that most British Jews, like their American counterparts, have traditionally distanced themselves from evangelical Christians due to conflicting world views on domestic issues, such as abortion and public prayer.
"Today the people of Israel are more aware than ever that it is Christians who have stood by our side through thick and thin, and Christians all over the world are more aware than ever before of what is at the stake...[which] is nothing less than our way of life, and the Judeo-Christian values upon which Western civilization was built," said caucus director Josh Reinstein.
Still, the London event highlighted the gap that exists between Israel and the UK.
"There is a whole new generation of Britains who have no concept of our heritage and ties with Israel, and all they hear in the popular press about Israel is negative, negative, negative day in and day out," said Peter Darg who heads the Christian Broadcasting Network in Europe.
"This is a clarion call to be biblically-correct and not politically correct," Darg concluded.
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