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The Michael Cherney Foundation
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Singapore Christians hosting pro-Israel conference
September 17-19, 2006

By Etgar Lefkovits
Jerusalem Post, 18.09.2006

Reaching out to Christian supporters of Israel in Asia, a group of conservative Israeli thinkers and the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus are holding a conference in Singapore on Monday, in an effort to bolster the increasing alliance between Jews and Christians against Islamic extremism.

The meeting, the 'Jerusalem Summit Asia,' comes a day after Pope Benedict XVI said that he was "deeply sorry" about the angry Muslim reaction to his quoting a 14th Century Byzantine Christian Emperor who had lambasted the Prophet Muhammad's teaching to spread the faith by violence as "evil and inhuman," and follows an unprecedented public tiff between the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Evangelical Christian leaders in the Holy Land over their hardcore support for the State of Israel.

The Singapore conference, which follows two previous such Asian gatherings in Manila and Seoul over the last three years, aims to draw support for Israel by reaching out to church activists, businessmen and academia who identify with the Jewish State based on shared Biblical beliefs, and is part of a burgeoning campaign to cement ties between Israel and millions of Christian supporters around the world, the majority of whom are Evangelicals.

"This is an alliance of those who share moral values of Biblical civilization and who view radical Islam as a new incarnation of fascism and communism," said Dmitry Radyshevsky, the executive-director of the Jerusalem Summit, a right-wing Jerusalem-based NGO, which debuted in the city three years ago.

Radyshevsky, a Harvard Divinity School graduate, noted that the Pope's controversial comments could be indicative of a changing attitude among Catholics "from top to bottom" regarding radical Islam, and voiced the hope that Catholics will no longer "abstain" in a "clash of values" between Western civilization and radical Islam.

"There is a tremendous historical importance that people will see that Hitlerism of today is neither German nor Christian but radical Islam," said acting caucus head, MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party) who as a former tourism minister spearheaded Israel's relations with the Christian world.

"That the Pope, who is a German Christian is warning over the dangers of Islamic extremism is a very important development, which should open the eyes of people around the world over what enemy we face," he said, adding that with the danger of an Iranian nuclear weapon the world had to stop acting politically correct.

The venue of such a summit in strategically-placed Singapore, which is nestled between Malaysia to the north and Indonesia to the south, has proven to be a difficult exercise in non-governmental diplomacy, with both the government and some church leaders uneasy about forming such a direct and open alliance with Israel.

Even before the Pope's remarks about Islam, a top official of the Anglican Church in Singapore went a step further, cautioning against any church involvement with Israel.

"In today's society, liberal means being politically correct," said Marisa Albert, Executive-Director of the Jerusalem Summit Asia, who heads the 'Jerusalem East Gate Foundation,' a Jerusalem-based Asian Evangelical Christian organization.

"People know Israel according to what they see in the media, and people respond to Israel on the premise of what will keep them safe from terror and what will not ruffle the status quo, with no understanding of historical footing and the right of Israel as a nation," she said.

"If the Bible can be misinterpreted, what more the news which just comes and goes."

Clearly eager to steer clear of any controversy regarding Islam, in a country with a small but largely moderate Muslim population, even the Pope's comments were buried in the inside pages of the English newspapers here, which have been dominated by the meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank being held in Singapore this week.

Singapore, which is predominantly Buddhist but has a 15% Muslim minority and about an equal number of Christians, has long maintained good if covert relations with Israel dating back to the country's independence in 1965 when Israel played a pivotal and long kept secret role in helping establish Singapore's military.

The government even ensures that the head of city's tiny Jewish community holds regular interfaith meetings with his Muslim counterpart, while the head of the parliament in Singapore who is Muslim visited Israel earlier this year.

The importance of holding such a rare overtly pro-Israel event in Singapore, which is billed as the 'Wall Street of Asia,'and 'the crossroads of the East and West' with its unique makeup of Chinese Malays and Indians, was not lost on conference organizers.

"Singapore is a battleground country in our efforts to mobilize support for Israel and promote Judeo-Christian values in Asia," said Josh Reinstein, director of the Knesset's 'Christian Allies Caucus,'the increasingly-influential cross-party parliamentary lobby that works with Christian supporters of Israel around the world.

"Because of its geographic location, many would have shied away from having such an event in this part of the world, whereas we see it as a profound opportunity," he said.

"Singapore was established here like a little Israel in a sea of Muslim nations," said conference participant Christine Darg of the London-based Exploits Ministry, who has been heavily involved in missionary work in the Muslim world.

Meanwhile, several parliamentary lobbies of Christian supporters that work with Israel are expected to be established soon in the Philippines, Finland, South Korea and Canada, following the lead of the US Congress.

The unprecedented remarks by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem last month, in which he said that Evangelical Christians were leading the world to Armageddon, served to highlight the two opposing camps in the Christian world, and the deep divide between avid Christian supporters of Israel on the one hand, lead by the Evangelicals, and Christian supporters of the Palestinians on the other, a schism which has only deepened over the last decade as the formers' ties with Israel began to warm.

The conference, which aims to call attention to the plight of the prosecution of Christians in both Asia and the Palestinian territories, will also focus on the "gender discrimination" of women in the radical Islamic world, said Dr. Martin Sherman of Tel Aviv University.

The Jerusalem Summit, which debuted in Jerusalem three years ago, is funded by the private Michael Cherney foundation.