Jonathan Falwell - World Net Daily commentary
Posted: July 7, 2007
On Monday, July 2, I attended what I can only pray may become a historic meeting. Several weeks ago, I received a call about attending a meeting at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C. I was told this meeting would be hosted by the ambassador from Egypt and might be attended by representatives of other Arab nations, as well as by 10-15 pastors, evangelists and Christian media representatives.
My interest stirred, I agreed to attend the meeting even though I was not quite sure of its purpose. I asked Dr. Ron Godwin, Liberty University's executive vice president, to attend with me. When we arrived at the Embassy, we were greeted by Evangelist Benny Hinn and introduced to several other pastors, evangelists, Christian TV producers and representatives of Christian organizations. Among them were Gordon Robertson of the 700 Club, Paul Crouch Jr. of Trinity Broadcasting Network, Christian lobbyist Ralph Reed, Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, Vernon Brewer of WorldHelp and several others.
Within a period of no more than 10 minutes, the ambassadors from Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Kuwait, Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain and the ambassador from the Arab League of Nations all arrived. I now realized that this meeting was far more than a social gathering. Soon thereafter, we sat down at a large table - evangelicals all on one side and Arab representatives on the other, about 24 of us - for lunch.
The Egyptian ambassador began by graciously saying that we should not worry about diplomacy at this meeting. He went on to emphasize that we should have an open, honest conversation about what is necessary for bridges to be built between Islam and American Christians. At that moment, I realized that the meeting might, indeed, offer far greater potential than I had imagined.
Over the course of several hours, a great deal of candid conversation took place - conversation on the Americans' part that just might begin to crack open the doors to religious freedom in nations where it is now practically forbidden.
One of the ambassadors mentioned that American Christians seemed always to favor Israel in all situations, even when Israel was wrong. He asked if it might be possible that Christians become more "balanced" in our support of Israel.
The answer to this question came from the former head of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed. Ralph said that we, as Christians, do take our support of Israel very seriously. Ralph went on to say that our support of Israel comes from our belief in the Scriptures and that this rendered our support for Israel largely nonnegotiable. However, with that understood, Ralph went on to say that we would also love to build far more positive relationships with Arab nations.
We told the ambassadors that we loved the Arab people no more, but certainly no less, than the Israelis. We shared the scriptural truth that God loves the entire world and sent His Son to die for all, regardless of their nationality. Thus, we stated that our love for Arabs was just as important a priority to us as is our love for Israel.
The conversation then turned to the perception among American Christians of the Arab world. I shared that as Christians, we are strongly pro-life, and, that while the vast majority of Christians in America speak out against the horrors of abortion, we never condone or tolerate violence against those who disagree with us on this issue. I went on to say that there is a very small minority in the pro-life community who do resort to violence, and that when they do, the rest of us strongly and publicly condemn their actions. We make it known that we do not support any such violence, and we do everything possible to stop it.
I then told the ambassadors that, likewise, they should strongly condemn the violent actions of their radicals as well. I shared that this would amount to a huge step toward changing perceptions of Muslims in our country. While I may never know if these words will be heeded, I do know they heard these words loud and clear.
We went on to discuss humanitarian and educational assistance. We told them that, as Christians, we welcome the opportunity to work with them to offer humanitarian aid in their countries. And, while we take the Great Commission very seriously, we understand that humanitarian aid only offered with proselytizing strings attached generates great distrust.
We also offered Liberty University to bring fully accredited, American education to their countries through our Distance Learning Program. We shared how any student in their countries could receive a fully accredited American university degree online. We also offered to allow students from their countries to attend LU in our resident program. Throughout this portion of the discussion, we made it clear that LU was a Christian institution and that the only kind of education the world's largest evangelical Christian university would ever offer would be Christ-centered, without apologies.
As the meeting neared its end, one of the ambassadors shared what may be one of the most promising statements made during the entire two hours. He said we must understand that Americans have always been accepting of other religions and faiths because that is how we were founded. He went on to say that their nations did not come from the same background. And, in what could be a glimmer of hope for the freedom to worship in the Arab world, he said we must understand that they are trying to head in that direction as well. He said he knows it has been a slow process, but they truly desire to make the acceptance of other religions a reality in their respective nations.
We all agreed this would not be the last meeting. We promised that this dialogue would continue, that we were willing to visit their countries, meet their people, and attempt to continue the conversation to build a more peaceful future for our children and theirs. And then, we closed the meeting in prayer, in Jesus' name!
This truly was a historic meeting.
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