Holy Land churches condemn Christian
By Matthew Tostevin
09/01/06 --- -JERUSALEM (Reuters)
- The Vatican's envoy in the Holy
Land and bishops from three other churches have launched a
rare joint attack on the Christian Zionist movement,
accusing it of promoting "racial exclusivity and perpetual
Christian Zionists form a growing part of the pro-Israel
lobby in the United States, the Jewish state's main ally.
They believe the return of Jews to the Holy Land and
establishment of Israel are proof of God's promises to
Churches in the Middle East often appear closer to the
Palestinians, whose Christian minority makes up a
substantial portion of their clergy in the region.
"The Jerusalem Declaration On
Christian Zionism" was
signed by Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, a Palestinian, and
by bishops of the Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran and Syrian
Orthodox Churches in Jerusalem.
Many Christian Zionists are evangelical Protestants, and
the declaration is a sign of a growing struggle between the
"The Christian Zionist programme provides a world view
where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire,
colonialism and militarism," said the declaration, accusing
Christian Zionists of hurting hopes for Middle East peace.
"We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that
facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial
exclusivity and perpetual war," the declaration added.
The three main Christian Zionist groups in Jerusalem said
in a statement that they were concerned at the declaration's
"inflammatory language" and that it was far from the truth.
Christian Zionists stress Christianity's Jewish roots.
Some back the movement to settle the occupied West Bank, the
cradle of Jewish civilization, which Palestinians want as
part of an independent state.
"We pray for peace. But we note with sadness that the
present Palestinian government is totally dedicated to the
destruction of Israel," the Christian Zionist groups said in
their statement, referring to the governing Palestinian
Islamist group Hamas.
The prospect of Middle East peace talks has looked even
more unlikely since Hamas's election victory in January. The
group is formally dedicated to destroying Israel.
"The problem in the region is not as simple as the
Jerusalem Declaration makes out," the Christian Zionists'
Some Christian Zionists believe that the return of the
Jews to the Holy Land will bring about the end of the world
and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Some also believe
Jews themselves will have to become Christians or perish.
The Christian Zionist groups in Jerusalem said they had
no "thirst for Armageddon" and do not base their theological
position on "end time prophecy." They called for dialogue
with the clerics behind the declaration that condemned them.
Christian Zionism is strongest in the United States,
where support is much higher than in Europe or other parts
of the world for Israel in its conflicts with the
Palestinians and in its recent war with Hizbollah guerrillas
James Rudin, senior advisor on inter-religious affairs
for the American Jewish Committee in New York, said there
are "millions and millions of American Christians" who
support Israel but who do not consider themselves Zionists.
He said they represent a core of support far larger than
those who base their backing of Israel on the Bible.
(Additional reporting by Tom Heneghan in Paris and Mike
Conlon in Chicago)
© 2006 Reuters