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Evangelical Christianity’s Changing Demographics Bode Well for Israel

July 13 2017

In the 21st century, evangelical Christians have come to constitute the world’s fastest-growing religious group; if current trends continue, they will outnumber Catholics and possibly even Muslims in a few decades. The movement’s growth corresponds to a shift in its center of gravity; a majority of evangelicals now come from Asia, Africa, and Latin America rather than the U.S. Given that evangelical Christianity tends to encourage a positive attitude toward Jews and the Jewish state, argues Jürgen Bühler, this change could be especially significant for Israel:

One factor that unites evangelicals across the world, whether in the Amazonian rainforests, the Niger delta, or in Chinese cities is a great love of Israel. . . . The rapid increase in the number of evangelicals may turn these countries into strategic allies for Israel, as they are becoming a significant part of the general population. In Brazil, between 26 and 30 percent of the citizens are evangelicals. In Guatemala, more than 40 percent. In Uganda, 37 percent. In Nigeria, 40 percent. Even in Muslim Indonesia, 12 percent of the population are evangelicals. Their number in China is estimated at around 100 million.

Already today, this phenomenon has political and diplomatic influence that aids Israel, both at the national level and in international organizations like the UN—and this influence is set to increase in the coming years. For instance, the previous president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, ordered the state’s representatives in the UN not to support the vote on recognizing the Palestinian Authority as a state, due to pressure from the evangelical community in his country.

Even countries with a small evangelical community play a significant role in support for Israel. The International Christian Embassy in the Czech Republic, for instance, played a decisive role in promoting a decision by the country’s parliament, adopted a few weeks ago, which recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—an unprecedented move in Europe. In addition, the activity of the International Christian Embassy in Muslim countries in West Africa has led to a moving-together between their governments and Israel in recent times.

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The Evangelical Revolution: Israel’s Most Important Strategic Asset

 

This piece was first published on the Hebrew-language website Mida on June 28, 2017 rendered into English by Avi Woolf, and republished here with permission. The original article can be found by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

The dramatic increase in the number of evangelicals around the world is set to greatly strengthen international support for the state of the Jewish people.

The last few decades have seen evangelical Christianity become the religious denomination with the most rapid growth rates in the world. It is set to surpass Catholicism, and perhaps even Islam, in a few decades. The most significant growth rates, however, are not in cities like Wurttemberg, Geneva, London, Dallas, or Nashville, but places like Manila, Lagos, Beijing, and Sao Paolo. This means a dramatic change in the demographic landscape of the Christian world, in which the average Christian is no longer a white European or North American; most evangelicals today are Asian, Africans, or residents of Latin America. This has enormous significance for Israel.

To understand why this is so important for Israel, we need to look at the past. This year we mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, and 70 years since the UN voted to establish Israel. Many of those who supported the state of Israel did so because of their strong evangelical Christian faith. Lord Balfour, a devout Christian, believed in the return of the Jewish people to its biblical homeland, and for this reason acted to advance the declaration that bears his name. Herzl made much use of William Hechler, the reverend of the British Embassy in Vienna, who helped him meet the German Kaiser. People like Orde Wingate and John Patterson, British officers who helped Zionist cause, did so as Christians answering the historic and prophetic call in the holy scriptures and standing by the state-in-the-making.

To understand evangelism, we need to go even further back, to an event we are marking this year: the 500th anniversary of the Christian Reformation. Although Martin Luther cannot be considered a friend of the Jews, the Christian Reformation did much to shape Christianity in the modern era, and paved the way for today’s evangelical churches.

The effect of the Bible’s translation into vernacular languages was multiplied by the invention of print; within a few decades, the Bible was within reach of every Christian in Europe. Luther explained to the masses that every one of them was created by God and could understand the Bible himself. In this way, he limited the power of the heads of the church—the priests and bishops—and the religious leadership. When Christians started to study the Bible on their own, they discovered three basic truths. First, that Christianity derives from Judaism, that the Old and New Testaments were written by Jews, and that even Jesus was a Jew. Second, that God forged a covenant with the Jewish people and promised to restore them in the future to their ancient homeland. Third, that the Bible forbade persecuting the Jewish people, even if they don’t share the Christian faith; moreover, God told Abraham “I will bless those who bless you.” We received scripture from the Jews, and we believe in the same God.

 

We can point to two fundamental facts about modern evangelism. The first is its commitment to support and even love for Israel and the Jewish people. Evangelical Christianity is thus distinguished from historical Christianity in this manner. One factor which unites evangelicals across the world, whether in the Amazonian rainforests, the Niger delta, or in Chinese cities is a great love of Israel. In fact, in many of the countries experiencing an increase in the number of evangelicals, there is no history of anti-Semitism, as Christianity only began emerging recently in these countries.

A second fact is the demographic changes in these countries. The rapid increase in the number of evangelicals may turn these countries into strategic allies for Israel, as they are becoming a significant part of the general population. In Brazil, between 26 and 30 percent of the citizens are evangelicals. In Guatemala, more than 40 percent. In Uganda, 37 percent. In Nigeria, 40 percent. Even in Muslim Indonesia, 12 percent of the population are evangelicals. Their number in China is estimated at around 100 million.

Already today, this phenomenon has political and diplomatic influence that aids Israel, both at the national level and in international organizations like the UN—and this influence is set to increase in the coming years. For instance, the previous president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, ordered the state’s representatives in the UN not to support the vote on recognizing the Palestinian Authority as a state, due to pressure from the evangelical community in his country.

Even countries with a small evangelical community play a significant role in support for Israel. The International Christian Embassy in the Czech Republic, for instance, played a decisive role in promoting a decision by the country’s parliament, adopted a few weeks ago, which recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—an unprecedented move in Europe. In addition, the activity of the International Christian Embassy in Muslim countries in West Africa has led to a moving-together between their governments and Israel in recent times.

Above all, of course, evangelicals are identified with the United States. Donald Trump was elected in no small part due to the support of the evangelicals. Despite the fact that he has yet to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, he is still the present Israeli government’s most faithful partner. One can certainly detect evangelical pressure on this issue.

Another country worthy of mention is Iran, Israel’s bitterest enemy. Not many know that the land of the ayatollahs has seen an enormous increase in evangelicals. Since the revolution of the 1970s, the number of evangelicals in the Islamic Republic grew tenfold every decade—from a few thousand in the 1980s to millions today. Many of those Christians today pray daily for Israel.

Our main challenge as Christian leaders is to unite the rapidly growing forces around the world and use them for significant support of Israel.

The author is president of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, the largest Christian-Zionist body in the world. The article is part of his lecture at the Herzliya Conference.

Read more at Mida

More about: Christian Zionism, Evangelical Christianity, Israel & Zionism, Jewish-Christian relations

Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security