JERUSALEM (Aug. 21)
An expected 500 Christian lay leaders and theologians, active supporters of Israel, from more than two dozen nations will gather next week in Basel, Switzerland, to reaffirm their commitment to Israel and to the Jewish people, and to challenge others to follow their example.
The Christian Zionist Congress will be held August 27 to August 29 in the same city chosen by Theodor Herzl for the first World Zionist Congress in 1897.
The conference in Basel has been organized by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, a support center established five years ago by Christians in and outside of Israel.
The Rev. Jan Willem van der Hoeven, spokesman for the Christian Embassy, told a press conference here that Israel should be presented “as more than a mere security asset for the West, and a secular staute.” He said the stress at the Basel conference will be on the spiritual significance of Israel.
Asserting that the Christian Zionists are the only non-Jewish organization willing to fight for Israel, van der Hoeven asserted that Jews tended to settle for asking Christians not to stand against them. He said “this time, they will have an opportunity to challenge Christians to help them. It will give them an enormous encouragement. You sometimes need people from the outside to tell you how great your future is.”
Van der Hoeven said some of the scheduled speakers represent organizations not known for their support of Israel, such as the World Council of Churches. He said their participation would force these church organizations, in the view of the conference organizers, into dealing with the importance of Israel to the Christian world. He predicted this would be a “bombshell.”
He said Basel was chosen as the conference site because it was a symbol of the Zionist quest for Jewish sovereignty. He said the International Christian Zionist Leadership Congress will present a full, diverse agenda, dealing with such subjects as the Biblical basis for Christian support of Israel, the Soviet Jewish freedom movement and Christian responses to Israel’s political economic, social and media problems.
Van der Hoeven said representatives from different Christian organizations would participate, coming from the United States, Britain, France, West Germany, Australia, Brazil and Israel.
The Congress will present exhibitions, film premieres and much material on sources and exchanges to demonstrate Christian Zionist “far-flung” efforts to support Israel and the Jewish people. He said the Basel gathering would seek to determine how Christian Zionists “can be of optimal service to Israel, both in theory and in action.”