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Yechiel Eckstein

Several years ago, religious extremism, that is the use of religion for political objectives, became an essential element of geopolitics in the Near East. When certain sectors and the media constantly blame Islam for all problems, commentators never mention the responsibility of the Protestant churches that contribute to the aggravation of the conflict.

The importance that the evangelical church known as “revivalist” acquired in the United States is well known; it has significant influence over the policy of the Bush administration. It is also known that the members of that church are the most passionate supporters of Israel and they reject any concession of land to the Palestinians. The Evangelicals, who fall within the group of Zionist Christians – a Protestant fundamentalist group born late in the 19th century according to which the establishment of an Israeli State is the realization of the biblical prophecy [1]-, not only support Israel morally. Their money is used to back the return of Russian and Ukrainian Jews to Israel. According to rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, who heads one of the main fund raising agencies for Israel among the US evangelical people, his organization collected, in seven years, more than 100 million dollars. [2]. In October 2003, Zionist and evangelical extremists met at the King David hotel in Jerusalem in the presence of Richard Perle – then President of the Pentagon’s Council for Defense Policy and influential advisor of George Bush II – and several ministers of the government of Ariel Sharon to celebrate “the birth of the celestial Jerusalem that will take place after the destruction of Islam”  [3]. It is also known that the evangelical trend, that claims to have more than 70 million followers in the United States and apparently has hundreds of thousands of paid propagandist-ministers”, is rapidly expanding to Latin America (Evangelical Union of South America), mainly in Brazil where it could have more than 30 million followers. [4]), Japan, Africa (see, for example, the role played by the evangelical church favorable to President Gbagbo, in the events of Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)), Europe and even in India (Indian Missions Association -IMA) or in China… Less known is their role in US policy towards the Arab world. It is evident that the White House, Congress and the CIA follow and support with great interest the expansion of evangelical churches. Their hatred for Islam and their contempt for Christian Arabs turn them into the favorite instrument of the US policy that seeks to cause a division within the Arab world in order to organize a “Great Middle East” completely subordinated to the influence of Washington and its Israeli allies.

The actions of the evangelical churches in the Arab world has three aspects:

- Anti-Muslim propaganda for which it has enough means and which holds Muslims responsible for all the problems in the world. Thus, the evangelical church was the first that organized, in complicity with US neoconservatives whose pro-Israeli commitments are well known, campaigns aiming at tying Islam and terrorism, that is, at associating this religion with the “Axis of Evil”. One of the favorite objectives is Saudi Arabia, a country against which they maintain a constant campaign and at the same time they try to encourage certain brotherhoods to create religious division within that country.

- The use of Arab Christian communities that are currently developing in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Iraq.

In Lebanon, evangelical missionaries travel across the country every summer following an itinerary planned in cooperation with the US embassy. Groups of youths organize concerts, festivals and meetings on beaches, among other activities, before going into more specific meetings to try to convince young Christians, mainly Maronites, to join the evangelical church offering to pay for their studies, visas to travel to the United States and every other kind of opportunities. These activities are accompanied by a strong anti-Muslim proselytism that has a lot to do with the aggravation of denominationalism in the country of the cedar [5]. The evangelists use the same methods in Syria, although they do it in a more discreet way due to the vigilance of the authorities. In Iraq, the missionaries of evangelical sects arrived with the US troops and their influence is significant today. With their dollars, they try to convince the Christian Iraqis to give up their traditions, of Arab and Eastern nature, and to settle in separate communities. The arguments are always the same; they try to encourage Christian Arabs to abandon their traditional religion in return for a job, subventions for their children or the promise of a visa. Like the Vatican, Iraqi traditional churches denounce the threat posed by US evangelists, some of whom have been executed by the Iraqi resistance. According to the priest of the Christian village of Ain-kawa, near Mosul, “In religious ceremonies we explain to the faithful that these missionaries are actually US agents trying to bribe Iraqis with their money, foreigners who want to erase our history and to provoke denominational conflicts in Iraq. We tell them not to receive these people in their houses or in places where they can meet with their children”. Iraqi Christians affirm that these evangelists “not only can cause the dispersion of the faithful but also can create an environment of denominational confrontation that did not exist in Iraq before. These foreigners try to disturb our good relations with the Muslims and [erase] a thousand- year-old climate of understanding” [6]. A very similar process is being developed in occupied Palestine, where the evangelists make significant efforst to conquer the faithful and later encourage them to leave the country.

- The work to convert Muslims is the most spectacular aspect of evangelical activity. The US strategy of evangelization for Muslim people has the support of several networks and also has an evangelical message adapted to the Koranic message. The specific targets of this kind of evangelization are some Muslim communities whose ethnic origins could be used in the context of anti- Arab and secessionist projects, as in the case of the Kurdish minorities of Iraq and Syria, as well as the Kabils and Berbers in Maghreb.

According to the Algerian newspaper Al Watan [7], the evangelization in Kabilia is “the result of proselytism organized and financed by a strategy of evangelization of the Muslim people. In Algeria, the evangelical groups take advantage of the humanitarian factor and choose their targets among the most disadvantaged people, those who convert to Christianity for money (2000 dinars, equivalent to 20 euros), to get medical attention or in exchange for visas to travel abroad since European foreign ministries are more likely to grant visas to enter the Schengen zone to Algerians who claim to be “persecuted” Christians. More than 74% of the people that attend mass do it mainly to obtain financial assistance from the missionaries”  [8]. One of the most recent actions of the Evangelical church in Constantine was aimed at high-school students proposing “free school support. In addition to the classes they were offered, the students received CDs, books and other documents of evangelical propaganda. This method (...) was also used in Tiaret and in other cities” [9]. According to our information, the “diplomats” of the US embassy in Algeria frequently visit the Kabil territories and promote evangelical proselytism.

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Josh Mc Dowell

In Morocco, a large number of evangelical organizations, mainly American, covertly operate in poor regions and also in big cities. The official objective of an organization like Arab World Ministries, an international evangelical missionary society, is “the announcement of the Good News of a Savior to the Muslims of the Arab world”. This church apparently has more than 800 secret agents, more than three times the number it had in 2002. They disguise themselves as doctors, nurses, humanitarian personnel, teachers, engineers and even business people [10]. In January 2005, during the visit to Morocco of television announcer and evangelical preacher Josh McDowell, as representative of the Crusade for Christ International (with 7,000 volunteers around the world), the publication Journal- hebdo wrote “Morocco attacked by US neo-Protestants”  [11].

The work of the American evangelical groups is joined by the propaganda of numerous radio and television stations that have the support of the United States, mainly of Congress and the CIA, like Radio El Mahabba, that broadcasts 24 hours a day through the audio channel of the Eutelsat Hotbird 3 satellite, the CNA-Channel North Africa network, Life-TV, Miracle Channel, etc., not to mention the US propaganda network in Arabic Al Hurra. The evangelical propaganda is also part of projects of programs for the development of the Internet like the GIPI (Global Internet Policy Initiative) undertaken by the State Department in the context of the MEPI (Middle East Partnership Initiative) that has now been expanded to Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Palestine.

Of course, this action of supposed evangelization, encouraged, financed and protected by the US government, is not motivated by any sincere religious feelings. Its goal is to sow discord among the Arab countries in order to weaken and destabilize them. Its development artificially stirs up the clash of civilizations and is part of the project that began on September 11, 2001, to stigmatize Islam. It is simply part of Washington’s policy to remodel the “Great Middle East” and to expand US hegemony.

[1] Donald Wagner in Daily Star (Beirut), October 8, 2003.

[2] Sources: Radio-Canada, program “Free zone” January 23, 2004: “Les chrétiens sionistes”...

[3] See our article “Sommet historique pour sceller l’Alliance des guerriers de Dieu, Voltaire, October 17, 2003.

[4] cf. Le Monde, May 7, 2005: “L’Église brésilienne face à la montée des évangélistes”.

[5] Testimonies from Lebanon...

[6] Cf. Hebdomadaire Magazine, Beirut.

[7] Al Watan, July 26-27, 2004.

[8] Algiers (AP), May 15, 2004.

[9] Algerian newspaper le Jeune Indépendant, August 16, 2004.

[10] Moroccan newspaper Le Matin, March 17, 2005.

[11] See Le Journal-hebdo, January 8, 2005.