The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) condemns in strongest terms the coward series of bombings on multiple churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on this Easter Sunday with the death toll currently passing 200 and many more reported injured.
Bp Efraim Tendero, WEA Secretary General and CEO, said: “We are deeply saddened and troubled by the news of the targeted attacks on worshippers and other innocent people on Easter Sunday. As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we now also mourn the loss of lives due to this heartless violence. We call on churches around the world to join us in prayer for those affected, and that God’s strong and comforting presence may be with them in this tragedy. May God help them to hold onto the faith of the resurrection and experience the peace that transcends all understanding.”
The WEA also stands in solidarity with the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, WEA’s national member body, as they issued their own statement:
The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) is deeply distressed and deplores the Easter Sunday (21 April) explosions targeting the St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, St. Sebastian’s Church in Katana, Zion Church in Batticaloa, and three leading hotels in Colombo. The incidents in Colombo and Batticaloa, according to media reports, have left over 180 dead and several others injured. Moreover, explosions elsewhere in Dehiwela and Dematagoda left five dead, including three police officers.
The NCEASL calls on the general public and especially the Christian community in the country to remain calm and refrain from being misled by rumours during this time of crisis.
The NCEASL also calls on the government and security forces to take all steps necessary to arrest the situation swiftly and bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice.
Finally, while offering our prayers and support to all those affected, the NCEASL calls on the national and global Church to pray for those grieving the loss of loved ones and those injured in these unfortunate series of attacks.
“…Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying” Romans 12:12
“This callous, horrific attack on people at worship in churches in Sri Lanka is yet another manifestation of the evil and bitterness which lurks in the human heart, and which is behind all violence and terrorism everywhere in the world, regardless of who it is who commits such acts and whoever they are aimed at. We pray that God may comfort the grieving, and that the society of Sri Lanka may respond compassionately and justly, with a renewed commitment to the freedom and well-being of all its people and faith communities.”
Dr Stuart Lange Interim National Director NZ Christian NetWORK
AUCKLAND CHURCH LEADERS AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND (ACL)
Joint Statement by Auckland Church Leaders
The recent massacre at the mosques in Christchurch has brought deep grief to New Zealand. As Auckland church leaders we condemn this evil attack and are shocked and horrified that such an atrocity should take place in our nation. We are equally horrified that it should be perpetrated in a place of prayer and worship, when freedom to worship is cherished in New Zealand. How shocking this violence should happen in a city called “Christchurch” as this act goes against everything that Jesus Christ stood for and that the church stands for.
As a Christian community we welcome, support and embrace all who live peaceably in Aotearoa New Zealand. We remember that Jesus Christ spent his early years as a migrant/refugee in Egypt and so we celebrate all who have come to New Zealand looking for freedom, safety and greater opportunities for their families. Our national anthem says it so well:
God of Nations, at Thy feet, In the bonds of love we meet….
Men of every creed and race, Gather here before Thy face….
From dissension, envy, hate And corruption guard our State, Make our country good and great God defend New Zealand
These words take on fresh and deeper meaning as we stand in solidarity with those who grieve the loss of their loved ones.
To the Muslim community in New Zealand we say that you are welcomed and loved as we share life in this great nation. This is your home too.
We pray for healing in the midst of deep sorrow. We pray for all families and friends impacted by such hate and intolerance. We pray this horrible tragedy will not divide us, but rather bring us together in strength, compassion and common humanity.
Prepared by Auckland Church Leaders:
Rt Rev Ross Bay, Anglican Bishop of Auckland ♦ Pastor Tak Bhana, Senior Pastor, Church Unlimited ♦ Pastor Paul de Jong, Senior Pastor, LIFE ♦ Pastor Jonathan Dove, Senior Pastor, Greenlane Christian Centre ♦ Most Rev Patrick Dunn, Catholic Bishop of Auckland ♦ Majors Ian & Liz Gainsford, Divisional Leaders, The Salvation Army ♦ Mr David Goold, on behalf of the Christian Community Churches of NZ (serving the Open Brethren) ♦ Pastor Ken Harrison, Senior Pastor, Harvest Christian Church , Papakura AOGNZ ♦ Pastor Dr Brian Hughes, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel ♦ Rev Dr Stuart Lange, Interim National Director, NZ Christian Network ♦ Rev Kok Soon Lee, Auckland Chinese Churches Association ♦ Rev Andrew Marshall, National Director, Alliance Churches of New Zealand ♦ Very Rev Anne Mills, Dean, Auckland Cathedral of the Holy Trinity ♦ Rev Steve Millward, Moderator, Northern Presbytery, Presbyterian Church ♦ Pastor Bruce Monk, International Overseer for Acts Churches & Equippers ♦ Pastor Sam Monk, Senior Pastor, Equippers Church & Acts National Leader ♦ Pastor Peter Mortlock, Senior Pastor, City Impact Church ♦ Pastor Lloyd Rankin, National Director, Vineyard Churches ♦ Pastor Boyd Ratnaraja, National Leader, Elim Church of New Zealand ♦ Pastor Dean Rush, Senior Leader, C3 Church Auckland ♦ Pastor Jim Shaw, New Life Churches Executive team ♦ Rev Paul Talluri, on behalf of the Church of the Nazarene ♦ Bishop Brian Tamaki, Destiny Churches New Zealand ♦ Pastor Allan Taylor, Northern Baptist Association ♦ Pastor Ben Timothy, President, North New Zealand Conference, Seventh-day Adventist Church ♦ Rev Dr Richard Waugh, National Superintendent, Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand ♦ Rev Graeme White, Auckland Synod Superintendent, Methodist Church of New Zealand
NATIONAL CHURCH LEADERS AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND (NCLANZ)
Joint Statement by National Church Leaders
The National Church Leaders gathered in Wellington today (Tuesday 19th March) to express their profound horror at the terrible violence towards Muslim people in Christchurch mosques last Friday. We are deeply saddened by these tragic events and we strongly condemn these acts of racial hatred and murder. We feel very deeply for our fellow New Zealand faith community, which was so cruelly attacked as worshippers peacefully gathered for prayer.
We extend our prayerful and heartfelt sympathy to the Muslim community here in New Zealand, and around the world. The whole Christian church community in New Zealand is praying for the Muslim community: praying for the healing of the wounded, comfort for the bereaved, and for God’s peace upon all who have been traumatised.
At this time of deep shock, grief, and anxiety, we ask and pray for all New Zealanders to stand united, to have great love and compassion, and to show unfailing respect and kindness for all people who live in this society of Aotearoa New Zealand, regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation. We believe there is absolutely no room for racial hatred in our land, and we are determined that we must stand together as one people, united as human beings created by God, and as fellow New Zealanders. May goodness overcome evil, and peace and goodwill prevail.
Rev Dr Bruce Allder, District Superintendent, Church of the Nazarene ♦ Pastor Steve Burgess, Regional Overseer, C3 Churches ♦ Cardinal John Dew, Catholic Church of New Zealand ♦ Pastor Iliafi Esera, General Superintendent, Assemblies of God New Zealand ♦ Rev Tale Hakeagaiki, Chairman, Congregational Union of New Zealand ♦ Pastor Dr Brian Hughes, Regional Leader, Calvary Chapel Association ♦ Rt Rev Fakaofo Kaio, Moderator, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand ♦ Rev Dr Stuart Lange, Interim National Director, New Zealand Christian Network ♦ Pastor Brent Liebezeit, President, Christian Churches New Zealand ♦ Rev Andrew Marshall, National Director, Alliance Churches of New Zealand ♦ Pastor Peter Mortlock, Senior Pastor, City Impact Church ♦ Pastor Lloyd Rankin, National Director, Vineyard Churches ♦ Pastor Boyd Ratnaraja, National Leader, Elim Churches ♦ Archbishop Philip Richardson, Archbishop & Primate, Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia ♦ Pastor Eddie Tupai, President, New Zealand Pacific Union of the Seventh Day Adventist Church ♦ Rev Craig Vernall, National Leader, Baptist Churches in New Zealand ♦ Rev Setaita Taumoepeau K. Veikune, President, Methodist Church of New Zealand ♦ Rev Dr Richard Waugh, National Superintendent, Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand ♦ Commissioner Andrew Westrupp, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army ♦ Pastor Adam White, National Leader, New Life Churches International ♦ Bishop Mark Whitfield, Lutheran Church of New Zealand ♦ Lesley Young, Yearly Meeting Clerk, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
WEA Secretary General Says “Forced Religious Belief Is No Belief at All” at Global Conference on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi
New York, NY – February 5, 2019
Secretary-General of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), Bp Efraim Tendero, participated in the Global Conference on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the invitation of the Emirates-based Muslim Council of Elders. In his presentation to the conference, he spoke of the “powerful contribution to global peace” that Christians could make as those who are called by Jesus Christ to be peacebuilders.
The Conference held on February 3-4, 2019, was attended by several hundred religious and thought leaders from different faith groups. It was organized by the Muslim Council of Elders led by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb.
The location of the UAE is significant because of its relative tolerance of other religions in a region that is otherwise mostly not welcoming to Christians and others of non-Muslim faith. With high percentages of foreign workers, many of whom belong to one of the Christian traditions, the UAE allows the building of churches and holding of worship services. It is hoped that inter-faith dialogues such as the Conference on Human Fraternity would contribute to deeper mutual understanding between leaders of different faiths that might also lead to more tolerance and acceptance within the different societies.
“Before becoming Secretary General of the WEA, I led the evangelical alliance in the Philippines for 22 years. In that role, I was deeply involved in building peace between Christians and Muslims,” Bp Tendero shared, after greeting the conference on behalf of the world’s 600 million evangelicals. “What we did in the Philippines can happen elsewhere.”
He then illustrated three reasons why Christians are to seek peace by conviction, saying “being followers of Jesus, we are called to obey his teachings about loving God and loving our neighbours as ourselves. This love is unselfish and sacrificial; it compels us to serve others above ourselves.”
“Secondly, followers of Jesus subscribe to the teaching of the Bible, which says that God created humankind in his own image. Although that image of God has been marred by sin, it has not been eradicated. We still bear the image of God. Therefore, the Bible places a very high premium on the value of every human being.” And thirdly, he added that “the Christian Scriptures command us to be peacebuilders. As Romans 14:19 says, ‘Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.’”
As a specific example from his own context, Bp Tendero shared that “one of the previous presidents of the Philippines had a policy of all-out war against the Muslim rebels. Under his rule, the military used its full force to capture the rebel camps, destroying the homes of many civilians in the process. In response, the evangelical churches raised funds and mobilized volunteers to rebuild the homes and even the local mosque. The Muslim sultan welcomed the evangelicals and declared their area to be a zone of peace.”
“These are actions that a Christian or Muslim community anywhere in the world could take without compromising their faith in any way. When we build bridges through such acts of kindness, any existing misunderstanding or hatred quickly disappears,” he added.
Bp Tendero concluded by offering three simple practices that – when implemented – would naturally lead to more respect towards and acceptance of people who hold different faith to one’s own by “active listening”, “empathic understanding” and “intentional collaboration”, adding that “there is enormous opportunity for global impact if we stand together in support of mutual respect and peaceful dialogue.”
In relation to religious conversion, a particularly critical and sensitive issue when it comes to believers of different faiths living together, Bp Tendero weighed in: ”At earlier points in history, Christians have sometimes taken harder stances toward people who abandoned the Christian faith, but we have come to realize that forced religious belief is no belief at all.”
Speak for those who cannot speak; seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and oppressed. Proverbs 31:8-9 (ISV)
Discrimination, restrictions on the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief, and religiously motivated violence are on the rise. These have become, and have always been, the norm in the life and witness of the Church in most parts of the world today.
Being a voice for over 600 million evangelicals, how is the WEA responding to the ever-increasing threats to religious liberty?
Inspired by Proverbs 31:8-9, the WEA Geneva Liaison Office began to actively engage the United Nations (UN) Human Rights mechanisms in 2012 in defence of human rights, and predominately, the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief. The office’s aim is to foster structural changes in countries where our national Evangelical Alliances work, to strengthen the rule of law, to advance the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief, and ultimately, to enable an environment for a more vibrant Christian witness.
Why is a UN presence important?
As surprising as it may seem, the WEA Geneva Liaison Office is the only evangelical representative body advocating for religious freedom on behalf of the more than 600 million evangelicals at the UN in Geneva! And regularly, States that persecute or discriminate against religious minorities have to defend their human rights record at the UN’s Human Rights Council. By relaying the voices of national Evangelical Alliances, the WEA has a unique contribution to bring to the conversation.
In a recent article, Wissam al-Saliby reflected on what evangelical engagement with the UN means when it comes to advocacy for religious freedom, and explained more in detail how WEA’s voice can be of influence in this unique context:
The main tool available is to submit reports to various Geneva-based UN Human Rights mechanisms including the regular Human Rights Council sessions, the Universal Periodic Review, the Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. These reports would relay the information provided by WEA member Alliances.
The following are examples of reports submitted over the course of this year: