50 Christian groups promise no missionary activity in Israel
JERUSALEM, Israel (AP) - Representatives of 50 Christian evangelical groups have agreed to make an unprecedented joint statement promising not to carry out missionary activity in Israel.
As a result, Israeli legislator Nissim Zvili said Monday he would drop his sponsorship of an anti-proselytizing bill that has drawn protests from Christians around the world.
"This is better than a law," Zvili told The Associated Press. "This is a very big accomplishment."
In the statement, the Christian groups say they "rejoice in the presence of the Jewish people in this country of their ancestors" and agree to avoid "activities which...alienate them from their tradition and community."
Missionary activity touches a particularly raw nerve in the Jewish state, home to 300,000 Holocaust survivors. Some Jewish groups have accused Christian churches of apathy or complicity in the Nazi attempt to exterminate European Jews.
Clarence Wagner, director of the evangelical foundation Bridges for Peace, said the joint statement was an important step toward understanding between Jews and Christians. "We don't believe that we have been or are in any way a threat to the Jewish people," he said.
The proposed anti-proselytizing bill would have banned possession of any written material that proselytizes which some Christians feared could be used to ban possession of the New Testament.
Zvili said he had proposed the bill after receiving a proselytizing tract in the mail.
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