From vision to reality in fifteen years!

As I started to write this monthly report on my flight back to Helsinki after spending a whole week in Brussels, I realised that we have just entered the month of September.

The first of September marks fifteen years since the ECI vision was first presented in a written form, to be embraced only two days later by an anonymous donor. While this vision was being confirmed in Helsinki, Finland, fifteen years ago in 2001, another chain of events was unfolding in Durban, South Africa, where the United Nations was organising a large world conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The NGO conference that was running parallel to the UN conference described Israel as a racist state and is now considered by many as the launch platform for the “new anti-Semitism” of today. It was at this conference, where so called anti-racists and human rights activists were shouting “death to Israel”, that the strategy to boycott Israel was first presented to an international forum. Only three days after the conference ended on September 11, terror struck in New York and Washington DC, and the world has never been the same since then.

In the midst of all this turmoil we believe the Lord was raising up ECI “for such a time as this” to help Christians stand up against this new resurgence of anti-Semitism. By remembering the ”birth of ECI” in this way, it gives us the opportunity to thank all those who have stood by us faithfully during all these last fifteen years, in prayer, friendship and financial support. As we mark fifteen years since the birth of the vision (ECI was officially launched as an organisation in March 2003) we are entering another volatile season which reminds us of Germany in the 1930´s. This was a time when the hordes of anti-Semites started to expel the Jewish people from Europe by planning boycotts of their businesses and declaring Jews to be second-class citizens. Also today Jewish life is under threat in Europe by the rise of anti-Semitism and potentially by new laws to ban religious circumcision and kosher slaughter which would make Jewish life impossible in Europe. In addition to this, Jewish products from Israel are again targets for boycotting.

But this time the friends of Israel are no longer passive. In this monthly update we are presenting some new developments that will make ECI stronger and even more effective in the future as we invite you to stand with us in prayer and financial support during the next fifteen years!

Singaporean Christians express interest in an Asian Coalition for Israel

Singapore – In mid August ECI Vice-ChairmanTor G Gull and Founding Director Tomas Sandell visited Singapore on a follow up mission after a fruitful ministry trip in the month of May. Just two weeks earlier, during a layover in Singapore on his way to Australia, our Legal Counsel Andrew Tucker had an opportunity to present ECI´s legal work at a gathering of lawyers and Christian lay leaders who had expressed a great interest to become involved in the area of international law.

Singapore is a testimony to an exceptional transformation of a third world country into a leading economy in only one generation. Part of the reason for this remarkable achievement is the close cooperation of Singapore with the state of Israel since its formation in 1965. Today Israel and Singapore are two of the most dynamic economies in the world and Christians in Singapore firmly support the state of Israel along with cultural transformation of their own country.

To learn more about the secret behind this remarkable transformation both Gull and Sandell spent a week attending a “Making disciples of all nations” school, organised by the Full Gospel Business (FGB) Gatekeepers Singapore. While the course was spiritually enriching, it also helped us to create new links to other parts of Asia and solidify the emerging relationships in Singapore.

As a result of the trip, a delegation of seasoned market place leaders and Christian pastors expressed a genuine interest to start up an Asian Coalition for Israel, in close cooperation with the European Coalition for Israel. Having developed an organisational template which has been proven successful in Europe and at the United Nations, groups in other continents are now interested in following the ECI model.

While there is no desire for us in ECI to create a new global super-structure, it does make sense to share our experience and resources with other like-minded groups in the world. In the past ECI has refrained from entering into working relationships with groups in other continents, but given the organic developments over the last two years with leaders in Singapore, the prospect of a fruitful working relationship now seems ripe.

Breaking news – American Friends of ECI receive tax exempt status

Washington DC – As ECI is expanding its influence in Asia, the American Friends of ECI has just received its 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status in the USA. The work in the US capital will now enter a new dimension as a growing network of regional coalitions emerges. The work in Washington DC is headed up by our former Brussels representative Faith Collins-Childress. The official launch of AFECI will take place in Washington DC on October 13.

ECI returns to Brussels with summer aftershock but clear priorities for autumn

Brussels – Members of the European Parliament returned to Brussels in the last week of August after a dramatic summer with the surprise result of the Brexit vote and a new wave of terrorist attacks. On Wednesday, August 31, ECI recorded its first European Report for the autumn (WATCH HERE) to discuss what Europe can learn from Israel to protect its citizens from further terror. Dutch MEP Bas Belder expressed his outrage that the EU still refuses to acknowledge the critical role of radical Islam behind each of the recent attacks. The political leadership along with the media portray a picture of disenfranchised young immigrants who suffer from mental problems, and fail to recognise an underlying culture in Europe which is embedded with anti-Semitism and radical Islam.

Meanwhile, ECI continues its dialogue with the European External Action Service (EEAS - the EU foreign department) concerning the issue of on-going EU financing of Palestinian terrorism in Israel which was presented to the EEAS during an official visit during the month of April. In response to a follow up request, the Director of the Middle East Section writes that: “EU assistance provided to the Palestinian Authority (PA) is subject to strict and continuous monitoring that ensures, inter alia, that European funds are used only for the agreed purposes and are scrupulously audited.” This statement, however, is in clear contrast with the findings of the European Court of Auditors and the European Parliament Budgetary Control Committee which on numerous occasions have raised complaints against the EU for lack of control and oversight. Furthermore, in the most recent update from the Middle East Quartet, the problem of Palestinian incitement to violence is highlighted as a clear obstacle to peace. However, the responsible officials in Brussels continue to refuse to acknowledge any wrong doing.

Apart from the issue of Palestinian incitement to violence, ECI is focusing on the continuing battle concerning Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. ECI is in regular contact with the office of the President of the European Parliament who has expressed his clear criticism of any attempt to boycott or discriminate against Israel. But many EU officials report growing pressure on the European Commission from groups in some member states to apply new boycotts to convince Israel to give in to European demands. Among these groups are many so-called Christian Development NGO’s which, by twisting the language of human rights, religion and international law, seek to label Israel as an international pariah. Last month it was revealed that World Vision, an international Christian charity with a budget of several billions, had secretly been channelling funds to the terrorist organisation Hamas.
ECI will continue to monitor – and if necessary name and shame - these Christians groups which continuously oppose, revile and demonize the Jewish state.

Shalom Festival invades Edinburgh Festival Fringe with message of peace

Edinburgh, Scotland – As well as having an impact at a governmental level through diplomatic activities, it is absolutely essential that friends of Israel are also active in reclaiming  the streets of Europe in support for Israel just as the BDS movement is trying to push Israel, its arts, culture and products out of Europe.

This is exactly what happened in August at the largest arts festival in the world, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, when Scottish pro-Israel organisations, supported by ECI, organised an International Shalom Festival presenting Israeli arts, music and culture in an attempt to build bridges for peace between Scotland and Israel.

The original Shalom Festival in Belgium was an initiative started by, among others, the Belgian Coalition for Israel and our Brussels representative Ruth Isaac and her sisterEugenia Daskapoulous-Tarzilou from Koinonia ministries in Antwerp. Together with Jewish organisations, they have hosted several cultural events in Antwerp and Brussels over the years with a message of peace and co-existence in the Middle East - hence the name: “Shalom (peace) Festival”.

Inspired by the Belgian experience, Scottish Israel activist Nigel Goodrich has now introduced this concept at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where Israeli artists have been boycotted in the past. This year Israel was given great visibility through the Shalom Festival which showcased a different Israel than the one presented by the BDS movement. As friends of Israel were celebrating Israeli culture inside the venue, anti-Israel demonstrators were loudly protesting - but outside.

Kudos to our friend and partner in the UK, Nigel Goodrich, who made all this possible.

ECI Young Adults reach younger generation in their countries

Helsinki, Finland – The future of EU-Israeli relations is in the hands of the younger generation. In the pre-study in 2001, which later led to the creation of the European Coalition for Israel, we noted that Biblical supporters of Israel tended to be people who have had first hand experience of the miracle of the birth of the Jewish state in 1948, the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 and the miraculous survival of Israel in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
Those who grow up in this day and age have a completely different experience of the State of Israel which through biased media reporting is portrayed as an “occupying power” and a “human rights violator”. Although nothing could be further from the truth, this explains why this new generation needs to be presented with clear facts and the truth about Israel and the conflict in the Middle East.

The ECI Young Adults group (see article from last month) takes this message to the younger generation. It is critical that we reach young people while they are still studying and are at a formative age. In the Netherlands one of our young leaders has started a small project at her college, which we hope can become a pilot study in how to bring our message into the college campuses in Europe.

Another one of our young leaders, Ina Litma, will this autumn be involved in a project supported by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and the Youth section of the Christian Democratic party in Finland to counter the lies of the BDS movement by presenting the facts about Israel through a tour in different key cities in Finland. This is a good example of a pro-active approach in the current information war where small but vocal and well-funded anti-Israel groups are reaching out to students and young people with a message of hate. It is time that those who care for Israel and peace in the Middle East are given a more visible profile. Thank you ECI Young Adults for making a difference!

As we close this month´s report we want to again thank all supporters of ECI, both young and old. If you would like to support the work of ECI financially you will find more information here.

Upcoming events

London 5th November 2016
First National ECI Conference in London.

Speakers: Tomas Sandell, Jacques Gauthier, Ruth Isaac, and more.
Location and full programme to be announced shortly.