Often seen as an exclusively American phenomenon, the spread of Evangelical Christianity and its support for Israel is in fact a global affair.
As we enter 2016, there is good news for Israel. True, the country is facing a wave of terror at home, growing criticism from Europe, and attempts to expand the boycott and de-legitimization of Israel on American campuses. But at the same time there also is growing support for Zionism in non-aligned countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In countries like China, El Salvador, Brazil, the Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria and many other nations a real revolution is taking place, which not many Israelis are aware of it: an “Evangelical Revolution.”
The world has, according to estimates, more than half a billion evangelical Christians. In the past, this current has been linked mainly to the United States, but in the last two decades, the number of Evangelicals in the Southern Hemisphere has jumped dramatically.
For example, the Pew Institute’s research estimates that a fifth of evangelical Christians worldwide live in Asia – approximately 150 million people. This is a fact that the Israeli public ignores. For Israelis, evangelism is an American story, but the reality is completely different. One by one, residents of Asia, including millions in such hostile Islamic countries as Malaysia and Indonesia, adopt the evangelical Christian faith. Not only Asians are embracing evangelical Christianity: 14 percent of the residents of Africa – over 180 million people – and nearly 100 million people in Latin America are evangelical Christians. This revolution is sweeping the entire southern hemisphere.
Where does Israel fit in this story? Well, Israel is integrated into the story in a big way. Already the largest popular support for Israel is in Africa. An international survey conducted by the BBC revealed that the countries most sympathetic to Israel are the US, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria – and the common denominator is a high proportion of evangelicals. In Latin America, the highest support for Israel was recorded in Brazil, which has the highest percentage of evangelicals in South America.
This revolution is taking place in places never before associated in the public mind with religious belief. For example, China. As an atheist and secular nation, Christian activity is done underground. Thus it is difficult to estimate accurately the number of Christians in the country, but the Chinese government has acknowledged the number now exceeds 100 million. And these are Christians who admire and respect Israel greatly.
This Evangelical Revolution is beginning to find a political voice. In the recent presidential elections in Argentina, pro-Israel candidate Mauricio Macri replaced Cristina Kirchner, who had taken a strong pro-Palestinian and made secret deals with Iran. This change was made possible largely thanks to the Evangelical vote. In the elections held two years ago in Brazil, for the first time an Evangelical candidate participated, Marina Silva and placed well. It is also worth mentioning the Ivory Coast’s recent decision to refrain from supporting UN resolutions condemning Israel.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, the largest Christian Zionist organization in the world, has a role in promoting support for Israel in many of these countries where the Evangelical community is growing so rapidly. In recent years, ICEJ branches worldwide have engaged in a worldwide campaign to build support for Israel. These efforts will bear much fruit for Israel in the coming years.
Dr. Jürgen Bühler, CEO of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem