Purpose Driven

Testing the Faith

California mega-church pastor Rick Warren, author of the best-selling "Purpose-Driven Life," reportedly told a Syrian-controlled news agency the U.S. should have been holding dialogues with Damascus; Syrian Muslims and Christians co-exist peacefully; and the Syrian leadership is responsible for the nation's tolerance and stability. That's according to the news agency SANA, which has issued a number of reports this week as Warren visits Syria and meets various leaders and officials, much to the dismay of many in the U.S.

"We at VCY America Radio network are appalled and angered that Rick Warren is praising a nation that has long supported international terrorism and that desires the utter destruction of Israel," said a statement from the broadcasting organization.

"The U.S. State Department reports that Syria " “ along with Iran " “ gives the Lebanese militia Hezbollah 'substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organization aid.' The State Department also has documented that Iranian arms destined for Hezbollah pass through Syria on an ongoing basis," the group continued. "Syria has also let Hezbollah operate in Lebanon and attack Israel, the results of which were seen in the July, 2006 violence between Hezbollah and Israel in which many lost their lives," the statement said. The SANA reports included statements that:

  • "Pastor Warren hailed the religious coexistence, tolerance and stability that the Syrian society is enjoying due to the wise leadership of President al-Assad, asserting that he will convey the true image about Syria to the American people." "Syria wants peace, and Muslims and Christians live in this country jointly and peacefully since more than a thousand years, and this is not new for Syria."
  • Warren told Syria's Islamic grand mufti there could be no peace in the region without Syria and 80 percent of Americans reject the U.S. administration's policies and actions in Iraq.

The comments attributed to Warren contradict documentation by the International Counter Terrorism organization and U.S. State Department of Syria's extensive use of terrorism for its political goals. The ICT said "frequent use of the 'terror weapon' has been made by Syria against Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians" in an attempt "to impose Syrian hegemony over them and bring them into line with Syrian policy." "The main Lebanese leaders killed by Syrian proxies were: Bashir Gemayel (who was accused by Syrian propaganda of being a 'Zionist proxy'); and Kamal Jumblatt (accused of being a 'traitor' and an 'American agent.')," the ICT said. Syria also has used terror tactics against Egypt and Iraq, although less successfully, the ICT said, but it has been used against Christians in 1978 and in the city of Zahle in 1980, and even against Muslim residents of Beirut. The broadcast group says Warren "has no business involving himself in any role that appears to be representative of the United States and his promise to Syria to present a brighter view of that nation to America and Saddleback members demonstrates his willingness to serve as a mindless shill for a nation that embraces terror as a legitimate way of solving problems." Messages left with Saddleback requesting a comment were not returned immediately. But Mark D. Tooley, writing in FrontPageMagazine.com also noted "Warren has reportedly promised to carry that state sponsor of terrorism's propaganda message back to the U.S." He accused Warren of being adrift in a religiously left direction. "The supposed quote from Warren reads like a news release from Assad's propaganda ministry. Perhaps, the translation into Arabic and back into English does not do Warren justice. We can hope," he wrote. "Needless to note, there was no mention by the Warren delegation, at least not as mentioned by SANA, about Syria's one-party police state, its political prisoners, its chambers of torture, its support for Hezbollah terrorism in Lebanon, and its continued devotion to the destruction of Israel," he wrote. Freedom House notes Syrian people have no way to change their government and no influence into its policies. This is a nation, Tooley wrote, "where only the ruling Baathist Party and its allies are permitted to win elections, where all news media are owned or controlled by the government, where independent labor unions are prohibited, where universities must proclaim Baathist Party policies, where clerics are appointed by the government, where the president by law must be Muslim, and where women's limited rights are governed by Islamic Sharia law, even though the government is ostensibly secular." No new Christian school has been allowed to be built in 40 years, and all schools by law must have Muslim principals, Freedom House said.

"It is a sad story, repeated often. Big-name U.S. preachers, often otherwise sensible and orthodox in their faith, visit despotic regimes and naively curry favor with police state thugs," Tooley wrote, resulting in "a propaganda bonanza for the tyrants."

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