The phone call jarred me. A friend in her mid-40s, who had survived a bout with breast cancer and been cancer-free for three years, had just passed away. Suddenly, only a few weeks after learning that the cancer had returned, she was in eternity.
What if you knew you had only a short time to live? What legacy would you want to leave your family and friends? How would you want them to remember you? Would you have regrets?
Hebrews 9:27 reminds us that "it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (NKJV). We will be held accountable for what we do with our lives.
Argentine revival leader Claudio Freidzon says a three-year recession in his nation brought spiritual renewal
An Argentine revival leader whose church doubled in size after a financial collapse in his nation believes the American church could see revival in the midst of the current economic recession.
Claudio Freidzon, pastor of Rey de Reyes church in Buenos Aires, says a three-year recession in Argentina brought an unparalleled time of spiritual renewal as believers learned to trust God, not money.
He believes that despite the financial turmoil in the U.S.—or perhaps because of it—the American church has an opportunity to see a similar renewal. “We’ve seen here that after every crisis we have a great breakthrough in the spiritual realm,” Freidzon told Charisma.
During the Argentine recession from 1999 to 2002, the peso plummeted in value, resulting in runs on banks as anxious citizens tried to withdraw their money before the decline grew worse. When the government imposed stringent rules to save the banks in 2001, violent protests broke out in the streets.
Freidzon, who was a leader in a 1990s revival that saw thousands come to Christ at evangelistic events held across Argentina, said his church saw declines in church giving because of the crisis, but ramped up its outreach efforts nonetheless. Rey de Reyes offered medical and dental clinics throughout Buenos Aires, and assisted with job searches and construction projects, among other efforts.
Before the economic collapse, Freidzon’s church drew roughly 12,000 people each week. But today, he said, Rey de Reyes has more than 25,000 members and hosts seven worship services every Saturday and Sunday—“all of them packed.”
Now, seven years since the economy began to stabilize, Freidzon’s church is seeking to transfer its influence into politics. The church hopes to open a Christian university that will train youth for both secular and ministry work.
“I realize the importance of having born-again people in high levels,” Freidzon said. “I believe we are going to prepare the next Christian president of Argentina.”
He said the government used to block the church’s evangelism efforts, but as it began doing more to help the poor, relations improved.
He said lawmakers have pledged to help as plans for the university unfold, and the government has begun classifying their ministry work as being “of interest to the province,” a stamp of approval that gives the church broad access.
“That means that they open the province,” he said. “They say: ‘You are welcome. Do whatever you want. Preach wherever you want. Go to the schools, go to the jails, go to the streets.’ That is new for us.”
Argentina’s economy continues to struggle, with the global recession taking its toll and a severe drought worsening unemployment. But Freidzon is optimistic about his nation’s future. He said more and more government officials are contacting the church for prayer, adding that he has met Vice President Julio Cobos and is hopeful he will one day pray with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Freidzon said the 1990s revival that was marked by large-scale prayer meetings never completely ended. “In our church, 18 years since the Holy Spirit visited us, the people are still looking for more,” Freidzon said. “They are excited. ... Here, they are still hungry for more of God.”
—Richard Daiglein Buenos Aires, Argentina read more
I grew up in a home where my mother, father, grandmother and grandfather all loved and trusted in Christ as their Savior. I came to know Jesus for myself at church camp.
At 19 I married a man who was 32. My husband was very critical. Once he told me that he never could love me and said he had asked me to marry him only because he didn't think he would find anybody else.
My husband was full of pride and placed a lot of importance on making money and having a good reputation. Even though he wasn't really interested in Jesus and the Bible, he went to church. He said he wanted to be good and do good. read more
Throughout the history of India it was traditionally men who were concerned with improving the status of women. It was not until the late 19th and early 20th centuries that a number of influential women reformers arose. The most notable of these was Pandita Ramabai.
Pandita was born in 1858 into an orthodox Hindu Brahmin family. This upper-caste sect mandated prepubertal marriage for girls and denied women educational opportunities. However, Pandita's father was a priest, scholar and social reformer who had a liberal, progressive view of the caste system. While traveling on endless pilgrimages throughout India he gave public lectures on the need of women for education. He provided Pandita an extensive formal education with a focus on Sanskrit.
Pandita soon became a famed lecturer who, like her father, championed women's rights. She had witnessed the suffering of child widows and the uneducated and wanted to help them. Oppressed women became her first call to service. read more
Having been raised by an alcoholic father and an enabling mother, I learned to see God as harsh, unbending and unaccepting of me. I believed that He would harm me at His whim and that He was never pleased with my efforts or gifts. I thought He was like my father.
As a 30-something mother of four, I was falling apart emotionally. I had seen numerous counselors and been on medication for clinical depression. But despite all my efforts, I could not find freedom or peace.
At my lowest point, a good Christian friend mailed me an awesome worship CD that was full of songs extolling God as the lover of our souls. Inspired by thoughts of His stubborn love for me, I was compelled to search the Scriptures to see what I could find about the true nature of God. read more
A few months ago I spent time with Heidi Baker, a missionary who has a large ministry based in Mozambique, Africa. She and her husband have founded many orphanages and planted thousands of churches.
She described the miracles she has witnessed of provision of food for the orphanages and of God's intervention on her behalf with the Muslim government of Mozambique. She also told me about the visitations and personal encounters with God she has experienced as a vital part of her spiritual walk. Though often the miraculous interventions she witnessed came in response to serious challenges or persecution, it was clear from her description that she lives a supernatural life.
According to the American Dictionary of the English Language, the word "supernatural" refers to things that are "beyond or exceeding the powers or laws of nature; miraculous." The supernatural realm is beyond what we see, and it is where we are all called to walk. But many of us have the idea that only a chosen few are called to live supernaturally. read more
Our pastor's son, Marty, was determined to stay in college. But the income from our small congregation made this an "iffy" situation--at least if it depended on help from his family.
My own daughter, Dana, was also in college, and the contrast between her circumstances and Marty's raised questions in my mind. My child had all the material goods that a freshman in college needs--a new car, clothes and an allowance.
Marty, on the other hand, struggled constantly with shabby clothes, a poor specimen of transportation that seemed to inhale the income from his part-time job, and little money for trips home and sundry other expenses. Why, I wondered? read more
In the 1930s, a young couple moved to Port Arthur, Texas, to work in the oil refinery. At that time, church attendance was not on their agenda at all.
But every morning before 9, a little lady, with her Bible tucked under her arm, passed in front of the family's apartment. It soon became a part of the mother's morning routine to watch for the woman to pass by.
One morning the lady stopped and knocked on the family's door. When the mother answered, the woman invited her to an old-fashioned tent revival in the area. The written invitation seemed to speak to the young mother all day from its resting place on the dresser. read more
I'm a big fan of schedules. I prefer the security of a solid plan and a definitive timeframe. I hate having to wait, and I hate having to rush.
However, being an obsessive planner can sometimes make living with God's timing a little difficult. We have all had that conversation with God when we say: "Hello! Your timing could use a little work." I have said this—more than once.
Six years ago my husband and I were expecting our first child. We were so excited. But our hopes ended in a miscarriage. read more
True Spiritual Authority operates in an environment of Godly wisdom that releases women to fulfill their callings in every area of life.
The old saying is true: "A woman's place is in the home." It's just not her only place.
Many women today bristle when they hear that old axiom. They get defensive when they hear the word "submission" or the term "spiritual authority." A big reason, no doubt, is that many women have experienced abuse in their homes--both emotionally and physically--under the banner of "submission." read more
We asked Christian leaders who visit Israel regularly to tell us their most memorable moments in the Holy Land.
Nearly everyone has a special place he would like to visit during his lifetime. For many people, that place is Israel.
The mere mention of the country’s name evokes a wide range of emotions, one of which is longing. For thousands of years, Israel has held great significance for people from all walks of life, and those who have a heart for the land yearn to see it.
Some save for years to make a trip to the Holy Land. Those who have been blessed to go generally agree that while they were there, the Bible came to life and the visit changed them at a deep level. Many have been overwhelmed when they “walked where Jesus walked.”
Charisma interviewed several prominent Christian leaders who often lead tour groups to Israel. The places that are most special to them range from the Sea of Galilee to the Western Wall, from Alon Moreh to Kfar Etzion, from the Temple Mount to the Garden of Gethsemane. Despite the wide range of favorite locations, the leaders all have one thing in common—they say their first visit had a tremendous impact on their lives.
Here are some of the places they named as their top pick:
For Billye Brim, who took her first trip to the Holy Land in 1983, Alon Moreh is not about the settlement, but rather about the tree on top of a mountain where scholars believe the Lord first appeared to Abraham when he arrived in the Promised Land (see Gen. 12:6-7).
“From this high vantage point one can see like Abram did, the Mounts of Blessing and Cursing, Shechem (Nablus), the Valley of Tirzah,” says Brim, who in 1986 studied Hebrew at Ulpan Akiva in Netanya, Israel—a school founded just after the War of Independence in 1948.
Brim, founder of Prayer Mountain in the Ozarks in Kirbyville, Missouri, also notes about Alon Moreh that “though Israel has prepared a lovely place to sit under the tree, we have never met another tour group there. And in this spot we have experienced the most awesome presence of God and experiences in prayer.”
The living remnant of the house of Israel
Integrity Music recording artist Paul Wilbur first visited Israel in 1983 and has been back more than 24 times. Tohim the “historicplaces are fascinating, and it is fun to ‘run where Jesus walked,’ stand in the first-century synagogue in Capernaum, take a boat ride on the Galilee.
“But,” he adds, “so many love the dead Jews of the Bible and completely ignore the living remnant of today.”
Wilbur explains: “When I connect with my brothers and sisters in Israel I feel as though I have connected with the heart of God. Jesus stated that He came to rescue the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and I believe His heart has not changed in 2,000 years.”
The more intense worship and the deeper fellowship of the people have had an eternal effect on his life. Says Wilbur: “The stones are old and significant, but the living stones are the dwelling place of the God of Israel. So when you go, be very certain to enjoy the history, but be more certain to touch the living stones that Yeshua gave His life to redeem!”
Melva Lea Beacham has traveled to and lived in Israel for nearly 40 years. Her first trip at Christmastime in 1969 was the first of at least a dozen, but she also had the pleasure of living there from 2005-2006.
Though she revels in many fond memories of riding the Number 8 bus every day, the one place that really captured her heart is Kfar Etzion, site of the massacre by Arab armed forces on May 13, 1948—the day before Israel became recognized as a nation.
“I take my tours there to see firsthand and have it wrench their hearts,” said Beacham, who served for four years as international director of development for Christian Friends of Israel in Jerusalem. “I want them to understand what the Jewish people have to experience every day to carve out their inheritance and their place in the world that God gave them. I want people to know and understand the resistance—demonic and from the nations—that these people face.”
In the countless trips John Hagee, pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, has taken since 1978, a particular place as well as a particular moment stands out for him. On his visit to the 187-foot long Western Wall during his first trip, Hagee had a God-encounter that not only changed his life but also launched a movement that continues to gain in prominence and influence more than 30 years later.
At the wall that day “God told me to do everything in my power to bring Christians and Jews together because they have far more in common than the things that we had allowed to separate us over the centuries,” Hagee says.
To Hagee’s left that day on the western flank of the Temple Mount was an Orthodox Jew rocking back and forth, kissing the Bible. “I realized we were spiritual brothers, but he was afraid of me, and I knew nothing about him,” Hagee says.
Less than three years later, Hagee held the first Night to Honor Israel, which eventually led to the formation in 2006 of Christians United for Israel, now the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States.
“Every visit to the Western Wall is the most enjoyable of the 10-day trip to Israel,” he says. “There is a spiritual force at the Western Wall for me like nowhere else on planet Earth. It is that spiritual experience I’ve never forgotten, and [that I ] enjoy every time I go back.”
The Temple Mount
Robert Stearns first traveled to Jerusalem in 1991 and has been back 18 times for the Feast of Tabernacles. All told, he has made more than 40 trips to Israel. He admits the Western Wall is his favorite place, but he also names The Temple Mount and Masada as must-see sites.
The Temple Mount, also known as Mount Moriah, contains the holiest site in Judaism. Hotly contested over the years and possibly one of the most recognizable sites because of the golden dome atop the Islamic shrine—the Dome of the Rock—Israel and the Palestinian authority both claim sovereignty over the Temple Mount.
Masada is the name for a site of ancient palaces in the southern district of the country. Some consider a hike up the Snake Path on the eastern side of the mountain part of the Masada experience, but a cable car is available. The remote location and arid environment has kept the site well-preserved for thousands of years.
“Jerusalem, more than a metaphor, is a literal place to which the nations of the earth are turning once again,” says Stearns, who claims, “It is a Biblical mandate for us as Christians to pray faithfully for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6) and for all of Israel (Rom. 9-11).”
Garden of Gethsemane
Joni Lamb, co-founder, vice president and executive producer of the Daystar Television Network—like other leaders Charisma interviewed—did not hesitate when asked to reveal her special spot, the Garden of Gethsemane. Although she will take only her fourth trip to the Holy Land later this year, the significance of the garden inspired her book, Surrender All.
Located at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the garden is where Lamb believes the ultimate surrender took place. “I think of the emotional anguish that Jesus felt,” Lamb says. “That place is very significant and very spiritual because of that surrender. It’s the place where He cried out [to the Father], ‘Not My will, but Your will be done.’”
She adds: “Had He not surrendered there, He would not have been able to walk to the cross. I’m sure it was tormenting with the drops of blood and the emotional anguish that He felt. That surrender changed the world.”
Sea of Galilee
No place in Israel means as much to Ben Kinchlow as the Sea of Galilee. “This was a vital place in Jesus’ ministry,” Kinchlow says. Of the nearly 30 miracles Jesus performed, roughly 20 were performed in this region and a dozen right on the shores.
“I can’t find a more unchanged place than the Sea of Galilee. Nothing has changed there,” says Kinchlow, who notes the area is mostly free of buildings and tourist attractions.
At nearly 700 feet below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth. Kinchlow, founder of Americans for Israel and the co-host of the Front Page Jerusalem radio show, who first went to Israel in the 1970s, recommends sitting on some of the rocks and hills.
“This is a place away from the tourist stuff,” Kinchlow claims. “This is such a place of solitude.”
Off the beaten path, Nimrod Fortress is a site Perry Stone visited for the first time on his most recent trip to Israel—even though he’s traveled to the country more than 30 times. He definitely plans to go to the site again.
Ruined by an earthquake in the 18th century, the fortress is situated in the northern Golan Heights on a ridge rising about 2,600 feet above sea level. This is the place where God made His covenant with Abraham.
“From up there you can see the opening of the Promised Land,” says Stone, excitement rising in his voice. “This is the view Abraham saw.”
Many tours don’t visit Golan Heights because of time constraints, but Stone said the trip is worth the time. His group spent more than two hours there.
“It’s worth sitting there and soaking it all in. It’s historical and the scenery is beautiful,” says Stone, a fourth generation minister, who directs one of America’s fastest-growing ministries, the Voice of Evangelism. “You’re going back in time with Abraham. This is where it all began. This is where the covenant was made.”
Jonathan Bernis, the executive director of Jewish Voice Ministries International and host of the weekly television program Jewish Voice Today, loves Jerusalem. He has visited 50 times since his first trip in 1984.
The epicenter of the Christian faith and site of “intense spiritual warfare,” Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world. Considered the spiritual center of the Jews, the Old City, despite being less than .5 square miles, contains a number of significant Christian sites—the Temple Mount, Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepuchre, to name a few.
“I feel a closeness to God there like no other place in the world,” says Bernis, the founding Rabbi of Shema Yisrael Messianic Congregation in Rochester, New York, where he served as senior Messianic rabbi from 1984-1993.
Although not an exhaustive list, these 10 sites are a great place to begin your first—or next—trip to Israel. You may find other places that touch your heart more, but according to those who have been, your life will never be the same after taking a trip to the one nation no Christian should neglect to visit.
Larry J. Leech II is a ghostwriter, freelance writer and editor based in Longwood, Florida.
Sara Trollinger has established a much-needed haven for Teenagers who are battered by life's storms. Published reports on the state of the American family often reveal problems due to parental neglect and teen-age rebellion. But House of Hope, an outreach to teens and their families based in Orlando, Florida, has become a national model for ministries seeking to bring about family recovery and reconciliation.
Sara Trollinger, founder and president of House of Hope, was a schoolteacher for 25 years. Because of her work with emotionally handicapped students, she sometimes conducted classes with troubled teen-agers who were behind bars. read more
During my daughter's sophomore year in college, we received a bill from a previous semester for $850. At the time, I didn't have the money to pay it.
One day when I was at my office, I asked God what I should do concerning the balance. He told me to call the school and ask to make payment arrangements.
When I contacted the school, a woman in the finance office told me they didn't accept payment arrangements, but she would see what could be done. Then she returned to the phone, bewildered, and said that someone (she didn't know who) had paid the balance! read more
In front of Michael Jackson's star on Hollywood Boulevard, evangelist Ray Comfort, host of Way of the Master, asks passers-by what happened to Jackson after his death. Their discourse may surprise you. Watch the video below.
In 1987, I had the privilege of interviewing author and former missionary Elisabeth Elliot. She is a fabulous writer, whose courageous example I really admire. At the time, she had just released a new book—an autobiography of missionary Amy Carmichael titled A Chance to Die.
Elisabeth had been greatly influenced by Amy's life, and I was drawn to her story. Actually, I considered both Elisabeth and Amy to be powerful models of sacrificial obedience and devotion to God, and I looked up to them.
Soon after I read the biography, I discovered Amy's books and poetry. I was completely captivated from the beginning. Her words were poignantly beautiful, her communication style seemed so pure. read more
In my ideal world, God would sit me down with paper and pen and ask me to write out exactly how I would like my life to go. Much to my shock and chagrin, however, that is not the way God handles His business.
It was June 24, 2005 when I first received the news that I had cancer. Being the naïve 23-year-old, 6-month newlywed that I was, I reacted out of anger, fear, shock and disbelief. Finding the beauty and purpose in my situation was the last thing on my mind as my doctor began to tell me that the lump I had found on my leg was actually non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and that I would have to undergo eight rounds of aggressive chemotherapy.
Fingering my long locks of hair, I listened as the doctor said that I would lose all of my glorious mane, which I had just spent $65 to have highlighted! read more
________________________________________________ FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 4, 2009
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON A NEW BEGINNING
Cairo University Cairo, Egypt
1:10 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I'm grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And I'm also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu alaykum. (Applause.)
We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world -- tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.
Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.
So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles -- principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there's been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today -- to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.
Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I'm a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.
As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam -- at places like Al-Azhar -- that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities -- (applause) -- it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.)
I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they've excelled in our sports arenas, they've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers -- Thomas Jefferson -- kept in his personal library. (Applause.)
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)
But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words -- within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum -- "Out of many, one."
Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores -- and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. (Applause.)
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it. (Applause.)
So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations -- to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.
Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.
For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.) That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.
And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes -- and, yes, religions -- subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared. (Applause.)
Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: We must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.
The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.
In Ankara, I made clear that America is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security -- because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I'm aware that there's still some who would question or even justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.
Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military -- we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.
And that's why we're partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths -- but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as -- it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism -- it is an important part of promoting peace.
Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been displaced. That's why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.
Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. (Applause.) Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."
Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future -- and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people -- (applause) -- I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. And that's why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. (Applause.) We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.
And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. (Applause.)
So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.
The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.
America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.)
For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It's easy to point fingers -- for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. (Applause.)
That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. (Applause.) The obligations -- the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them -- and all of us -- to live up to our responsibilities.
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered.
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)
And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.
And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel's legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.
Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra -- (applause) -- as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)
The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.
This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.
I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It's about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.
I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)
I know -- I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)
Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments -- provided they govern with respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.
Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it's being challenged in many different ways.
Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld -- whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. (Applause.) And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.
Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit -- for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.
In fact, faith should bring us together. And that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That's why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action -- whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.
The sixth issue -- the sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights. (Applause.) I know -- I know -- and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
Now, let me be clear: Issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we've seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.
I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity -- men and women -- to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. And that is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams. (Applause.)
Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.
I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations -- including America -- this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities -- those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.
But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.
And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century -- (applause) -- and in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I'm emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.
On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.
On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.
On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We'll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I'm announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.
All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek -- a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.
I know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort -- that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There's so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country -- you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.
All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort -- a sustained effort -- to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.
It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) This truth transcends nations and peoples -- a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.
We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.
The Holy Koran tells us: "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."
The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."
The Holy Bible tells us: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Applause.)
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.
Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)