The World Evangelical Alliance's new Secretary General, Bishop Efraim Tendero, spoke with The Christian Post about helping Christians being persecuted by ISIS, the reasons why people join radical movements, and what American Christians can do to help bless the world.
Before being appointed the secretary general, Tendero served as the national director of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches. He is also the former president of the Philippine Relief and Development Services.
WEA's International Council selected Tendero for the position after a unanimous vote, and Bishop Ef, as he is often called, began his tenure on March 1. In an interview with CP, Tendero discussed his goals for the future with the WEA, which represents more than 600 million evangelicals around the world.
Tendero also described how American Christians have influenced ministries around the world, citing the significance of early missionary work. WEA's new Secretary General also offered his thoughts on the persecution of Christians at the hands of ISIS and why people join radical movements similar to the Islamic State terrorist group.
When he is not traveling the globe, Tendero will serve much of his five-year tenure as WEA's Secretary General in his native Philippines, where he has actively sought to make a political difference.
Here is the transcript of the interview:
CP: What are your goals for the future of the WEA and how do you plan on reaching them?
Tendero: Number one, I would like to strengthen our network. We are already a strong network but there is still room to be able to really make it a dynamic organization. Number two is to sharpen [the] focus of what we want to do, what we want to deliver, what our ministry will be. Being able to strengthen the organization and sharpen our focus [would] then maximize the impact of what we can do together as a global body of evangelicals.
CP: How do you think Christians from/in the U.S. have blessed other parts of the world, and what do you think Christians in the U.S. today could learn from those in other parts of the world?
Tendero: In a sense, revivals that have happened in America in the past centuries became the fuel and the fire for the missionary advance. And the great missionary movement has really come from America to the rest of the world. Up to now we are seeing missionary men and women coming from America to the east west and (the) rest of the world, so that's the number one blessing that they have had. So as God has blessed this nation as the richest nation in the world, which is also translated in the way that missionaries and Christian ministry are being supported in the rest of the world. But having pioneered and extended the ministry, now other parts of the world are growing up, so the next part is I think we should come to the next level of partnership. Before the American Christians came as a parent or a pioneer starting a new ministry, but now that the church they have established is growing, we need to have that kind of growing relationship and that new level of partnership. Not the parent/child relationship, but like a peer relationship. I think we can ask American Christians to look at the world as partners, equals in the ministry.
CP: I wanted to get your thoughts on the current persecution of Christians in the Middle East by ISIS. In the past, the WEA has done low-key work in the Middle East to help persecuted Christians, and I wonder if the Alliance has been involved in helping those Christians being beheaded, driven out by ISIS in ways other than prayer?
Tendero: We have our Religious Liberty Commission, and through that we have a seat and a voice at the United Nations and we bring this issue of religious persecution as a matter of human rights. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights there is the freedom of expression and freedom of religion, and therefore, among the basic freedoms, the freedom of expressing personal religion. Therefore, we bring this matter to the global body to say that every human being has the freedom to be able to express their convictions and their beliefs, and therefore persecution should not be tolerated.
CP: A lot of foreigners are from the middle class or wealthy families in the West and joining ISIS. What do you think turns people into radicals, and why?
Tendero: Well, to some of them maybe because of ideological position and because of that, they are committing themselves to that, and so my response is we should all the more strengthen our Christian conviction. How do we deal with violence? We do not counter violence with violence, we counter violence with a gesture of peace, a gesture of love just like Jesus Christ who offered himself to bring about better relationships with one another. So to those who are espousing violence, my call is and our response should be to respect one another, to live with dignity and harmony with one another, because all of us are created in God's image. Having that imprint of God in the lives of every person is important, and we need to have peaceful and harmonious relationships with one another.