Riga LatviaBrussels, November 24th, 2016 – The European Coalition for Israel is to extend an open invitation to Russian speaking churches in Europe at a pastors’ conference in Riga, Latvia, on Saturday.  The conference, which is expected to draw together some 2,000 leaders and other participants from various parts of Central and Eastern Europe as well as from several republics from the former Soviet Union, will be the first opportunity for ECI to address a Russian speaking audience.

In a statement on Thursday, ahead of the historic meeting, ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell explained that “extending an open invitation also to the Russian speaking part of Europe is a natural expression of the need for Christians to stand united for Israel at a time of growing distrust and divides in Europe”.

The main umbrella group for the Jewish communities in Europe, the European Jewish Congress, has been led by a Russian businessman Moshe Kantor already for many years.

By going to Latvia, ECI also wants to show that it has a strong interest in the Baltic States and other new EU member states from countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The Baltic States have proven themselves to be some of the most solid friends of Israel in the entire European Union and as an organisation ECI wants to honour these countries for their solidarity and friendship. The same can be said for many other new EU member states from Central and Eastern Europe, who deserve our support and attention.

“In this respect the ‘old EU’ can learn from the new EU member states what it means to stand up for democracy and reject terrorism”, Sandell added.

Sandell will be joined by ECI Legal Counsel Andrew Tucker at the conference which is hosted by the New Generation church movement.

Earlier in the week ECI reached out to members of the African Union ahead of a meeting in Equatorial Guinea with a plea to stand firm on its support for Israel despite growing pressure to come against Israel at the United Nations. The plea was made in cooperation with African friends and leaders who are part of Christians for Israel in Africa. The Netherlands based Christians for Israel is one of the founding members of the European Coalition for Israel.

The expanded scope of the ECI mandate is an expression of the growing globalisation but also of changing geopolitical realities. Earlier this month ECI hosted its first National ECI Conference in London, despite the fact that Britain has voted for leaving the European Union.

While ECI will continue to have its main focus on Europe, its mandate and influence has today been expanded to many other regions of the world. The ECI monthly report is currently translated into seven languages. After the upcoming visit to Latvia, ECI hopes to be able to make available a Latvian and a Russian translation.