Christians joined with Jewish leaders Tuesday to protest the appearance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations General Assembly this week.
Representatives from the New York Board of Rabbis and Eagles' Wings' ministry formed a human chain outside the United Nations building in New York, singing and blowing a shofar to condemn the U.N.'s inclusion of Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
"Anyone who is concerned about human rights, anyone who is concerned about the basic values of human rights that the United Nations purports be founded on needs to take a stand against this tyrant, this despot Ahmadinejad," said Robert Stearns, founder of Eagles' Wings, a New York-based Christian ministry that supports Israel through prayer and social outreach.
"Ahmadinejad is a religious extremist, preaching hatred and intolerance," Stearns added. "He should not be given platform at the United Nations."
Ahmadinejad, who was scheduled to speak before the U.N. Thursday, has long been reviled for human rights violations in Iran and for his nuclear ambitions, which many believe would lead to attacks against Israel and the U.S.
In an interview Monday with PBS' Charlie Rose, Ahmadinejad accused Israel of being a "Zionist and racist regime that occupies, creates wars, terrorizes and destroys the homes of people, and prevents people from accessing water, medicine and food in their own home, attacks its neighboring countries, and threatens everyone around."
"This man should not be treated as a statesman; he should be brought to justice," said Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier, president of the New York Board of Rabbis, which represents some 700 rabbis in metro New York. "He should be put on trial and locked away for the crimes against his people and for incitement to commit genocide."
Iranian-Americans also were expected to protest Ahmadinejad's appearance before his speech Thursday, CNN reported. Last year violent clashes followed Iran's widely disputed presidential election in which Ahmadinejad claimed 62 percent of the vote.
In a separate campaign led by Christians United for Israel (CUFI), more than 110,000 Americans signed a petition demanding that Ahmadinejad be tried by the International Criminal Court for incitement to commit genocide. The petition is to be presented to the office of U.N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
Supporters of the petition effort include Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz and Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
"Whether it results in a prosecution or not, we must do everything in our power to call attention to Ahmadinejad's crimes as he desperately seeks to hide them," CUFI Executive Director David Brog wrote in a blog this week.
"The only way to prevent genocide is to stop incitement to genocide," he added. "If we can stop Ahmadinejad, we set a precedent that will deter all those who would seek to follow him. If we fail to stop him, we only embolden evil."
More than 140 world leaders gathered in New York this week for the U.N. General Assembly. An annual ministerial meeting began Thursday, but for most of the week attendees focused on addressing U.N. goals to significantly reduce global poverty by 2015.
Christian groups, including Micah Challenge, the Salvation Army International and World Vision, held a prayer and worship service Monday urging U.N. leaders to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set in 2000. Those include cutting extreme poverty by half, providing universal primary education, curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and reducing child and maternal mortality.
Micah Challenge, a Britain-based advocacy organization led by Pentecostal minister Joel Edwards, is hosting a prayer day Oct. 10 in support of halving global poverty by 2015. The prayer effort has the support of a broad range of Pentecostal and charismatic ministries, including the Assemblies of God, Nigeria-based Redeemed Christian Church of God, Australia-based Hillsong Church and London-based Alpha International.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the world is "on track" to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015, the Associated Press reported. Some critics claim that goal may be reached largely because of strides made in India and China, as many of the world's poorest nations have made little progress in reducing poverty.
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