The whole episode, Warren says, is just a big misunderstanding. And – guess what – it’s all my fault!
Here is what he told WND staff writer Art Moore about the trip to Syria: “The only mistake I made in Syria. This was the mistake. I shouldn’t have taken a photo op [with the president].”
In other words, Rick Warren still doesn’t get it – despite all the dialogue on this issue. He still does not recognize how his trip gave aid and comfort to a diabolical enemy of freedom and Christianity. He still does not recognize how destructive it is when the Syrian dictator shows pictures of himself with Rick Warren and quotes “America’s mega-pastor” saying harshly critical things about the U.S. and offering nothing but praise for Damascus. He still does not recognize how saying there is freedom of religion in Syria is a lie that justifies the country’s continued persecution of Christians – particularly in neighboring Lebanon.
Instead, Warren blames me. He says I’m lying when I present this information to the world. And he’s still defending the totalitarian terror-sponsoring state!
“Syria says we have freedom of religion, [but] it does not mean we have freedom to change religion,” he says. “That’s the problem. The problem is you can be a Christian in Syria and not be persecuted. I could give you hundreds and thousands of examples of that. Christians that are actually meeting above ground, they are not in secret. I’ve been in their churches. The problem is we’ve got to get them moved to the next step, which is the freedom of conversion.”
Freedom of religion, of course, means people have the right to choose their own faith. It does not mean you have the right to attend services in a government-approved church.
In police states that persecute Christians, there is almost always an above-ground church. That’s how the Soviet Union maintained control and gave the appearance of religious freedom. That’s how it is done in China today. That’s how it is done in Syria today.
Warren rationalizes more by explaining how Syria is not near the top of the list of countries that persecute Christians.
What he chooses to forget is that within days of his trip to Syria, the most prominent anti-Syrian Christian politician in Lebanon, Pierre Gemayel, was assassinated in a suburb of Beirut. Syrian intelligence agents were suspected. Lebanon, once the only Christian country in the Middle East, has been torn asunder by terrorism and violence overseen by Syria for more than 20 years.
I called on Rick Warren to condemn Syria for that assassination, as much of the world did. He chose to ignore it, as he has ignored the systematic persecution of Lebanese Christians by Syria.
While in Syria, Warren also tried to make the case that Syria was not involved in terrorism and is actually a “moderate” state.
Not only does Warren have exceptionally low standards for religious freedom, but he is either woefully ignorant of Syria’s position in the hierarchy of world terrorism or, worse, deliberately covering it up.
Every major terrorist group in the world has headquarters in Syria. Syria is a terror-sponsoring country, according to the State Department. Syria is Iran’s closest ally. Iran is the No. 1 terror-sponsoring country in the world.
But back to what Warren says was his “only” mistake – posing for a picture with Bashar Assad. Warren claims the Syrians, without his consent, issued the following public statements:
“[The] American delegation stressed that the American administration is mistaken not to hold dialogue with Syria.”
“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.”
Warren gave Assad a “memorial drawing” to “thank the Syrian people for their … efforts exerted for maintaining peace and harmony.”
Warren was quoted as saying: “Syria wants peace, and Muslims and Christians live in this country jointly and peacefully [for] more than a thousand years, and this is not new for Syria.”
He would, in the words of the official news agency, “tell the Americans that the ideas which had been shaped about [Syria] didn’t reflect the truth and they have to come to Syria and see by themselves and realize her nice people and visit her wonderful and historical ruins.”
It was reported he told Syria’s Islamic grand mufti that there could be no peace in the region without Syria and that 80 percent of Americans rejects what the U.S. administration is doing in Iraq.
He praised Islamic-Christian co-existence in Syria.
“So, Joseph Farah took that information off of the government sheet and said, ‘Rick Warren said this about Syria,’ off of the statement,” he claims now. “I happened to be in Rwanda from there. I wrote Joseph and said, Joseph, that’s just not true. I didn’t say those things. You’re reading a statement. And he wrote back in a very accusatory letter that said, well, I can’t wait to see the video. In other words, he didn’t believe me. He said, I can’t wait to see the video. And I wrote him back and said, there is no video.”
Even now Rick Warren is saying that little video clip was an anomaly, insisting the rest of his trip was not recorded. However, as WND has previously reported, that is not what he told his own Saddleback Church congregation upon his return to America.
“I didn’t lie at all,” says Warren. “He [meaning me] didn’t stop to check it out. And so he then writes six columns on the basis of his assumption. There was no video of that meeting. At the end, they took a picture, so he chose to believe what the government said, instead of believing me.”
Not so. I never accused Rick Warren of saying those things. Instead, I gave him the opportunity to repudiate them. Interestingly, he never has – at least not with any specificity.
Yet, he still feels compelled to explain that Syria is not that bad. All I know is that if I went to a foreign country and met with the president, who then manufactured quotes from me and issued these false statements to the world, I’d be pretty bugged about that. I would hold that country accountable. For some reason, Rick Warren doesn’t feel that is necessary.