A visit by an American Bible teacher has prompted Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to seek former President Jimmy Carter's help in the Middle East.
The head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has appealed to Carter to help ensure Palestinian Authority elections to be held in January - the crux of reforms crucial for renewed peace talks - are "free and fair."
Arafat wrote to Carter after meeting with internationally known speaker and author R.T. Kendall. The two spent almost two hours together at Arafat's compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah last Wednesday.
Minister at famed Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years until his retirement in February, Kendall today told how he suggested that Arafat write a letter to Carter, which he later hand-carried back to the United States to send to the former president.
In his letter Arafat asks for Carter's "assistance in enabling us to create the appropriate atmosphere to conduct free and fair elections, similar to the free and fair elections we held in 1996, with your help and assistance."
Kendall said he had gone to see Arafat as "a follower of Jesus, not a politician," and told his host that the only hope for peace in the Middle East was in the gospel. "I didn't go in there to be a peacemaker except in the sense of talking about the need for Jesus Christ."
Kendall said he and Arafat discussed the Bible and the Quran, and he prayed for Arafat and two of his Cabinet ministers at the end of their time together. Kendall told Arafat: "Jesus knows what it is to be rejected. I come to say that I admire you, and I love you, and I want to be Jesus to you."
The two men's meeting was broadcast on Palestinian television. Kendall said he was told later that Americans had been banned from seeing Arafat, so he wrote President Bush to apologize "if I have erred." He also urged Christians supportive of Israel to pray for the Palestinians.
"The fact that they are praying for the Palestinians doesn't mean they are against the Israelis," he said. "Jesus loves everybody indistinguishably, and so must we. Although we as Americans are pro-Israel, it doesn't mean we agree with everything that they do because they can make mistakes."
Kendall said his meeting was born out of 20 years of prayer for Arafat, during which period he estimated he had prayed for him almost 6,000 times. Kendall began praying for him daily in 1982 after hearing cross-carrying evangelist Arthur Blessitt talk about his visit with Arafat.
Kendall mentioned his prayers to an Arab taxi driver in a chance conversation during a prayer tour in Israel, sparking a chain of events that led to an invitation from Arafat through Canon Andrew White, the Archbishop of Canterbury's envoy to the Middle East.
During their meeting Arafat showed Kendall a small cross he had been given by Blessitt. Kendall said he emphasized how, contrary to Islamic teaching, Jesus had not been delivered from the cross but had died and risen again. He also read to him Psalm 133 and John 3:16 before praying.
Now based in Key Largo, Fla., from where he continues to write and travel to speak, Kendall is the author of more than 30 books. His latest, "Total Forgiveness," has become a best seller in the United Kingdom and has just been published in the United States by Charisma House. TV evangelist Jim Bakker said that after the collapse of his Praise the Lord ministry, Kendall's teaching "not only changed my life, but saved my life."
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