Around 40 survivors from the ship filled with Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany that was turned away from the United States are expected to be special guests at the second All Americas Convocation to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in June. Organizers are paying for the survivors to travel to the event from Canada, England and Australia, as well across the United States.
The special guests will hear statements of regret for the infamous rejection of the "St. Louis," which eventually saw the 900 passengers reluctantly return to Europe after also being refused entry to Cuba and Canada. Many later died in concentration camps.
Several hundred prayer and other leaders from across the Americas are due to attend the convocation, whose leadership council includes Myles Munroe, Michael L. Brown and Cindy Jacobs. State and government representatives have been invited to take part in the event, which will take place during the 62nd anniversary of the ship's barring from the United States. The meeting will be held on the very coastline along which the "St. Louis" coasted for several days while desperately trying to gain permission to enter port.
Convocation coordinator Tom Hess said that it was significant that the ballot controversy that stalled the 2000 election and at one stage threatened a constitutional crisis centered on Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties, off whose shores the "St. Louis" had waited.
"God was trying to show us that there is unfinished business that has to be dealt with in regard to the United States and repentance for the sin of rejecting these people and sending them back to the Holocaust," he said. "When you talk to the survivors, they ask, 'Why has the United States never asked forgiveness for this?'"
A similar event took place in Canada last November. Watchmen of the Nations, a Vancouver-based group, brought 25 survivors to a dinner and reception in Ottawa. Christian broadcaster David Mainse told them that Canada's turning the ship away had sent hundreds of Jews to death camps "just as surely as if Canada had collaborated with the Nazis."
Organizers of the June event have launched a fund to pay for survivors' attendance. The Cornelius Restitution Fund - named after the man described in the book of Acts as "a righteous Gentile" - will also be used to help meet the ongoing needs of Jewish people returning to Israel. "As we acknowledge our wrong, repent and ask forgiveness, there is then an opportunity and scriptural obligation to restore," Hess said. "A righteous act of giving is part of making restitution for what we have done amiss."
Director of the House of Prayer for All Nations in Jerusalem, Hess last October led Christian delegates representing 200 countries to present a 'Scroll of Repentance to the Jewish People" at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
Hess said the goal of the convocation is "to obey God and believe that His mercy would triumph over His judgment in regard to the nation of the United States, and that the survivors would be touched by God. That they would forgive us for the sin against them."
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