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1. Rick Warren, criticized for Syria trip, says he was misquoted
After criticism from the Institute on Religion and Democracy and some other quarters for visiting Syria and meeting with President Bashar Al-Assad, Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allim, Higher Education Minister Ghiath Barakat, and Grand Mufti Sheikh Badr al-Din Hassoun, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren says his trip was misrepresented both by the government-controlled Syrian media and U.S. bloggers. In a letter to church members and others, he wrote:

In hindsight, I wish we'd been better prepared for our visit to Syria. We would have handled some meetings differently, watched our words more closely, and been more aware of the agenda of their state press. We wanted to just slip in and out, but that's nearly impossible for me to do anymore. It's been a learning experience. … As we left, the official state-controlled Syrian news agency issued some press releases that sounded like I was a politician negotiating the Iraq war by praising the Syrian president and everything else in Syria! Of course, that's ridiculous, but it created a stir among bloggers who tend to editorialize before verifying the truth. Does it seem ironic to you that people who distrust Syria are now believing Syrian press releases?

Warren's office has also issued a press release explaining that the visit to Syria "was neither official nor political, but rather came out of a promise to his Muslim neighbor in California." There are, however, some political statements in the press release: recognition of the Syrian government's treatment of its Christians and its welcoming of Iraqi Christian refugees, for example, as well as some encouragement for more dialogue between the ...

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November 2006

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