The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land is committed to promoting gender justice within the church and the society at large. Women in Palestine are like women everywhere, busy trying to develop themselves personally and professionally while simultaneously attempting to find balance in their faith, work, and family lives. Additionally, the oppression of women and patriarchal structures continue to be significant cultural challenges in Palestine and throughout the Middle East. Palestinian women face many unique challenges living under occupation: checkpoints, permits, other restrictions of movement, and the separation wall closing them off from schools, medical care, family, and friends.
The Women’s Desk is a direct response to these challenges. The aim of the ELCJHL Women’s Desk is to achieve full equality for women by empowering them to take leadership positions in church and society, qualifying them for full participation in the workplace, and increasing public awareness of women’s rights and gender justice.
The desk is run by Ms. Ranan Issa and informed by a committee of women from the church, adhering to the ELCJHL’s commitment to increase women’s leadership. The committee holds many workshops and gatherings and continues to empower women to achieve significant change.
In addition to the events held for the women of the ELCJHL, the Women’s Desk also emphasizes co-existence and respect for other faiths. The Women’s Desk works ecumenically with many other Christian women’s groups to encourage fellowship and spiritual sharing. Furthermore, the ministry engages with other religious groups to discuss similarities and differences in their faiths and experiences. Through these relationships, the Women’s Desk aims to build a community of empowered women who will be agents for change in their society.
Leaders of the church recognized that the women of the ELCJHL are the backbone of the family and the church, standing fast in faith, hope, and spirit and seeking support from other women when they need it. The gathering of women began informally, but the organization of the Women’s Committee helped to systematize the work of the ministry.
The ELCJHL Women’s Desk was able to return to ministry even after the most disconnected years following the Second intifada (2000-2005). During this time, and for some time after, each congregation’s women’s group organized and worked independently as a result of movement restrictions, checkpoints, and the difficulty of obtaining permits.
Events and Initiatives
The Women’s Desk has developed an initiative called #GenderJustice4Palestine, designed to coincide with other global gender justice projects and commitments. The initiative is aimed at encouraging faith leaders, of all denominations and faiths, to engage in gender justice as outlined in the LWF Gender Justice Policy created in 2013 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly SDG #5 “Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls.”
The Women’s Desk and Women’s Committee also hold conferences and events open to the wider community each year. In the past, these events have involved training on International human rights, understanding the ELCJHL Ecclesiastical Court’s Family Law system, and meeting successful women in the community to share their experiences, among many others.
The members of the ELCJHL Women’s Committee, in cooperation with women from all the churches in Jerusalem, are also highly involved in preparing the activities in Jerusalem for the annual World Day of Prayer. Each year, these services have a different theme which is celebrated throughout the world. These gatherings are hopeful signs of a growing ecumenical awareness.
International Relationships and Events
In 2018, the Women’s Desk represented the ELCJHL in a leadership seminar for women from churches across Europe and the United States. The seminar was sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), our companion church and fellow Lutheran World Federation member, and was held in Wittenberg Center in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany. The Women’s Desk shared information about the status of women in the Holy Land and addressed both the challenges faced by women and the opportunities available for women in the Holy Land. The seminar was a great success, as the participants got to know one another and learn from women from other Lutheran churches. Together, the participants built relationships and networks that have continued long after the conclusion of the seminar.
From the 6th to the 13th of October 2019, the Women’s Desk participated in the ELCA’s “Break Down the Diving Walls: Erasing Hostility” conference as a part of the Gender Focus Group, which advocated for gender equality issues within the context of the broader event. Ms. Ranan Issa, Director of the Women’s Desk, presented on the challenges faced by Palestinian women and how the Separation Wall directly affects our daily lives.
The ELCJHL was also highlighted as a model church at the United Nations Sixty-Third Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in New York, USA because of the recognition and establishment of the Lutheran Ecclesiastical Court in 2014 by the Palestinian Authority. Inspired by the LWF Gender Justice policy, the ELCJHL established a groundbreaking amendment to its Personal Status laws in 2015. The ELCJHL continues to encourage other faith organizations to adopt a similar model.
For more information about the Women’s Ministries of the ELCJHL, contact Mrs. Ranan Issa, the Women’s Desk Director at the ELCJHL Synod Offices at firstname.lastname@example.org.