Bishop Younan Attends the FMEEC Conference On Evangelicals and Christian Presence in The East

The Four Families of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) (©FMEEC)

The Four Families of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) (©FMEEC)

CAIRO – The Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) held its second International Conference on the topic: Evangelicals and Christian Presence in The East from 10-12 September 2014 at the Concord El Salam Heliopolis Hotel in Cairo – Egypt.

This Conference comes as a follow up to FMEEC’s previous conference on the same topic that was held in Beirut, Lebanon in 2012. It also comes at a very critical moment in our history because of the tragically deteriorating situation of Christians in the Middle East region, but especially in Iraq and Syria; where widespread proliferation of “takfiri” terrorism and violence, unprecedented in Middle East history, has wrought waves of killing, destruction and displacement. All this, is in addition to the tension and violence currently prevailing in Palestine and Lebanon.

The Conference had two parts: The first consisted of official visits made by some of the participants to the Prime Minister of Egypt, Engineer Ibrahim Mahlab, to the minister of Religious Trusts (Awqaf), Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar Gom’aa, as well as to “Sheikh Al Azhar,” the Grand Imam Dr. Ahmad El Tayyib.

The composition of the delegation included the President of FMEEC, Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki of Egypt, the Vice President, Rev. Dr. Habib Badr of Lebanon, the General Secretary, Mrs. Rosangela Jarjour of Lebanon, accompanied by members of FMEEC’s Executive Committee that included the President of the Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (and current President of the Lutheran World Federation), Bishop Dr. Munib Younan from Jerusalem, Rev. Adib Awad of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) and Rev. Dr. Helmi Kades of the Evangelical Synod of the Nile in Egypt (ESNG). Other members of the delegation included the Rev. Dr. Safwat El Baiady, President of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, Rev. Dr. George Shaker, President of the Synod of ESNG, Rev. Rif’at Fathy, the General Secretary of the Synod of ESNG, Rev. Dr. Riad Jarjour of NESSL, Bishop Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, the Anglican Bishop of Egypt and North Africa and Rev. Farouk Hammo, pastor of the Evangelical Church in Baghdad, Iraq. During these visits, the topics of the Conference were discussed, and many current issues that occupy the Arab and Middle Eastern region were raised.

The leadership of FMEEC expressed thanks to the people and government of Egypt, and especially appreciated the meetings they had with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Religious Trusts (Awqaf). They also praised the religious leadership, especially “Imam Al Azhar,” for the constructive spirit of dialogue and enlightened vision that he possesses, and that was clearly exhibited during the audience with him. The delegation also highlighted the spirit of hospitality that they felt while in Cairo, particularly noting the feeling of security that currently prevails in the Arab Republic of Egypt. Accordingly, they also thanked the government for all the facilities it offered, as well as the good media coverage of the Conference by the official and local Egyptian press and TV.

The second part of the Conference consisted of the meetings themselves; meetings that witnessed, and for the first time, the presence of a cluster of Muslim scholars and personages who actually enjoyed the lion’s share of the deliberations. The Conference was also attended by the main leadership of FMEEC’s member Churches, as well as delegates from sister Eastern Churches and a good number of representatives from Western and International Evangelical Churches and church organizations.

During the Conference, a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the foundation of FMEEC (1974) was held at the headquarters of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) in Cairo. The main speaker at the event was Mr. Samir Morcos.
The main deliberations of the Conference dealt with the position of Islam and Muslims vis a vis the Christian constituencies with which they live in the Middle East. Several questions were raised and discussed: What does it mean for Muslims to coexist in one “nation-state” with non-Islamic constituencies (minorities); and to interact on equal basis with them politically, economically, socially, culturally, etc.? Do Muslims have a vested interest in the subsistence of Christians in the Middle East? What specifically is that interest?

The main Muslim speakers at the Conference were: Esq. Dr. Rida Al Ajhouri from Tunisia, Mr. Ahmad Ban from Egypt, Sheikh Dr. Muhammad El Din Afifi of the venerable Al Azhar in Egypt, his Excellency Minister Ibrahim Shams El Din from Lebanon and Dr. Al Sadiq Abdullah Al Faqih from Sudan. There was a consensus amongst the speakers that a distinction ought to be made between Islam as a religion, and the views and behavior of Muslims here and there. They all affirmed that Islam as such has nothing to do with the actions of terrorist organizations that have espoused violence in the name of religion. The past and present history of Islam clearly demonstrates that Muslims have acted to “preserve” Christians, and that Islam rejects the radical stance that is today adopted by some Islamic movements who preach violence and embrace an exclusivist ideology, and who, therefore, do not properly reflect the true and authentic Islamic religion. They also asserted that the “civil state,” with its appropriate apparatus, is the primary and permanent authority responsible for the protection of citizens. They also emphasized the need of safeguarding an all-inclusive notion of citizenship based on equal participation of all. In such a unified state, Eastern Christians are seen as authentic owners of the land, and not as outside intruders. They are indigenous natives of their region’s different countries, and have spilled their blood in defense of their homelands. Accordingly, they called upon Middle Eastern Christians to remain ensconced in the region and not to emigrate. They urged them to actively participate in the development of the political order in their countries in order to arrive at tolerant and democratic governments. In this way they can contribute their share towards the establishment, protection and preservation of freedoms in the Middle Eastern world.

The conferees, however, agreed that mere condemnation of the current actions and positions of radical Muslims by reference to epochs of good practice in history, or by making speeches behind closed doors, is not enough. There must be an all-encompassing cooperation between able and concerned political and governmental parties in order to find proper ways and means to effectively put an end to these radical actions. Appropriate steps must be adopted in the spheres of education, culture and the media, etc. in order to strengthen and buttress the moderate interpretation of Islam. Special attention must be paid to the quality of pulpit sermons in mosques in order to combat fiery preaching, and put a halt to exclusivist rhetoric that rejects pluralism.

The Conference also dealt with the challenges facing Middle Eastern Evangelicals and their Western and international partners. The speakers affirmed that local Evangelicals, as individuals and communities, are now a permanent feature of Eastern Christianity, and have accordingly committed themselves to live a life of peaceful coexistence with their Muslim neighbors and with all the other constituencies inhabiting the East. This particular topic was addressed by several local Evangelical leaders and some speakers from sister eastern churches. Amongst them were Mrs. Rosangela Jarjour, Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki, Rev. Dr. Habib Badr, Bishops Munib Younan and Mouneer Hanna Anis, Rev. Dr. Safwat El Baiady, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Preacher Najla Kassab, Father Michel Jalakh (General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches) and Mr. Ghassan Shami, a journalist and media expert.

A round table discussion on Christian emigration was also held. The participants were: Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian (President of Haigazian University, Beirut), Mr. Habib Afram (President of the Syriac League), Rev. Harout Selimian (pastor of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Aleppo, Syria), Rev. Maan Bitar (pastor of the Evangelical Church in Mhardé, Syria), Rev. Farouk Hammo of Baghdad, Iraq, Rev. Dr. Bill Schwartz (pastor of the Anglican Church in the Gulf) and Dr. Sameh Fawzi of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt.

The participants agreed that, since the very beginning of their presence in the ME, and notwithstanding the difficulties they have faced, or have caused, Eastern Evangelicals have sought to build bridges of understanding, concord, cooperation and respect — first with their fellow Christians and Christian Churches and societies — and secondly, with the Muslim neighbors amongst whom they live and with whom they share a common life. These Evangelicals, as individuals and societies, have been effective and influential in the region, and they understand themselves as heirs of a veritable and historically tested movement of reform and renaissance that has produced a great legacy of moral values, as well as a heritage of social, cultural, educational and academic services.

Individually and communally, Middle Eastern Evangelicals have also played a pivotal role in the rise and development of nationalist sentiments and movements amongst the peoples of the region. They have also participated in the launching of liberation as well as reform and renaissance movements in the region. This is not to mention the high number of schools, colleges, hospitals and other social service organizations that Evangelicals established, and that have rendered services indiscriminately to all social classes. Furthermore, the speakers pointed to the need for a critical role that Evangelicals must play in revitalizing the regional ecumenical movement by supporting the work of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). It is imperative that the unified voice of Eastern Christians should be grounded in their common faith and baptism rather than in their joint fear of “the other.”
Finally, another round table discussion that included several representatives of Western churches and international partners was held. It was seen that we are all challenged to seek new ways of strengthening our relations and broadening areas of cooperation and bridge-building between the Churches of FMEEC and all influential and proactive evangelical communities and organizations in the West and across the world. Through these relations, we seek to work for peace and reconciliation, and to advocate for just and rightful national causes.

In conclusion, the Conference issued the following recommendations:
1- We affirm that Christian presence must be rooted and ensconced in the Middle East.
2- We affirm that a sustained common life between Christians, Muslims and all other constituencies living in the Middle East, must be governed by the Charter of Universal Human Rights and by International Law.
3- We appeal for the protection of all the constituencies living in the Middle East, irrespective of their religion and ethnicity.
4- We call for the documentation and archiving of Eastern spiritual heritages through all available media instruments.
5- We affirm that the rule of law and the statutes of citizenship in a democratic civil state, are the sole legitimate means of protection for all citizens and foreigners living in the Middle East.
6- We seek to revitalize the spirit of ecumenism and unity by supporting the MECC.
7- We commit ourselves to follow up the proceedings of the Conference and to implement its recommendations in FMEEC’s member churches locally; and shall create awareness programs pertaining to all the issues discussed at the Conference.
In solidarity with our sister Eastern Churches, and in coordination with the worldwide Evangelical community, we shall raise our voices in order to reach the ears of all international and world forums, so that the perspective of Eastern Christianity on the crucial issues facing the Middle East shall be heard loud and clear.

From the Office of the General Secretary

To read this in it’s original format, you can download a PDF here.

Bishop Younan Celebrates 190th Jubliee with Berliner Missionswerk (BMW)

Bishop Younan and Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a prayer at the Brandenburg Gate in remembrance of the start of World War I. (© BMW)

Bishop Younan and Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a prayer at the Brandenburg Gate in remembrance of the start of World War I. (© BMW)

BERLIN – Bishop Younan joined the Berliner Missionswerk (BMW), a partner of the ELCJHL, for the celebration of their founding 190 years earlier in Berlin on August 31st, 2014. The celebration was both a jubilee of celebration and a conference to discuss religious issues affecting the BMW and its partners.

Bishop Younan addressed the Conference of International Partners of BMW on “cheap reconciliation” – the idea that reconciliation can be misused to prolong injustice. Bishop Younan discussed reconciliation in the context of ignorance and violence and the need for mutual recognition in the Middle East.

During the Jubilee on August 31st, 2014, Bishop Younan and the BMW dedicated a stone from the Holy Land to the BMW as a gift of partnership.

Those who had traveled from around the world to attend the jubilee were also invited to stay and pray at the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to remember the outbreak of World War II 75 years earlier. Bishop Munib Younan as well as the Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a public prayer for the representatives who joined them at Brandenburg Gate. The public prayer was followed by a memorial service at St. Mary’s Church in Berlin.

The ELCJHL would like to congratulate the Berliner Missionswerk on 190 years of service and we look forward to continuing in strong accompaniment in mission here in the Holy Land.

البيان الختامي لمؤتمر رابطة الكنائس الإنجيلية في الشرق الأوسط

البيان الختامي لمؤتمر رابطة الكنائس الإنجيلية في الشرق الأوسط

«الإنجيليون، والحضور المسيحي في المشرق»

القاهرة: ١٠ – ١٢ أيلول/سبتمبر، ٢٠١٤

عقدت رابطة الكنائس الإنجيلية في الشرق الأوسط مؤتمرها الدولي الثاني حول ”الإنجيليون والحضور المسيحي في المشرق“ في القاهرة من ١٠ الى ١٢ أيلول/سبتمبر ٢٠١٤ في فندق كونكورد السلام في هيليوبوليس – القاهرة.

يأتي هذا اللقاء على خلفية مؤتمر سابق عقد في بيروت – لبنان سنة ٢٠١٢ حول الموضوع نفسه، وعلى أثر تفاقم أوضاع المسيحيين المأسوية في المنطقة، خصوصا في العراق وسورية. كما يأتي نتيجة انتشار موجة الإرهاب التكفيري والعنف غير المسبوق في تاريخ الشرق الأوسط، وما نتج عنه من قتل وتدمير وتهجير — إضافة الى التوتر الحاصل في فلسطين ولبنان.

كان للقاء شقّان، الشق الأول تمثل بزيارات قام بها رئيس الرابطة القس الدكتور أندريه زكي (من مصر) ونائب الرئيس، القس الدكتور حبيب بدر (من لبنان) والمطران الدكتور منيب يونان (رئيس الكنيسة اللوثرية في فلسطين) والقس أديب عوض (من السينودس الإنجيلي في سورية ولبنان) والدكتور القس حلمي قادس (من مصر)، ورئيس الطائفة الإنجيلية في مصر الدكتور القس صفوت البياضي، ورئيس سينودس النيل الإنجيلي في مصر الدكتور القس جورج شاكر، والسكرتير العام للسينودس القس رفعت فتحي، والقس الدكتور رياض جرجور (من السينودس الإنجيلي في سورية ولبنان) والمطران منير حنا أنيس (من الكنيسة الأنكليكانية في مصر)، والقس فاروق حمو (من الكنيسة الإنجيلية في العراق)، الى كل من دولة رئيس مجلس الوزراء المهندس ابرهيم محلب، وشيخ الأزهر فضيلة الإمام الأكبر الدكتور أحمد الطيب، ومعالي وزير الأوقاف الدكتور محمد مختار جمعة.

تم البحث مع هذه القيادات في كافة المواضيع التي تناولها المؤتمر، كما في كل مواضيع الساعة التي تشغل عالمنا العربي والشرق أوسطي. وقد عبرت قيادات الرابطة عن امتنانها العميق لمصر حكومة وشعبا، وقدمت شكرها للحكومة والقيادات السياسية، خاصة دولة رئيس مجلس الوزراء ومعالي وزير الأوقاف، لأجل المقابلات التي تمت معهما. كما ثمّنت للقيادات الدينية، وعلى رأسها فضيلة الإمام الأكبر شيخ الأزهر، روح الحوار البناء والرؤية المستنيرة للعيش المشترك اللتين لمسهما الوفد خلال اللقاء. ونوهت قيادة الرابطة بروح الضيافة التي أحيط بها المشاركون، وعن شعورهم بالأمان التام السائد في جمهورية مصر العربية، وقدموا الشكر للحكومة المصرية على التسهيلات التي قدمتها للمشاركين، كما على المواكبة الإعلامية للحدث.

         أما الشق الثاني، وهو المؤتمر نفسه، فقد تركز البحث فيه حول موقف الإسلام والمسلمين من المكون المسيحي في الشرق وماذا يعني للمسلمين أن يعيشوا في دولة واحدة مع مكونات دينية من غير المسلمين — وأن يتفاعلوا معهم سياسيا واقتصاديا واجتماعيا وثقافيا، وبالتالي ما هي مصلحة المسلمين في بقاء المسيحيين في المشرق ووقف نزيف الهجرة.

أجمع المتكلمون المسلمون في المؤتمر (وهم ٠ ٠ ٠ ) على التمييز بين الإسلام كدين، وتصرفات ومواقف بعض المسلمين هنا أو هناك. وكلهم أكدوا أن الإسلام كدين براء من الممارسات التي تقوم بها المنظمات الإرهابية التي تتخذ العنف الشنيع أسلوبا لها، وبينوا بالوقائع التاريخية والمعاصرة أن الإسلام الأصيل ”حافظ“ للمسيحيين ولا يقبل المواقف المتطرفة التي تتخذها حركات إسلامية وجهات تكفيرية لا تمثل الإسلام الحقيقي، وتغذي العنف والفكر الإقصائي. كما أكدوا أن الدولة وأجهزتها هي المسؤول الأول والدائم عن حماية المواطن، وشددوا على تحصين المواطنة على أساس الشراكة في الوطن الواحد، وعلى أن المسيحيين أصيلون في أرض الشرق وليسوا دخلاء عليها، وهم من أصحاب الوطن، وقد قدموا الشهداء دفاعا عنه — وما زالوا. كما دعوهم للبقاء وعدم الهجرة والمساهمة في تثبيت الحريات في العالم المشرقي، وحمايتها وضمانها من خلال تطيور الأنظمة السياسية الى أنظمة ديموقراطية منفتحة.

غير أن المجتمعين اتفقوا أنه لا تكفي إدانة هذه التصرفات والمواقف بالعودة الى التاريخ، أو بالكلام فقط داخل القاعات المغلقة، بل يجب على الجميع التعاون مع كل القوى السياسية والحكومية والقادرة لإيجاد كافة السبل الكفيلة لوضع حد فعلي على الأرض لهذه الممارسات، واتخاذ ما يلزم من التدابير على صعيد التربية والتعليم والإعلام وخطب المنابر وغير ذلك، للتصدي لتلك المواقف التكفيرية التي ترفض التنوع ووقفها.

ثم تتطرق المؤتمر الى التحديات التي تواجه الإنجيليين المشرقيين، وتواجه شركاءهم الغربيين، في الحاضر والمستقبل. وكانت مداخلات للعديد من الإنجيليين المشرقيين (يمكن تسميتهم) والغربيين (يمكن تسميتهم) الذين أكدوا أن الإنجيليين — أفرادا وكنائس — مكون ثابت من الجسم المسيحي في المشرق، وأنهم يلتزمون حياة سلام مشتركة مع المسلمين والمكونات الأخرى.

بالرغم من الصعوبات التي يواجهها الإنجيليون أو يسببونها، إلا أنهم يسعون باستمرار لبناء جسور تفاهم وتفهّم واحترام متبادل وتعاون، أولا بينهم وبين الكنائس والمجتمعات المسيحية الأخرى من حولهم، وثانيا مع الأكثرية المسلمة والقوى الفاعلة في العالم العربي والمشرقي حيث يعيشون ويتشاركون الحياة مع الآخرين.

إن المجتمعات الإنجيلية المشرقية فاعلة ومؤثرة، وهي وارثة لحركة إصلاح ونهضة أخلاقية واجتماعية وثقافية وتربوية وأكاديمية مشهود لها، وتحمل تاريخا مشرقيا عريقا، ولها مساهمات في ولادة الحس الوطني لدى شعوب المنطقة، ودور بارز بإطلاق حركات التحرر والتغيير والإصلاح والنهضة في الشرق، هذا ناهيك عن العدد الكبير من المدارس والجامعات والمستشفيات والمؤسسات الاجتماعية المختلفة التي أسسوها والتي تخدم المجتمع بلا تمييز. ونوه المؤتمرون بضرورة إعادة إحياء الدور الإنجيلي المحوري في تنشيط الحركة المسكونية وتوحيد كلمة المسيحيين على أساس وحدة الإيمان والمعمودية وليس على أساس الخوف من الآخر.

وأخيرا، تطرق الشركاء الذين حضروا من الكنائس والمؤسسات الغربية والعالمية الى مسألة علاقة الإنجيليين بالكنائس والمؤسسات الإنجيلية-البروتستنتية الكبرى في العالم. والتحدي هنا يكمن في تفعيل وتوسيع مساحات التعاون ومد الجسور بين الإنجيليين المشرقيين والمجتمعات الإنجيلية الغربية الفاعلة والمؤثرة من خلال الرابطة، وذلك لأجل عمل المصالحة وإحلال السلام ومناصرة كل قضية وطنية عادلة ومحقة.

وصدر عن المؤتمر التوصيات الآتية:

أولا: الدعوة الى تجذير الحضور المسيحي وتثبيته في المشرق.

ثانيا: التأكيد على ضرورة استمرار الحياة المشتركة بين المسيحيين والمسلمين وسائر مكونات الشرق الأخرى في ظل شرعة حقوق الإنسان والقانون الدولي.

ثالثا: الدعوة الى حماية جميع المكونات المشرقية بغض النظر عن دينها وإثنيتها.

رابعا: العمل على تظهير التراث المشرقي الروحي بجميع الوسائل الإعلامية المتاحة

خامسا: التأكيد على دور المواطنة والدولة المدنية الديموقراطية وسيادة القانون في حماية جميع متساكني هذا الشرق من مواطنين وأجانب.

سادسا: متابعة أعمال المؤتمر وتوصياته على المستوى المحلي في الكنائس الإنجيلية الأعضاء، وخلق برامج توعية حول جميع المواضيع التي طرحها المؤتمر، ورفع الصوت الإنجيلي عاليا، بالمشاركة مع الكنائس الشقيقة في الشرق وحول العالم، ليصل الى المحافل الدولية والعالمية ولتوضيح موقف المسيحيين المشرقيين تجاه قضايا الشرق الملحة.

القاهرة في ٢٠١٤/٩/١٢

Bishop Younan’s Speech to the Fellowship of of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) On The Ecumenical Response to the Present Middle East Crisis

CAIRO, September 10th 


 

Your Beatitudes,
Your Eminences,
People of God,

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Jesus Christ says to us today, “Get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you.” (Acts 26.16–17)

Today, as I come before you to discuss the crisis facing the Middle East and especially the crisis facing Arab and Middle Eastern Christians, these words of the risen Christ to the Saul resonate for us and for the communities we represent. “Get up and stand on your feet!” “I will rescue you!” There is work to be done in my name.

I have been asked to speak on the ecumenical response to our present crisis. Therefore, my message today is both internal and external, speaking to Christians in the Middle East as well as to the global Body of Christ. An ecumenical response—a response by the entire household of Christian faith—is necessarily global. But the response must first begin with us. As Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3.25). In the presence of these pressing challenges, it is time to get our Arab Christian house in order.

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Bishop Younan Celebrates 1,000 Years of Christianity in Sweden

Bishop Younan Celebrates 1,000 years of Christianity in Skara, Sweden

Bishop Younan Celebrates 1,000 years of Christianity in Skara, Sweden (© Church of Sweden)

Recently, a representative of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Swedish crown princess, church leaders and thousands of others took part in the celebration of one thousand years of Christianity in Sweden held in the Diocese of Skara in southern Sweden.

The diocese, which is one of the oldest existing dioceses in Sweden, was once a diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. Since the Protestant reformation it has been part of the Church of Sweden, which is Lutheran.

The weeklong celebration included a pilgrimage of young people from five countries who walked seven days together, worship services with strong ecumenical representation from different countries, concerts, workshops and seminars. More than 12,000 participants took part in the celebrations.

During the official lunch held on Saturday, in which Crown Princess Victoria participated, Rev. Dr Hielke Wolters, WCC associate general secretary, expressed appreciation for the ecumenical attitude of the Church of Sweden:

“I was touched to see so many representatives of churches from different parts of the world. While celebrating 1000 years of Christianity in your country, you have included the concerns of churches in the Middle East that are much older and are under pressure right now,” Wolters said. “And you are willing to learn from African churches that are much younger. That is a strong sign of ecumenical solidarity and openness to ecumenical learning.”

One concrete example of ecumenical cooperation during the celebrations was a pilgrimage called “Walking to Emmaus”. It involved 45 youth between 17 and 22 years of age from Sweden, South Africa, Germany, England, and Palestine. They walked together for seven days and shared experiences of faith and life as well as a sense of the worldwide church.

The project runs from 2013-2015 and is led by the Diocese of Skara (Church of Sweden) in close cooperation with the Lutheran Church in Bavaria (ELKB), the South-East Diocese of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA), the Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and the Church of Sweden.

The purpose of the project is to make it possible for 60 young people to take part in pilgrimages in Sweden during 2014 and in Israel and Palestine in 2015 to gain a common understanding of each other, different traditions and the worldwide church.

Participants in the closing worship included church leaders from Sweden, Finland, UK, Germany, the Middle East, as well as Archbishop emeritus Anders Wejryd of the Church of Sweden, the WCC president for Europe.

To read this article on the World Council of Churches (WCC) webpage, you can visit here.

Urgent Appeal from the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon to all the Evangelical and Protestant Churches and Organizations Across the World

1. We, the leaders of Evangelical and Protestant churches and organizations affiliated to the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon, have met together at this critical juncture of our history in order to
reflect on the current situation, and on the tragic events that our people in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are passing through. We are most concerned over the great human suffering and political difficulties that our people in these countries are facing. We have deeply reflected upon this deteriorating state of affairs, and have been greatly disturbed and shocked by the ugly incidents of violence that innocent civilians and entire communities, especially Christian, have been subjected to.

2. We also write to you in solidarity with the various appeals and statements that have been issued by the leaders of our sister Eastern Churches, as well as by some Islamic groups, concerning the recent development of events in Iraq; and especially the forced displacement and murderous killings of individuals and groups by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), killings that verge on being a bona fide genocide.

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بــيــــــــــــان أصحاب الغبطة بطاركة الكنائس الشَّرقيّة

المقدّمة

بدعوة أخويَّة من صاحب الغبطة والنِّيافة الكاردينال مار بشاره بطرس الرَّاعي بطريرك إنطاكية وسائر المشرق للموارنة، اجتمع أصحاب الغبطة بطاركة الكنائس الشَّرقيَّة في الصَّرح البطريركيِّ في الدِّيمان، في السابع من شهر آب 2014، وهم:

الكاثوليكوس آرام الأول كشيشيان، كاثوليكوس بيت كيليكيا للأرمن الأرثوذكس؛ البطريرك غريغوريوس الثالث لحّام، بطريرك أنطاكيه وسائر المشرق والاسكندرية وأورشليم للروم الكاثوليك؛ البطريرك يوحنا العاشر اليازجي، بطريرك أنطاكيه وسائر المشرق للروم الارثوذكس؛ البطريرك مار اغناطيوس يوسف الثالث يونان، بطريرك السريان الإنطاكي؛ البطريرك مار إغناطيوس أفرام الثاني، بطريرك أنطاكيه وسائر المشرق للسريان الأرثوذكس؛ البطريرك نرسيس بدروس التاسع عشر، كاثوليكوس بطريرك كيليكيا للأرمن الكاثوليك؛ وممثّل البطريرك لويس روفائيل الأول ساكو، بطريرك بابل على الكلدان، المطران شليمون وردوني المعاون البطريركي.

لقد هالَهُم ما يَجرِي في المنطقة من أحداث خطيرة لا سابق لها، ومن صراعاتٍ وحروبٍ بين الأخوة في العراق وسوريا، ومن تنامٍ للتطرّف الديني الذي يستهدف النسيج المجتمعي ووحدته في بلداننا، ومن بروز تنظيمات أصولية تكفيرية تهدم وتقتل وتهجّر وتنتهك حرمة الكنائس وتحرق تراثها والمخطوطات، ومن دخول العديد من المرتزقة إلى جانب المعتدين على المواطنين وحرماتهم. وقد آلمتهم مآسي الإخوة الفلسطينيين في غزّه من جرّاء القصف الإسرائيلي العشوائي الخالي من كلّ مشاعر إنسانية والذي استهدف الأبرياء خروجًا على كل الأسس القانونية. وتألّموا في العمق لأحداث عرسال وجرودها في لبنان، التي قامت فيها مجموعات إرهابية دخيلة بالاعتداء على الجيش اللبناني وقوى الأمن الداخلي، فأوقعت عدداً من الشهداء في صفوف الجيش وأسرت بعضاً من جنوده ومن عناصر قوى الأمن، وحاصرت أهل البلدة واتّخذت منهم دروعًا بشريّة وتسببت بتهجيرهم من بيوتهم.

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WCC Denounces Actions Against Yazidis, Christians, and Other Minorities in Iraq

Geneva, 7 August, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On behalf of the World Council of Churches, I am writing to solicit your prayers for the Christians, the church communities and all the suffering people on the Plain of Nineveh in northern Iraq, as well as the surrounding region. Reports in recent days have confirmed the forced displacement and indiscriminate killing of Christians, Yazidis, and members of other vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq as the result of military attacks by the “Islamic State”, a group formerly known as the “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham” (ISIS).

I have communicated with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon, urging him to deploy all efforts to bring a halt to the violence in Iraq and to ensure the physical protection of all people there and support for their human rights including the right to religious liberty. Now I ask for your support, in prayer and advocacy. Please contact your government officials requesting them to:

– Instruct their UN ambassadors to bring the plight of all vulnerable people and communities in Iraq to the Security Council for immediate protective actions.
– Obtain from the UN Security Council a binding resolution that ensures the immediate safe return of all those who were obliged to flee their homes and properties.
– Double their humanitarian efforts now, including urgent aid for the internally displaced and the refugees in neighbouring countries.

Please do also notify us of your action so that we can inform the churches in Iraq and follow-up on the issue at the United Nations.

In the region that is now Iraq, Christianity took root in the earliest decades of the Christian church, and it is there that some of the most faithful of our communities have flourished to this day. These are the brothers and sisters who are under threat now.

The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Louis Raphael Sako, wrote earlier today that ISIS militants conducted a mortar assault last night that has driven as many as 100,000 Christians from their homes and villages, most fleeing on foot towards Kurdish cities where they hope to take refuge. Those fleeing include the sick and wounded the elderly, infants and pregnant women. The patriarch tells us that there is an urgent need for water, food and shelter.

Churches and property belonging to religious communities are being desecrated and destroyed by ISIS, and ancient manuscripts have been burned as an assault on the people’s religious beliefs. According to the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, Joseph Thomas, whole towns in northern Iraq have been emptied of their populations.

Let us join in prayer and unite in action to restore these shattered communities, and to aid their people.

In the love and service of Jesus Christ,
Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri
Associate General Secretary for Public Witness and Diakonia and
Acting General Secretary

To read the letter in its original format, you can download it here.  (PDF)

Bishop Munib Younan Leads Delegation to Visit Gaza Wounded in Jerusalem

Bishop Younan Visits Gaza Wounded

Bishop Munib Younan led a delegation to visit the Gaza wounded who have been brought to Jerusalem hospitals. (© ELCJHL)

JERUSALEM – On Friday, August 1st, 2014, Bishop Munib Younan led delegates from the Pontifical Mission, Caritas Hospital, Jerusalem Inter-Church Center that represents both the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches, the Apostolic Delegate, and Catholic World Relief in visiting those wounded in Gaza who have been brought to Jerusalem hospitals.  Between St. Joseph’s Hospital, a hospital owned by the Catholic Church, and Augusta Victoria Hospital, run by the Lutheran World Federation, there are 32 cases, including 1 Christian, with ages ranging from 2 to adulthood.

Bishop Younan walked among the wounded and tried to bring them comfort through words.  He stated, “We pray that God will give them healing, for all people, since it is our responsibility to care for all who are hurting.  I told the patients to continue in their faith and to trust God, who is a God of love.  We pray that justice will prevail in this country.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land continues to pray for all people who are victims of this war.  We continue to call for a ceasefire anchored in an end to the siege and a peace process.  Once a ceasefire in Gaza has been reached, the ELCJHL hopes to visit the area and help assess both the needs and the best way to move forward with donations for the area.

Augusta Victoria Hospital, currently caring for 6 Gaza patients, has opened 16 beds for those injured in the war.  AVH has also sent 4 doctors and 1 nurse to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza to help with patients and to bring desperately needed medical supplies.

To view photos of Bishop Younan’s visit, you can visit the ELCJHL’s photo gallery.

Norwegian Church Aid and Ecumenical Council of the Church of Norway Condemn Violence in Gaza

The atrocities of war have reached frightening dimensions in the Gaza Strip. 100 000 people are internally displaced trying to escape the assault, and the death tolls are on the rise. Three out of four that have been killed are children, women andother non-combatants. The widespread demolition of civilian infrastructure, hospitals, clinics, schools, water and sanitationfacilities, threatens the war-affected population’s access to basic services and human rights.

The staff, working at the social institutions of the churches’ in Gaza, tells us that people are seeking shelter in their churches, hospitals and schools. The church institutions are located in poor and vulnerable areas of the Gaza Strip. They report of anexhausted population who has no place to seek protection from the war. Many elderly citizens do not have the energy to flee, and remain at homes.

“Civilians have the right to protection in war. Israel is not doing enough to protect the civilian population in the Gaza Stripwho are trapped in the warfare.” Helland and Hagen Agøy say.

“We strongly condemn the brutal attacks by the Israeli military forces against the civilian population in Gaza, just as wecondemn the firing of rockets by militant groups in Gaza at populated areas in Israel,” Helland and Hagen Agøy emphasizes,as they joins the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, Olav Tveit, in his appeal on 11th of July for putting an end to the escalation of the brutal cycle of violence.

The Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, represented by Bishop Mounib Younan, appeals to all people of good will. “Palestine andIsrael now need justice, peace and dignity and not more radicalization, revenge and bloodshed that follows unilateraldiplomatic or military support to one side or the other in the conflict. Palestinians and Israelis need peace and dignity,”Bishop Younan writes from Jerusalem.

“We are also worried for the security of Israel’s population. But a solution to the repeated attacks against Israelineighborhoods surrounding the Gaza Strip, has to be developed through sustainable political solutions and not by military means, where Gaza’s civilians are paying the highest price,” Helland and Hagen Agøy conclude.