“They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, Peace,” when there is no peace.” – Jeremiah 6:14
The international partners of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) at their virtual meeting on June 30, 2020, expressed their great concern about the current political situation in the Holy Land. The members of the Coordination Committee of Overseas Partners of the ELCJHL (COCOP) unanimously declared that the current plans of the Israeli government to annex the Jordan Valley and other parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories are against international law. The concern is that the annexation plans will lead to more political instability.
The members of COCOP express their concern for peace and the well-being of the people living in Israel and Palestine; Jews, Christians, and Muslims. They confirm their solidarity with their sister church as well as with all other Christians in the Holy Land. They also affirm their commitment to interreligious cooperation and partnership in the Holy Land and beyond. They are afraid that the annexation plans will lead to even more Christian emigration because through annexation many parishioners will lose their land. That means the Christian presence and witness in the Holy Land would continue to diminish. This would cause direct effects also on the spiritual life of the people and on the interfaith dialogue.
They are aware that other organization and churches in different countries have already expressed their deep concerns, such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Canada, and the USA, where the COCOP partners come from. They are aware of the Statement of Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches of Jerusalem of May 7, 2020 as well as the Statement of the Bishop of the ELCJHL, ‘Liberation, Not Annexation,” from Pentecost 2020. In addition, there are many other statements, including an Ecumenical Statement from the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the World Council of Churches and ACT Alliance dated June 29, 2020.
The members of COCOP call upon:
the Israeli government to stop the annexation plans and end the occupation
the international community to put pressure on the Israeli government to hold Israel accountable if they go ahead with the annexation plans
the Palestinian leadership to end internal disagreements and to speak with one voice when opposing the annexation plans of the Israeli government
Israeli and Palestinian civil society to speak out against the annexation and advocate for negotiations
those with political responsibility in Israel Palestine to resume negotiations to resolve the conflict on the basis of international law and of the internationally agreed call for a two-state solution.
It is the hope of the international partners of the ELCJHL that – together with other churches and church related organizations – all those calls will be heard and the requested actions will be taken. The members of COCOP will continue to stand in solidarity with their sister church, especially in her effort to pray, preach, work, and teach the value of life, understand, and coexistence, and to continue to advocate for their liberation and freedom. The partners together with the ELCJHL will continue to work and pray for reconciliation and peace with justice in Israel and Palestine.
Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), Chairperson of COCOP
Bishop Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Co-Chairperson of COCOP
As COCOP partners, we would like to express our appreciation, support
and solidarity with you and the leadership of the ELCJHL.
You have had to address numerous internal and external challenges this
past year including the situation in Jordan, funding of your important
ministries with a skeleton staff, dealing with a global COVID-19 crisis, and figuring
out ways to continue caring for the lives of the members of your congregations,
employees, students and their families while budgeted income was no longer
assured. You did all this while living under the shadow of a challenging
pandemic and political situation, which is now culminating in the threat of
We, therefore, would like you to know that
we are united in thanking God for your faithfulness in ministry, and grateful
for your leadership under these challenging circumstances. We support the
decisions that you have made, including:
Raising your voice and reaching out to other faith leaders and the
local ecumenical family to denounce violations of human rights and
international humanitarian law, and we encourage you to continue to do so.
taken by the Church leadership regarding the situation in Amman. We know it was
done after a lot of prayerful considerations and
consultations and in the best interest of the Church.
support of her congregations and the most vulnerable families during the
The ELCJHL’s emphasis
on gender justice, equality, and women empowerment, and we encourage you to
continue to do so.
approach in dealing with the surrounding turmoil in faithfulness to what Jesus
would expect from his church.
The ELCJHL’s clear,
transparent, and accountable organizational structures and decision-making
are committed to our mutual agreements with the ELCJHL, and we will continue to
accompany you in realizing the ELCJHL’s vision for mission.
Ein ganzes Schuljahr verbrachte ich als Austauschschüler in Deutschland, um genauer zu sein: in Xanten. Dort besuchte ich das Gymnasium und wohnte bei zwei extrem verschiedenen Gastfamilien. Eine tolle Erfahrung war das, wodurch ich viel über Deutschland, andere Länder, sowohl die englische Sprache als auch die deutsche Sprache kennenlernte.
Xanten ist die Partnerstadt von meiner Heimatstadt Beit Sahour. Das Gymnasium in Xanten hat auch eine Partnerschaft mit meiner Schule, die Evangelische Lutherische Schule in Beit Sahour. Das machte die Wahrscheinlichkeit hoch, in das Gymnasium in Xanten rein zu kommen. Dort ging ich in eine internationale und englischsprachige Klasse, die Europaklasse.
Durch die Europaklasse hatte man Gelegenheiten, über viele andere Länder mehr kennenzulernen, weil sich in der Klasse 21 Schüler mit 8 verschiedenen Nationalitäten befanden. Schüler aus Deutschland, Spanien, Italien, der Türkei, Montenegro, den USA, Bulgarien und natürlich Palästina nahmen in der Klasse teil. Das hat meine Wissen über diese vielen Länder verbessert.
In meinem Austauschjahr wohnte ich bei zwei Gastfamilien. Von den beiden Familien lernte ich die deutsche Sprache und lernte auch viel über die deutsche Kultur kennen. Die erste Gastfamilie wohnte in der Stadt Xanten, kochte modernes Essen und war atheistisch. Da ich aus christlichem Hintergrund komme, war das für mich am Anfang sehr komisch. Durch die Zeit erfuhr ich viel über die Atheistin und dessen Leben. Nach einem halben Jahr bei dieser Familie konnte ich anders und kritisch darüber denken.
Die zweite Gastfamilie war extrem anders als die erste Gastfamilie. Sie wohnte auf dem Land irgendwo weit von Xanten, kochte oft Bauernessen und war Christ. Zur Schule musste ich zuerst Fahrrad fahren und dann den Bus zur Schule nehmen, wobei ich bei der ersten Familie mit dem Fahrrad 5 Minuten bis zur Schule brauchte. Die zweite Familie hatte viele Kinder, die immer zusammen aßen. Vor und nach dem Essen wurde gebetet und sie gingen fast jeden Sonntag zum Gottesdienst. Das änderte meine Sicht auf andere Konfession en des christlichen Glaubenes und konnte nachher noch kritischer darüber denken.
Eine dritte Gastfamilie gab es auch. Bei der lebte ich nicht, sondern spielte Posaune in ihrem Posaunenchor. Der Mann war der Posaunenchorleiter. Sie fuhren mich immer von und nach Hause. Mit dieser Familie hatte ich viel Spaß und verbrachte mit der viel Zeit, weil wir viele Proben und Konzerte hatten. Die Frau ist eine Proffesorin an der Universität Duisburg-Essen. Mit ihr war ich mehrmals an der Universität und konnte einen Sprachtest machen, der bescheinigte, dass ich an der Universität Duisburg-Essen studieren darf, ohne andere Sprachkenntnisse zu haben.
Da die Evangelische Lutherische Schule in Beit Sahour eine PASCH- Schule ist, durfte ich den Sprachtest Deutsches Sprachdiplom Stufe Zwei (DSD II) schreiben und absolvieren. Damit hatte ich die Möglichkeit überall in Deutschland zu studieren und ein Stipendium von DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) zu beantragen, dessen Voraussetung war, die Bestehung des DSD-II und ein Schüler an einer PASCH-Schule zu sein.
Ich bekam letztens das Stipendium und einen Studienplatz für ein. Medizin Studium an der Universität Duisburg-Essen. Ohne das Austauschjahr kann ich mir nicht vorstellen, wie mein Leben wäre.
Das Austauschjahr in Deutschland veränderte mein Leben. Wegen des Jahres kann ich fließend Deutsch, lernte die deutsche Kultur und viele Leute kennen und finde jetzt immer in Deutschland Hilfe. Je mehr man Leute man kennt, desto einfacher und schöner das Leben. Deswegen bedanke ich mich bei alle Leuten, die ich in dem Jahr kennenlernen durfte. Zuletzt möchte ich der Evangelischen Lutherischen Schule und deren Lehrern danken, weil sie mir viele Möglichkeiten und Chancen gaben und mich, um mein Ziel zu erreichen, unterstützten. Vielen Dank!
Because of the year, I can speak German fluently, I know the German culture better and now I will always find help in Germany.
The more people you know, the easier and more beautiful your life.
In my exchange year, I lived with two host families. The first host family lived in the city of Xanten, cooked modern food and was atheist. Since I come from a Christian background that was very funny for me in the beginning. Through time, I learned a lot about the atheist and his family. After half a year with this family, I could think differently and critically.
The second host family was extremely different than the first host family. They lived in the countryside far from Xanten, often made peasant meals and was a Christian. I had to ride a bicycle and then take a bus to school. The second family had many children who always ate together. Prayer was given before and after dinner and they went to worship almost every Sunday. This changed my view of other Christian denominations which allowed me to think even more critical.
There was also a third host family. I did not live with them, but played the trombone in their trombone choir. The man was the trombone choirmaster. They always drove me to and from home. With this family I had a lot of fun and spent lots of time with them because we had many rehearsals and concerts. The woman is a professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen and she introduced me to the university several times and I was able to do a language test, which certifies that I am allowed to study at the University of Duisburg-Essen without having any other language lessons.
Xanten is the twin town of my hometown, Beit Sahour. The high school in Xanten also has partnership with my school, the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour. That made it all the likelier to get into high school in Xanten. There I went to an international and English speaking class – a European class.
The European class provided opportunities to get to know more about many other countries. In the class there were 21 pupils representing eight different nationalities. Students from Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Montenegro, the USA, Bulgaria and of course Palestine participated in the class. The exposure to these international students improved my knowledge of these countries.
The Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour is a PASCH school or “Schools: Partners for the Future” initiative. It is a global network of some 1,800 schools that place a high value on German.
PASCH is an initiative of the Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA), the Goethe-Institut (GI), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Educational Exchange Service of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (PAD).
I was allowed to write and complete the language test German Language Diploma Level Two (DSD II). This gave me the opportunity to study all over Germany and apply for a scholarship from DAAD, the prerequisite of which was to be the DSD-II and a student at a PASCH school.
I was awarded the scholarship and a place to study medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Without the exchange year, I cannot imagine what my life would be like.
That’s why I want to thank all the people I met during the year. Lastly, I would like to thank the Evangelical Lutheran School, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and its teachers for giving me many opportunities and for supporting me in achieving my goal.
Below, find the Agenda for the COCOP 2020 meetings, held at Abrahams Herberge in Beit Jala for local partners and via Zoom for international partners.
COCOP 2020 Agenda
Each of the following reports is downloadable and able to be viewed on an electronic reader or printed. To download the report to your personal device, click on the arrow pointing “down” in the upper right hand corner of the document.
COCOP 2020 Full Reports is optimized for online readingand includes the Bishop’s Report, the Congregational Reports, and the Additional Reports in a single document. It features internal hyperlinks which allow you to easily navigate between the sections of the report. Simply click on the name of the report you would wish to view in the Table of Contents on the second page. When you have finished reading that section, you can click [ Return to Table of Contents ] to select a new section.
COCOP 2020 Full Reports
The Bishop’s Report, Congregational Reports, and Additional Reports are optimized for printing, but can also be viewed on an electronic reader.
Jerusalem, 13 January 2018 – The day after the consecration of The Rev. Sani Ibrahim Azar as the fourth Palestinian Bishop of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), Bishop Azar addressed the international partner churches in attendance for the installation. The international partners of the ELCJHL include organizations, churches and councils that have entered into mutual companionship and accompaniment for the betterment of both.
Representatives from all of the 29 ecumenical partners, member organizations and companion churches attended the first address to them from the newly consecrated, Bishop Azar.
Bishop Azar casually stood in front of the group gathered in the refectory hall of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City without a podium and without notes and greeted the longtime friends and supporters of the Palestinian Lutheran church.
In a gentle and measured manner, Bishop Azar thanked partners for decades of missional work in the region. Peppered with humor, Bishop Azar told the partners that he would implement a new strategic plan for the next five years that would include: Spiritual care for the people of the church, financial sustainability projects, Diakonia to the community, and efforts to continue gender justice.
“Our pastors and laypeople will go where the people are, we will not sit by idly in our churches waiting for the people to come to us,” Bishop Azar said.
During the question and answer session of the address, Bishop Susan Johnson of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the President of The Coordination Committee for Cooperation between the ELCJHL and Overseas Partners (COCOP) asked Bishop Azar which of his many names (Sani Ibrahim “Barhoum” Charlie Azar) should the partners to use.
“In writing, Bishop Ibrahim Azar and in speaking, Bishop Barhoum,” Bishop Azar humbly replied with a smile.
It all began with a dream by students in 2013 to one day host a Lutheran Model United (LuthMUN) Nations National Conference. Today, LuthMUN realized its dream for the second year in a row hosting 310 delegates from schools in Palestine, Nazareth, and Jerusalem; a 100-student increase from its first National Conference in 2016. The conference was held August 11-13, 2017 at the Bethlehem Russian Center.
The MUN program simulates the real United Nations, by gathering youth in high schools of different conferences (or nations) to debate topics as delegates of an assigned country.
This year the topic is fitting for a people plagued by laws that appear to be racially biased, and in a world where racism is becoming acceptable in the public sphere. The LuthMUN 2017 theme is “United Against Racism: Reaching Global Consensus.”
The LuthMun 2017 Secretary General, Rani, a senior at Talitha Kumi, addressed the delegates about the importance of this year’s theme stating, “Racism is a destruction of peace. It leads to self-shaming, depression, and suicide.”
Rani quote Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who had a dream that racism would end in the United States, but noted how this has not become a reality. Rani continued, “Unfortunately, racism is also a reality in Palestine, today.”
Four years ago LuthMUN was created by the ELCJHL Director of Education’s Office with only Lutheran schools participating in the first two. This year and last year, LuthMUN hosted area participating schools representing eight committee topics:
Economic and Social
LuthMun executive team members state that racism and discrimination are ills that taint all areas of society.
According to the LuthMUN website, The conference is resolution based so that delegates can create solutions to the issues in order to fully understand the importance of the topics.
Bethlehem – The Church, community, family, and friends came together today, June 9, 2017, to celebrate 30 years of faithful service to The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church by The Rev. Mitri Raheb. – The Church, community, family, and friends came together today, June 9, 2017, to celebrate 30 years of faithful service to The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church by The Rev. Mitri Raheb.
Sunday, June 4th was the last worship service presided by Rev. Raheb at Christmas Lutheran. Rev. Raheb will remain an ELCJHL ordained minister with a concentrated focus on the Diyar Consortium. Diyar is a collaboration of college, and wellness, arts and cultural centers in Bethlehem for community enrichment.
The small Bethlehem church was packed with beloved friends, parishioners, ELCJHL clergy, representatives from the Palestinian Authority; including the Mayor of Bethlehem, Mr. Tony Salman. The ecumenical public support for Rev. Raheb’s shift from the pastor of a parish to the full-time minister and manager of Diyar was also present. In attendance was the Greek Orthodox Bishop Attalah Hanna, Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabah, the Palestinian Ambassador to the Vatican Mr. Issa Kassissieh, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Christian Relations Mr. Ziad Bandak.
The Finland Ambassador to Palestine, Ms. Anu Saarela and German Representative to Palestine, Mr. Peter Beerwerth came to honor Rev. Raheb’s work in the church and in the global arena. The Coordination Committee for Cooperation between the ELCJHL and Overseas Partners (COCOP), representing nine international Lutheran churches and organizations, also honored the international relationship Rev. Raheb has cultivated.
Rev. Raheb was honored in sermons and speeches for his daily dedication to the church and the empowerment of his people in the face of persecution while living under 50 years of occupation. It was said that his gentle spirit, tenacity toward change, justice, equality and business sense are his marks of excellence. It was said that Rev. Raheb always uplifts others to take pride in being born in the very place where Jesus was born, and to not give up hope in the power of the cross, which he discusses in his latest publication co-authored with Dr. Suzanne Watts Henderson, The Cross in Contexts: Suffering and Redemption in Palestine.
Patriarch Emeritus Sabah, jokingly referred to Rev. Raheb as Obama Obama, making reference to Rev. Raheb’s German Media Award in 2011 given to leaders who demonstrate exceptional excellence, vision, and leadership. In May, the same award was presented to Former U.S. President Barack Obama in Berlin.
There was praise as Rev. Raheb was referred to as a gardener of the people and of the community. He is known for community redevelopment or planting new olive trees where war and poverty had demolished others. His peers were referring to his work at Diyar Consortium as a large part of that redevelopment in Bethlehem. Diyar was created in 1995 out of the destruction from the second Intifada that ravished Bethlehem economically and socially. The center offers a place to create art, learn skills, and reclaim heritage through its many community outreach programs.
This is where Rev. Raheb will consolidate his ministerial and managerial work. It was said that his ministry broadens beyond parish ministry.
He was lauded as a Palestinian Liberation Theologian who speaks unwaveringly with boldness, courage, and gentleness about the plight of the Palestinian people.
The Rev. Munther Isaac succeeds Rev. Raheb as the pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church – Bethlehem.
The Jerusalem Society of the Berlin Mission and founder of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and its oldest supporter, met on 18 November 2016 at Abraham’s Herberge in Beit Jala with ELCJHL leadership to discuss mutuality, friendship, best practices and future cooperation.
“What do we need? We need trust and friendship. If there is no trust and friendship among us then we have to ask what is our core?” Bishop Munib Younan said.
In attendance were: Bishop Younan, ELCJHL Pastors Ibrahim Azar, Imad Haddad, Samer Azar, Saliba Rishmawi, Evangelical Lutheran Schools Curriculum Director Salameh Bishara, ELCJHL Accountant Adeeb Mreib, ELCJHL Secretary Bassem Thabet, Jerusalem Society chairman Bishop Hans-Jürgen Abromeit, former Redeemer Lutheran Church Jerusalem Propst Dr. Johannes Friedrich, and several board members.
Three ELCJHL pastors were not able to attend due to travel schedules.
The board received updates from ELCJHL congregations, the Evangelical Lutheran Schools, and an update on the vision of the Jerusalem Society.
The Jerusalem Society was founded in Berlin in 1852 and began its work as a development organization in the Holy Land. In 1959 the work of the Jerusalem Society gave rise to the autonomous Arab Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Jordan (ELCJ) which was renamed Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) in 2005.
“The foundation of the Jerusalemsverein (The Jerusalem Society) was not that protestant Christianity in Germany wanted to bring something to Palestine, but the realization that there was an immense amount to be received there,” Bishop Chairman Abromeit wrote in his mission and vision document.
The dialogue between the two partners addressed the inherent difficulty of missional relationships. Historically, as mentioned in Abromeit’s paper, missionaries came to bring the Gospel to the Holy Land and convert Muslims and Jews.
Conversion and bringing the Gospel was not the fundamental objective of The Jerusalem Society founder Friedrich Adolph Strauss, but conversely it was to help develop the already spiritually rich heritage of Jerusalem Arabs.
However, the board recognized that even with a unique approach of the “development” of existing Christians in the region, struggles to maintain mutual, thoughtful relationships continue presently.
“Our common task is to prove ourselves today in this partnership and to fill it again, and again with life,” Abromeit wrote.
The Jerusalem Society board member Dr. Friedrich asked ELCJHL leaders frankly, “We hear you want more help and support but what kind of support do you want?”
Bishop Younan responded,
“You have to consult with us. You must find interest in the locals. Ask how can we support the congregation. It’s good to support big projects but what about the local congregation.”
“Any help to the churches is help for the whole society. This is what our Muslim friends tell us,” Bishop Younan said.
Pastor Azar (Jordan) commented,
“We need partnership because Amman is a good outreach for the ELCJHL in Jordan as well as the Arab world. We would like to focus internally on our congregations; how to stand on our own. How do we help our congregation members find their identity? Why are we Lutherans? Why are we here and what is our mission?”
Pastor Azar (Jerusalem) added,
“Our work is to visit people and hear their concerns. As pastors it is to be with the people. The big challenge is how can I have the time to be with people in their situation.”
“How can you help me not because I need money, but because I am a pastor with these concerns. We need spiritual assistance,” he said.
One board member commented that sometimes the financial problems outweigh the spiritual. How can we support in a way that the spiritual and financial do not fight each other?
Ultimately, the two organizations agreed that they have trust and friendship and that is what will direct them to accompany and support one another for many more years — possibly another century.
“The maturity of the relationship between Palestinian Christianity and its religious faiths in Germany is reflected in the quality of the cooperation between the Jerusalemsverein (Jerusalem Society), the Berlin Mission and the ELCJHL,” Chairman Bishop Abromeit wrote.
The smiley teen dressed in a stark white, collared shirt embossed with the Lutheran School Talitha Kumi’s emblem, corrects me when I ask him and the director of Lutheran Model United Nations (LuthMUN) why the West Bank school participates in a program designed after the United Nations, an organization that does not fully recognize Palestine.
“Actually, Palestine is a UN member, it is what is called an observer. At this time, Palestine is not a voting member,” he says. (See definitions in box)
The twelfth grader, Said, diplomatically continues his point,
“Everything has a good and a bad side, that’s just a thing in life, but when we talk about the UN, we try to go to the positive side and try to solve things, and to look at what has happened by looking at the mistakes.” “We try to solve the mistakes using the positive part of the UN [referring to the organization’s model for peaceful solutions.]”
“The UN was made for maintaining peace and security.”
Said is sharp and confident, yet respectful of the adults in the room. He is also honest and makes no apologizes for what he carefully, and articulately says in fluent English.
“I had nothing to do afterschool, that’s the truth, and I saw that this (MUN) is a really good project which brings you many skills… but more over, it was basically a lot of fun,” he said.
The skills that Said gained from participating in the Model UN program are evident.
The MUN program simulates the real United Nations, by gathering youth in high schools of different conferences (or nations) to debate topics as delegates of an assigned country.
The MUN website says that the program is an “experiential learning process that provides students with better understanding of the inner workings of the UN and helps students gain skills such as diplomacy, negotiation, critical thinking, compromise, public speaking, writing and research.”
Aside from simply having something to do afterschool, these are the tools that students like Said and others from the LuthMUN conference will carry with them and use in communities divided by conflict.
Sana Abu-Amsha, Director of the 2016 LuthMUN conference chimes in, “The students learn not to accept the same resolutions [former UN decisions], but to create better solutions.”
The Model UN program makes finding those better solutions possible for highschools under The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land’s education umbrella.
The national MUN Palestine (PalMUN) was established in 2010; three years ago the LuthMUN was created by the ELCJHL Director of Education’s Office with only Lutheran schools participating in the first two. This year the ELCJHL Director of Education Office team arranged hosting a national LuthMUN on 8-10 August at Talitha Kumi School with four non-Lutheran schools attending. The Friends Boys School, the Rosary Sisters School, St. George School and the Friar School joined the LuthMun’s first hosted conference.
This year’s LuthMUN had 210 delegates from the participating schools representing six committees. The topics:
Preventing the proliferation of arms in non-state actors
Fostering peaceful resolution regarding North Korea’s nuclear program
Ensuring universal access to water
The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication
The death penalty
Protection of forced displaced children
The legality of the deforestation of the Amazon’s Rainforests
Protection of endangered species
The invasion of Crime
Suppression of terrorist groups in Sub-Sahara
World leaders debating disarmament
Students from Gaza were invited to participate but were denied travel permits by Israel. Students from Nazareth cancelled due to other issues and could not attend, either.
Eventually, every year, students from the 8-10 grade of the ELCJHL Schools attend the International MUN. In the past 3 years, students participated in the International MUN conferences in Holland, India, Slovenia, Cyprus, Germany, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.
Former LuthMUN facilitator and ELCJHL Resource and Curriculum Development Officer, Salameh Bishara says, “In April five Lutheran schools students went to Slovenia.”
“We send our students to these conferences all over the world to gain the experience of debate and to see the world.”
Bishara proudly adds, “Some of our students have participated in five or six national and international MUN conferences.”
In September, eight students and two teachers from the Evangelical Lutheran School (ELS) of Hope in Ramallah, the Lutheran School of Beit Sahour, and Dar al-Kalima attended Pilsner, Czech Republic, the PDSMUN.
School conferences from Belarus, Kenya, Egypt, and Germany also attended PDSMUN.
The theme of that conference was terrorism and nuclear disarmament.
Talitha Kumi has its hope on three students attending a conference in Cambridge, England this November.
To prepare for these conferences students must commit to at least 30 hours of training. Each student is assigned a country that is not her own and she will have to study the foreign policy of that country regarding the issue given within the theme.
They have to study 30 days before the conference to prepare arguments.
“They will learn everything about a country,” Bishara said.
Rani, another senior at Talitha Kumi, has served as chairman of committees and most recently, as the delegate for the United States.
His classmate, Said says of Rani, “The delegate of the U.S. is always expected to be good,” “All eyes are on the U.S. delegate. The conference always gives the U.S and Russia to good delegates!”
Rani grins with great dignity. Earlier he added that he joined the program because he wants to share his opinion on politics.
“Becoming a part of LuthMUN changed my character,” he said.
One character changing aspect of the program is that it empowers students to organize, lead, and make decisions.
After five years of involvement, the students have become veterans and conduct student training for new participants.
“Graduates of the school return to help with the training and as advisors,” Bishara touts, “The entire LuthMUN Conference was organized by students.”
Reem, a twelfth-grade student at ELS School of Hope in Ramallah, says that she is thankful for the training because it has given her a chance to discover what she wants to do after high school.
“I would like to practice international law,” she said. “It (LuthMUN) has taught me about solving issues that must be defended.”
The entire experience from start to finish grooms leaders, but it is not free.
The national LuthMUN costs each student 250-350 shekels ($62- $87) and that can be a hardship for some families. Travel costs for international MUN conferences rises significantly.
The trip to Czech Republic was $8,000 for the students and teachers.
ELCJHL Director of Education Office fundraises for up to 85 percent of the expense for ELS in Ramallah, ELS in Beit Sahour, and Dar al-Kalima school students, but even the remaining 15 percent can be a challenge for some parents.
Presently, German government and the Berliner Missionwerks (BMW) typically helps aid students of Talitha Kumi School and other ELCJHL schools.
Other donors are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany (Centre for Global Ministries and Ecumenical Relations) and the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission among others. ELCJHL Director of Education, Dr. Charlie Haddad has made proposals for funding throughout the years as well.
For many of the students, Bishara says, “It is their only chance of traveling abroad and having contact with western democratic countries.”
Bishara emphasizes the unique importance of this program for Palestinian schools.
“Palestine needs diplomatic ways in resolving conflict.”
“We tell our youth, ‘Peace education doesn’t not mean peace with your enemy but peace with your neighbor, peace with your brother, peace with yourself, peace with your peer.’”
The LuthMUN program is in harmony with ELCJHL schools’ educational philosophy of Peace Building, Constructive Dialogue, Accepting Differences, Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Non-Violence, Coexistence and Tolerance.