“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.
Female Palestinian Lawyer to Speak at The UN For International Women’s Month
West Bank/New York – As the only female in the entire Middle East serving as a judge on the church Ecclesiastical Court which governs family matters among Christians, attorney Scarlet Bishara, a member of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), will be a panelist at the United Nations’ Sixty-Third Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in New York, USA on 13 March.
The UN Bureau of the Commission will meet 11 – 22 March 2019, to reaffirm statements and review future strategies that support the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) document adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979.
Bishara will speak during a side event, organized by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Church of Sweden, on the topic of Religious Actors Promoting Gender Equality Through Personal Status Laws in Palestine as a social protection system.
After the recognition and establishment of the Lutheran Ecclesiastical Court in 2014 by the Palestinian Authority, and inspired by the LWF Gender Justice policy, the ELCJHL established a groundbreaking amendment to its Personal Status laws in 2015.
One example of changes to the policy was an increase in the age that a girl can be allowed to marry from 14 years old to 18 years old.
“[It is important for the ELCJHL] to use its prophetic voice and effective tools to challenge ecclesiastical and socio-political fixtures,” Younan said in a 2016 LWF article.
The Personal Status Laws are cases such as divorce, inheritance, child custody, alimony, and other family matters, such as marriage age as mentioned above.
In Palestine, legal cases concerning the family are handled by the religious community. Outside of the Islamic Sharia court, there are four Christian Ecclesiastical courts: the Catholic, the Anglican, the Orthodox and the Lutheran courts. Each of these denominations has its own law.
Bishara says that because of the culture, when a case reaches the Ecclesiastical court it is usually the last resort for a family, especially for women.
Most of the time the women come to the courts after consulting the family, their fathers, and their pastors. Bishara says that often they continue to face suffering because usually, particularly in the case of the Catholic and some Orthodox churches, they are judged by unmarried men – priests.
“As an unmarried man, it is difficult for them to understand the situation of women,” Bishara said.
She explains that because of the culture, most of the men will place the blame on the wife first, saying, ‘she didn’t cook well, and made her husband angry. She didn’t raise the children well, or she didn’t satisfy her husband, therefore, he beat her.’ This is the cultural norm that we face in the Middle East.”
As a woman, Bishara says her role as a female judge is simple… “I hear them [the women].”
She also understands the consequences of not listening to women. In the past, many were turned away and told to ‘be patient’ or to give their husband another chance, which has led to women and children being badly hurt by domestic violence.
“I am trusted with their stories because I am a woman.”
Bishara says that her male colleagues, the two ELCJHL pastors and head of the court, ELCJHL Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar, respect her insights, support her position as judge, and accept her decisions in cases, fully. She stated that Bishop Azar, installed as bishop of the ELCJHL January 2018, has given his blessings to continue the progressive work of gender equality within the church.
“She understands how other women are feeling. She explains things that the men don’t understand,” said Bishop Azar.
“She represents us in a good way. We notice the positive outcomes of what we have today with her on the court as judge.”
Bishara wrote in her paper to the UN, “the Lutheran Family Law of 2015 provides a sustainable framework for answering questions raised about how to rectify gender imbalances in the personal status laws in Palestine that are still promulgated by religious institutions of all faith backgrounds.”
Her message to the commission is that the Lutheran Family Law can serve as a theological- and biblical-inspired model that other religious communities can use to craft their own laws guided by gender equality, including the Islamic laws.
“The religious communities in Palestine are uniquely positioned to champion the rights of women in Palestine.”
During her discussion with the CSW63, Bishara is excited
about the future possibilities of the ELCJHL’s gender policy. She hopes to
eventually see one ecumenical law for all Christians that upholds justice for
Overall, she believes that because of the dual court systems in the Middle East, civil and religious, it is the religious community that will be the leaders in a just system for women.
“Change in the Arab world is in the hands of the faith
Dina Nasser, a health advisor to the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, site coordinator for the Juzoor International Training Center in the West Bank, and an expert on hospital infection control is also a panelist with Bishara during the UN CSW63 side event.
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.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Bishop Eaton and other American Christian Church leaders send a letter of support to the thirteen heads of churches in Jerusalem after the recent efforts of the Jerusalem Municipality to place tax levies on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
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.
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 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.
JERUSALEM – On Sunday, the 23rd of September, Bishop Munib Younan installed Rev. Carrie Smith as the pastor of the English Speaking congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem and as Special Assistant to the Bishop. Along with her blessing from Bishop Younan, Rev. Ibrahim Azar of the Arabic Speaking congregation, Rev. Mari Parkkinen of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission, Rev. Mark Brown, the Church Council Chairperson of the English Speaking congregation, Rev. Robert Smith, both a special advisor to Bishop Younan and Rev. Carrie’s husband, and Propst Wolfgang Schmidt, Representative of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland in Jerusalem, Rev. Carrie was also surrounded by members of the English and Arabic speaking congregations, as well as her husband and children. Bishop Younan presented the places of Word and Sacrament – the font, altar, and pulpit – after the blessing and the laying on of hands.