Jerusalem – In a farewell service on Wednesday 4 September 2019, Rev Wolfgang Schmidt and his wife Anette Pflanz Schmidt said good bye to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.
Rev Schmidt was propst of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and serving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (EKD) for 7 years. Redeemer is also home to The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
In March, Rev Schmidt accepted a position in Karlsruhe, Germany as head of the Department of Education in the Protestant Oberkirchenrat.
Under the umbrella of the EKD, The Evangelical Jerusalem Foundation of which Rev Schmidt was the propst cares for the spiritual life at the Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem, The Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Foundation which is connected to the Lutheran World Federation campus on the Mount of Olives and The German Archeological Institute that runs programs in Jerusalem and in Amman.
The EKD and the ELCJHL have been in ecumenical fellowship since the foundation of the ELCJHL.
In attendance to bid Rev Schmidt, his wife and sons farewell were representatives from the Twelve Christian Churches of Jerusalem, The German Evangelical Lutheran School Talitha Kumi Principal Mattias Wolf, the Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar and pastors of the ELCJHL, The Lutheran World Federation Jerusalem Program Representative Sieglinde Weinbrenner, other partner organizations, and OKR Rev Martin Puehn of EKD as well a host of guests and congregation members.
Brass for Peace, a cooperative non-profit brass orchestra between students from Germany and students from the Evangelical Lutheran Schools in the West Bank, performed during the reception that followed. Talitha Kumi choir led the congregation in worship.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! I want to end my years in Jerusalem with this hymn of praise! Anette, my wife and I, have received such a blessed time in this city and this country out of God’s hand!
Rev Wolfgang Schmidt
Rev Rainer Stuhlmann from EKD will act as interim propst for one year.
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.
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.
The Right Rev. Dr. Bishop Munib A. Younan, in a reflective interview, discusses his 7-year-term as President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) which ended this May.
Editor’s note: This interview was done before the presiding President of LWF, Bishop Dr. Musa Panti Filibus of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria was elected in May 2017.
During your visits to LWF member churches around the world you’ve often emphasized the communion as a gift and task to each member. What are some of your memorable moments of cherishing this gift; and of the challenging tasks it entails?
When I was elected President of LWF, I considered it as a call of Christ to be servant of the servants. For me, to serve as President of LWF is to serve the churches and to advance God’s kingdom in our world.
There are many memorable moments and they are countless in our communion. One that comes to mind is a visit to Ethiopia, and there I went to a school for disabled students. A girl of about 7 years old with a broad, joyful smile came to me and handed me a flower. This was a memorable moment because it was also an emotional moment in my role as LWF President. In this encounter, I witnessed how God’s love was shining in this girl, a girl who struggled with her disability, but nevertheless God’s love was shining in this child and shines to others. That was a sign that the love of God and that our communion with all of our 145 churches is well. When we see the love of God in our people and are preaching the Gospel, it is proof that our communion is a gift. Ultimately, this girl was a missionary of God’s love to me, and it touched my heart. This is memorable.
Wherever I went, even in challenging places, I experienced joy when I went to the churches of the 7 regions. It is important to understand that when I went as LWF President I did not go to meddle in their issues, but I went on apostolic visits. I called them apostolic because I want to be an encouragement and to be encouraged, and often my visits lead to the growth of my faith and that of the communion churches. In all of the churches, we could see how the congregations were living witnesses of God’s love.
Upon your election as LWF President in July 2010 in Stuttgart, Germany, you said that as “children of the light,” Christians should work to promote justice, peace and reconciliation and “to eliminate Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-semitism.” What do you see as LWF’s most significant contribution to this goal?
Our communion teaches us to love and to see the image of God in the other who is different in ideology, in gender, in culture, in race, in tradition, and in denomination.
The definition of “children of light” are people who carry a candle in the dark valley, and remind others that a simple light in a very dark place can shine with Christ. Therefore, when Jesus first taught us in the Beatitudes to be the light in the world and to resist compromise with the darkness, this is how we receive the power of Christ to act for the sake of the world.
For this reason, LWF has been faithful in its commitment to eliminate and remain steadfast against the sins of Islamophobia, xenophobia, antisemitism, and extremism.
It seems that the world is more and more fragmented by extremist activity, today. During my involvement in Christian and Muslim delegations as LWF President, we stand with every person of good conscience to eradicate extremism of which no one religion has a monopoly.
Our Lutheran tradition has tremendous capacity for shaping the conversation and combating the legitimacy of religious exclusion and extremism everywhere, whatever the tradition: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism included.
Just as 50 years of dialogue have produced major steps forward for historic reconciliation with Catholics and improved relationships with Jews, we must now embark on intentional processes of engagement with Muslims and Islam. Luther could never have imagined the historic reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics. Neither could he have imagined the growing strength of our relationships with Jews and Muslims around the world. As we confessed in 1984 in our LWF Assembly in Budapest, we not only disagree with but repudiate his writings against Jews. We have taken strong steps to reverse his condemnations of the Catholic Church. We also disagree with his writings on Islam and Muslims.
It is now our duty to assist our church and the whole world to combat Islamophobia. It is a call for all of us in the next year.
Our joint and common prayer is an example of addressing xenophobia directly. When the two churches, Catholic and Lutheran, came together in Lund we could no longer carry the fear of the other. By coming together in prayer and commitment to serve a broken, and fragmented world we eliminated the fear of the unknown. We built friendships and trust, and this was an important part of the process of peace and reconciliation, which will always be an anecdote to xenophobia.
Through the work of the Spirit and the participation of the Church, we now know our Catholic and Mennonite brothers and sisters and can no longer look at them as strangers, but as God sees them, as children of the light.
If we do all of this then we are the children of the light in a dark world.
You played a leading role in developing the 2013 “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders” together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. How does this faith perspective change/impact refugee response globally, regionally?
When we look at the refugees all around us, remembering that every second European was a refugee after the Second World War, therefore, I cannot understand how certain countries in Europe will not accept millions of displaced persons.
This means that the church should be the conscience of the world and as such, we can challenge the power of injustice and give the power of justice to every human. This is our Christian and Evangelical duty.
What I proposed for the UNCHR in December 2012 was that we must have a code of conduct for the religious communities in Welcoming the Stranger. I wanted to go to the sources of our biblical text where Abraham and Jesus both were refugees but were accepted in the countries where they found refuge. To go to the source, the Scripture is where we find the values of humanity of welcoming the refugee. This document reflected these values not only in our thoughts and words but in our deeds.When we found that the value of humanity in our faith is shared in all other faiths that signed, it recognized that no religion should ignore the call to serve the refugee. Our own text says that we are to see the face of Christ in the refugee. Jesus will ask, “Did you welcome me when I was a stranger? (Matt, 25). For this reason, LWF has its own impact in serving refugees on behalf of humanity; we want them to be empowered for justice.
As Martin Luther King wrote, “As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars… We are interdependent.” I cannot have a home in comfort if I do not comfort and offer hospitality to the refugee.
This is the call of Christ for the Lutheran communion to have prophetic Diakonia serving refugees, and the displaced.
On 31 October 2016, you, Pope Francis and LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr. Martin Junge co-hosted the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation. How would you explain the significance of this event to a newly ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL)?
Lund has created a constructive energy of ecumenism.
Firstly, I would explain to a young pastor or layperson that Lund was the work of the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit that invited both churches to implement unity among all churches.
Secondly, the Lutheran and Catholic churches are different than the churches of the Middle Ages. Today, being a Lutheran means being inspired by Liberation Theology from Latin America, Ubuntu Theology from Africa, the Theology of Civil Rights from America, Contextual Theology from Asia, Theological Scholarship from Europe, and the Theology of Steadfastness from the Middle East. This has become a part of Lutheran identity, an identity not of the 16th century, but an identity of mission and unity in the 21st
Thirdly, I would tell them that the time of denominationalism has ended. It is time to emphasize what unites us as being more valuable than what divides us. If you are a good Lutheran today, then you are an ecumenist.
Lund and Malmö have taught us that we must walk hand-in-hand in mission and Diakonia. The common prayer created an energy that will last, and that energy will always seek unity so that the world may believe.
What gives you hope about the LWF as you prepare to exit as President?
What will still keep you anxious about the future of the LWF?
The positive energy that this Lutheran communion creates means that there is never a dull moment because the Holy Spirit is working in our churches, and because we are normal human beings!
My hope is that the Lutheran Communion continues to be an inspiring communion for all churches, both small in number and big churches in number. This communion of all churches of the north and south, east and west is a communion of hope in a hopeless situation.
What gives me hope is that our communion has been a vanguard in mission in context, and ecumenism, in interfaith, and has the willingness to discuss issues that are sensitive in an honest way, which shows that we are in a mature communion. We have been vanguards of the Priesthood of Believers and, it is the Spirit that will continue the wave of this energy among the people. This is the reason that our communion is a communion that has implemented intergenerational, and gender justice in all its work.What leads me to say that
What leads me to say that frankly, I am not anxious about the future of LWF overall. Perhaps what may make me anxious is when some churches make decisions that ignore other member churches in the communion. We are a communion of diversity, therefore, all things must be communicated with all churches even if we have different points of view. We are not a communion in uniformity, but a communion in diversity. We have one mission, one Church, one Eucharist, one Baptism, one justification by faith.
In January this year, the ELCJHL which you’ve served as bishop since 1998, elected your successor. What are your plans after leaving the church’s leadership position?
The ELCJHL has church constitutions and is democratic in its structure. For this reason, according to our constitution a bishop must retire at 65, but I was asked to serve two and a half years beyond that requirement. I support the incoming leader in the work that God has set before him and I give him my blessings, because the church does not have ownership of the office of bishop solely, but also the ownership of the grassroots, and that is the Body of Christ.
But, even when I retire, a Lutheran bishop is always a bishop in mission. Because my motto as a pastor and as a bishop has always been, Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.”
Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.”
Just as I lived this text in office, I will continue to live it out of office. The office does not limit my vision, nor my mission. I will continue to work in ecumenism and interfaith engagement because I am a missionary in my heart. I will continue to work for justice in my country, and globally. I will continue to cherish the moments that increase my faith much like that faithful girl in Ethiopia. Whoever needs my simple experience, I offer to serve.
Jerusalem – At the Cultural Palace in Ramallah, West Bank on August 5th, 234 Vocational Training Program (VTP) graduates, including 51 females, received accolades for their accomplishments in a place with limited job training programs for Palestinians.
The 65th graduating class of 2017 from both Vocational Training Centers (VTC) in Ramallah and in Beit Hanina, celebrated the completion of one or two-year programs in one of the following vocational tracks: telecommunications, auto-mechanics, carpentry, aluminum metalwork, electronics, catering, craft work, plumbing, and central heating.
According to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Jerusalem website the VTP is a project that began in 1949 to fill a gap in vocational training within the Palestinian community.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land’s Bishop Munib Younan is a board member of the VTC.
During the commencement, students were encouraged by speeches from Bishop Younan and LWF Jerusalem Representative The Rev. Mark Brown to use their newly acquired skills for the future of Palestine.
Tokyo, 27 July 2017 – In a ceremony among his professional peers, long-time friends, and his supportive wife, The Right Rev. Dr. Bishop Munib Younan receives the Niwano Peace Prize today for his work toward interreligious dialogue among Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Jerusalem and worldwide. Bishop Younan is the 34th recipient of the distinguished Niwano Peace Prize.
The prize comes at a time when Muslims and Israeli security clash daily in an increasingly tense period in his homeland. Before leaving to accept the prize for his work in this very context, Bishop Younan, together with the heads of churches in the Holy Land, released a statement in support of a peaceful resolution that honors the historic status quo of Holy sites in Jerusalem.
Each year The Niwano Peace Foundation (NPF) of Japan recognizes an individual or organization that has dedicated their service and scholarship to promoting peaceful cooperation among religions particularly in places of difficulty.
With gratitude, Bishop Younan accepted the prize from the Honorary NPF President The Rev. Nichiko Niwano.
The esteemed Lutheran Bishop was selected by the NPF International Committee for his development of and involvement in organizations that foster interfaith dialogue among leaders of the three Abrahamic faiths.
“In a world characterized by leaders who seek to emphasize difference and hatred, Bishop Younan has consistently strived for the opposite. His work emphasizes peace over power and unity over monotheistic domination,” the NPF International Committee wrote.
Bishop Younan is a founding member of several Middle East interfaith groups, Council for Religious Institutions in the Holy Land (CRIHL), The Jonah Group, Al-Liqa’ Center for Religious Studies, and is currently serving two other interfaith groups, The Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, and The Prize Giving Committee of the Jordanian World Interfaith Harmony Week.
One of the practical contributions to peace established by CRIHL is to monitor textbooks in the schools, making sure that the value of coexistence is printed and ensuring that each religion is teaching the basic tenets of the other religions. The Council is in constant dialogue with the Ministry of Education to create a more balanced curriculum that reflects Jerusalem as a place for three religions, not just Judaism.
Bishop Younan stresses the importance of balanced curriculum development in education, “If you show me the curricula, I will tell you what Japan you will have in 10 years.”
The former Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President, Bishop Younan thanked LWF for the international platform that the 145-member churches of LWF provided for the mission of interreligious dialogue toward peace in the Middle East and abroad.
In his acceptance address today Bishop Younan unpacks how the religious and the political intersect and the danger of religious extremism used for self-serving political interests.
“Today, leaders within faith traditions must confront the extremists in their midst. We do this through a witness of robust moderation, rejecting that extremism is somehow the measure of faithfulness,” Bishop Younan told guests.
Finally, he reflects on his faith as a driving force in his interreligious work,
“As a Lutheran Christian, my hope is anchored in the hope of God’s coming reconciliation of all things. This hope is present today, both for our neighbors and for our global ecology and environment. This hope does not separate us from our neighbors but calls us into ever greater concern for their well-being. From this foundation, we embrace rather than exclude, standing for common values of justice, peace, equality, living together, and accepting the other.”
Former Niwano Recipients: Brazilian Liberation Activist and Catholic Archbishop Helder P. Camara 1983, World Council of Churches General Secretary Philip Potter 1986, Swiss Catholic priest and theologian, Prof. Dr. Hans Küng 2005, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal 2008, LWF General Secretary Bishop Gunner Stalsett 2013, Nigerian Pastor and Activist The Rev. Esther Abimiku Ibanga 2015.
Tokyo, 24 July 2017 – During a visit to Tokyo to accept the Niwano Peace Prize for his interreligious dialogue, Bishop Dr. Munib Younan was invited to deliver an ecumenical address to Japan’s Catholic and Lutheran communities as they prepare to commemorate the 500th year of Reformation and celebrate a Joint-Common Prayer this November, as was done in Lund, Sweden 31 October 2016.
In a historical world event, the Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, Bishop Younan then President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and LWF General Secretary The Rev. Martin Junge met in Lund co-hosted by Sweden to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Since Lund, some LWF member churches and Catholic churches around the world have been recreating the joint commemoration in their own context.
In February 2016, the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) co-hosted a commemorative prayer service with The Catholic Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in Bethlehem, Palestine at St. Catherine’s Chapel of the Catholic Church of the Nativity, and at The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Amman, Jordan.
Gathering in The Chapel of St. Mary at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Tokyo, The Catholic Archbishop of Tokyo, Peter Takeo Okada and the Catholic Archbishop of Nagasaki, Joseph Mitsuaki Takami together with The Rev. Tadahiro Tateyama, President of The Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Lutheran Pastor Naoki Asano invited members to listen to Bishop Younan speak about the meaning and spirit of Lund. In his speech to the group of about 125, Bishop Younan said,
“If Lund only remains in Lund and does not infiltrate into the Catholic and Lutheran churches, its meaning will diminish day by day. The more we receive and implement it into our churches, the more energy will be created, just as we experienced today in Tokyo.”
Bishop Younan’s speech was translated into Japanese by Rev. Asano during the speech.
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.
(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) celebrates Christmas in 2016 by thanking God for the reassurance that what unites Christians is more powerful than what divides them.
In this year’s Christmas message, LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan reflects on the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation in Lund in October, which also marked nearly 50 years of continued dialogue. He says the historic event offered opportunity for both ecumenical partners to mutually see and affirm a Gospel-centered faithfulness that is “carrying us from conflict to communion.”