ELCJHL Students Model Peace and Confidence in Model United Nations Program

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Said and 2016 LuthMUN director in the foreground Ms. Abu-Amsha. Photo: Ben Gray/ELCJHL

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.

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The LuthMUN Secretariat. Center Reem; Left of Reem, Said; Right of Reem, Rani. Photo/taken from the LuthMUN Facebook page

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:

  1. Disarmament:
  • Preventing the proliferation of arms in non-state actors
  • Fostering peaceful resolution regarding North Korea’s nuclear program
  1. Economic Sociology:
  • Ensuring universal access to water
  • The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication
  1. Human Rights:
  • The death penalty
  • Protection of forced displaced children
  1. Environmental:
  • The legality of the deforestation of the Amazon’s Rainforests
  • Protection of endangered species
  1. Security Council:
  • The invasion of Crime
  • Suppression of terrorist groups in Sub-Sahara
  1. Special Event:
  • 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.

Left to Right: Reem, Tamara, Amro, (behind Amro) Mahmoud, Emad at ELCJHL Ramallah School of Hope. Photo: Ben Gray/ELCJHL
Left to Right: Reem, Tamara, Amro, (behind Amro) Mahmoud, Emad at ELCJHL Ramallah School of Hope. Photo: Ben Gray/ELCJHL

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.

 

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Palestinian Authority Recognizes Palestinian Environmental Day

A Palestine Sunbird sips on nectar in the courtyard of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. (© D. Hudson)
A Palestine Sunbird sips on nectar in the courtyard of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. (© D. Hudson)
A Palestine Sunbird sips on nectar in the courtyard of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. (© D. Hudson)

RAMALLAH – On February 24th, 2015, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced the adoption of a new national day on March 5th to commemorate and remember the importance of environment and to raise awareness about the Palestinian environmental situation.

Palestinian Environment Day began as an initiative launched by His Grace Bishop Munib Younan and created in collaboration between the Environmental Education Center and the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority.  This day comes out of the longing of the people of Palestinian for freedom, the restoration of their land, and sharing of natural resources. Activities will be held yearly at the Environmental Education Center in collaboration with other environmentally active organization to celebrate the day.

As well as dedicating March 5th as Palestinian Environment Day, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah named the Palestine Sunbird as the national bird, a move applauded by as well as initiated by Bishop Munib Younan and the Environmental Education Center.

Bishop Munib Younan stated that, “we hope that the 5th can be remembered in churches around the world, that this country may remain a green and beautiful place despite all the political conflicts in this land.”

To follow the Environmental Education Center’s upcoming events regarding Palestinian Environment Day, you can visit their Facebook page and website.

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

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

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

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

ELCA presiding bishop joins call for peace in the Holy Land

CHICAGO (E​LCA) – As the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip further escalates, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, pre​siding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), expressed her profound concern for members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land in a July 17, 2014, letter to that denomination’s bishop, the Rev. Dr. Munib A. Younan.

            “Our hearts are heavy as we read about and see images of the violence being inflicted on both Israelis and Palestinians. This suffering and loss of life are inexcusable before God. As followers with you of the Prince of Peace, and as children of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, we long for peace and a just resolution to the escalating conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people,” Eaton wrote, adding that she is responding directly to Younan’s call to participate in interventions and actions “to create hope in a hopeless situation.”
In a July 16 public statement, Younan asked that Christians and “all people of good will intervene in the present situation of unacceptable violence and bloodshed.” He said, “If we cannot take steps towards peace, we will continue to be held hostage by extremism. Please do not leave us alone in this moment of struggle. The whole Middle East is boiling. We need your prophetic voice and support so that peace built on justice and reconciliation built on forgiveness will prevail.”
In her letter to Younan, Eaton shared that “we join you in your call for a cessation of all hostilities between Israel and Hamas and a return to direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace based upon a two-state solution and adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law.”
The ELCA presiding b​ishop wrote that she will encourage all ELCA congregations to continue their prayers for peace in the Holy Land, including participation in “a minute of silence” during Sunday worship.
Although her intended visit to Jordan and the Holy Land scheduled for later this month has been postponed, Eaton told Younan that she looks “forward to our time together.” In her letter, she noted the “steadfastness” of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land: “The church’s strong witness for coexistence grounded in peace with justice permeates every level of congregational, educational and diaconal service. Our faith is strengthened by knowing how, even in the midst of great difficulties, the Body of Christ is working in Palestine and Jordan for the good of all communities.
“Along with the witness of your pastors and lay leaders, your witness, Bishop Younan, has strengthened our confidence that peace can indeed be achieved among the two peoples and three religions that share the Holy Land. Your statements, speeches and sermons have been a model for promoting both political and interreligious coexistence, along with your strong support of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, which you helped found,” Eaton wrote.
The ELCA presiding bishop also expressed her gratitude for Younan’s capacity to uplift “the voices of moderation and against extremism.” She expressed her appreciation in particular for the long-standing work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land’s schools in demonstrating “the importance of education through a curriculum based on peace, nonviolence, peaceful co-existence and the strengthening of civil society for the benefit of all communities.”
Through an ELCA “Peace Not Walls” action alert issued July 17, ELCA members are being encouraged to contact members of U.S. Congress to ask for an end “to the latest round of violence.” The alert offers a sample letter which ELCA members can use to contact U.S. Senators and Representatives, featuring elements of Younan’s July 16 statement that calls for the “immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza.”
Younan also calls for the resumption of direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace; critical support for healthcare infrastructure; material support for interreligious cooperation and peacebuilding through the educational and diaconal ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land; and that the global Christian community, including member churches of The Lutheran World Federation, provide necessary assistance to those who have been internally displaced or affected by the current wave of violence and to help the economic and development of the growth of the Palestinian people.
The ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land are member churches of The Lutheran World Federation – a global communion of 144 churches representing more than 70 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion’s only member church from the United States.

To read the full text of Bishop Eaton’s letter, practice advocacy with the ELCA’s Peace Not Walls Ministry, or read the ELCA’s “Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine,” visit the ELCA’s press release regarding Bishop Eaton’s letter.