Church of Norway Presiding Bishop and Delegation Visit Jerusalem

Bishop Younan visits with Church of Norway Delegation, including Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien, during their visit to the Middle East.

JERUSALEM, 20 March 2012 (ELCJHL)– A High-level delegation from the Church of Norway, including Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien and Church Council President Mr. Svein-Arne Lindø, visited yesterday with Bishop Munib Younan and ELCJHL Women’s Work Facilitator Mrs. Bassimah Jaraiseh.

Bishop Younan met with the delegation to discuss the present and ongoing mission and ministry of the ELCJHL. Younan highlighted in particular the importance of the educational ministries of the ELCJHL, including the four ELCJHL k-12 Schools who annually educate more than 3,000 students.

Younan focused on the co-educational inter-religious educational environment offered to students in the ELCJHL Schools. Of the ELCJHL’s student enrollment, nearly half of its students are Muslim. The other half of student enrollment represent almost all thirteen church bodies present in the area. Five percent of ELCJHL students are Lutheran.

“Our goal,” Younan said, “is to raise up our Muslim students to be constructive, effective and moderate Muslims; to raise up our Christian students to be constructive, effective and moderate Christians; all together with our Lutheran students in a Lutheran spirit that uplifts equal education and opportunities for its students, regardless of gender, race, or religion.”

Within an area of the world in which religious extremism that sets one religion against another is on the rise, Younan spoke of the ELCJHL’s focus on breaking down barriers, eradicating stereotypes, and raising up students to know and respect one another, finding the common values of love of God and love of neighbor that resonate throughout the Abrahamic religions.

Younan continued, “We are proud to be raising up new leaders who will work with one another for justice, peace, reconciliation and forgiveness in mosques and churches, in schools and workplaces.”

The ELCJHL has a long history of service in education that is designed to meet the needs of the Palestinian people as a whole, through holistic education that develops each student, and works to support a society in which justice, peace, co-existence, and mutual respect can thrive.

Amidst the continued unresolved political situation, the economic effects often reach children first, and their education along with it. The ELCJHL has doubled its local tuition contributions in the last decade, and continues to strive to become financially self-sustaining. But, until the surrounding situation changes, the scholarship support afforded by church organizations, such as the Church of Norway, along with individual scholarship support, is instrumental in sustaining the ELCJHL educational mission.

The Church of Norway and the ELCJHL are long-time partners in mission and diakonia. In recent years, the Church of Norway has been instrumental in funding the ongoing work of the women of the ELCJHL.

It is the goal of the Women of the ELCJHL to raise awareness about contemporary societal issues and the rights of women, to strengthen the social and psychological network among women, and to empower women in church and society to bring about changes in society to positively impact present and future generations.

The delegation from the Church of Norway also included Rev. Jens-Petter Johnsen, Director of Church Council; Rev. Kjetil Aano, Chairman of Council of Ecumenical and International Relations; Mrs. Berit Hagen Agøy, General Secretary of Council of Ecumenical and International Relations; Rev Dr Trond Bakkevig, Convener of Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land; Dr Dr Iver B. Neumann, Professor and research director at Norwegian Institute of International Affairs; Mr. Jan Erik Sundby, Representative of Borg diocese; Rev Dr Anne Hege Grung, Research fellow, University of Oslo; Mrs Gudrun Bertinussen, Norwegian Church Aid representative to the Middle East; and Mr. Sven Thore Kloster, Advisor on interreligious relations, Council of Ecumenical and International Relations.

The Church of Norway delegation visited Jerusalem as part of their current Middle East tour, which will also include visits in Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt.

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View more photos from the Church of Norway delegation visit.

Council meets with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Vice President Joe Biden meets with the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, February 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

WASHINGTON D.C./JERUSALEM, 8 March 2012 (Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land)– On a visit to Washington, representatives of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land met with the Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, Madam Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator John Kerry and many other political, and Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders. It also met with organizations like American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), American-Palestinian Task Force, and participated in panel discussions at the United States Institute of Peace, Washington Institute for Near East policy and Georgetown University.

The Council delegation–was among others–comprised of the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Rabbi Daniel Sperber, and the Director General of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, Oded Wiener. The Muslims were represented by Dr. Mahmoud Habbash, the Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs at the PA, and the Director of the Ministry, Mr. Salah Zueikah. And the Christian delegation was represented by His Beatitude, Patriarch Fouad Twal and Munib Younan the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

The representatives of the Council came with a message which stated that peace in the Holy Land is a necessity – and possible. It continued by calling on the U.S administration and international mediators to seek the advice and utilize the competence of religious leaders when faced with issues where both political and religious concerns are involved.

The Council has demonstrated its concern about the respect for the current status quo of holy sites and the protection of these against any kind of defamation.

The delegation has conveyed that Jerusalem is a holy city to believers of all three religions whose religious narratives linked to Jerusalem. In this regard, the Council aims at aiding politicians in such a way that conflict over Jerusalem does not obstruct peace in the Holy Land.

The Council has always condemned incitement, especially when religion or religious texts are used in the conflict. The Council is providing leadership in countering incitement through its research study on the “portrayal of the other” in Palestinian and Israeli schoolbooks. The Council also calls for the reestablishment of the joint American, Israeli and Palestinian Commission on incitement which was established in 1999.

Finally, the Council highlights the importance and its intent to equip emerging religious leaders for their future leadership role.

The delegation left Washington with a sense that it self and its message were well received and met with understanding.

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See photos from the meeting.

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Learn more about the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

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Visit elcjhl.org to learn more about the mission and ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

Norwegian bishops meet with partners, visit Holy Land sites

2010 Norwegian Bishops Delegation

Norwegian bishops and officials joined Bishop Munib A. Younan on a tour of the Haram es-Sharif (“Noble Sanctuary”) in Jerusalem’s Old City in late January. Here they pause in the Al-Aqsa (“Farthest”) Mosque for a group photo. The bishops visited sites in Jordan, Israel and Palestine during their week-long trip to the Holy Land. It included visits with Dr. Rafiq Husseini, Chief of Staff Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and with Nasser A. Lozi, chief of the Royal Hashemite Court of Jordan’s King Abdullah.

EKvW delegation visits ELCJHL ministries

Westfalia delegation - web

A delegation from the Evangelical Church of Westphalia has been making visits around the ELCJHL in recent days. On Oct. 11, the EKvW’s bishop, Alfred Buss (second from left), preached at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, where he encouraged believers not to let the political realities of the occupation rob them of their hope. ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan (holding plate) spoke with the group the following day, recalling the church’s German roots and the EKvW’s long history of partnership to the Palestinian church. The two leaders expressed happiness that the churches are renewing the relationship.

Sweden’s Social Democratic Leader Mrs. Mona Sahlin Visits Holy Land, ELCJHL

Swedish Social Democratic Party Leader Mrs. Mona Sahlin with ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan

Sweden’s Social Democratic Leader Mrs. Mona Sahlin is leading a delegation to Palestine/Israel this week to meet leaders, gather information and see the realities on the ground here.  Monday Bishop Younan led them through the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus is believed to have walked on the way to his crucifixion.   The Social Democratic Party in Sweden has been an active advocate for a just peace in the Middle East.

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WCC General Secretary Kobia Leads Delegation to Holy Land

Heads of churches in Jerusalem have welcomed the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum launched in Jordan last week. They voiced satisfaction with the new advocacy initiative at meetings with World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia during his 21-26 June visit to the Holy Land.

In addition to heads of local churches, the WCC delegation visited the staff and some ecumenical accompaniers from the WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel, formed in 2002 as the result of a plea for help from Christians world wide. The accompaniers work side by side with Palestinians and Israelis working for a just peace. The delegation visited Hebron, where accompaniers walk children to school to protect them from violence by settlers, and a refugee camp in Bethlehem, where accompaniers work with children teaching English and other skills. They also visited holy sites, government and religious leaders and Yad Vashem.

Video: Rev. Dr. Kobia’s greeting to heads of churches

Video: Rev. Dr. Kobia on what it will take to bring just peace

Delegation from Strangnas Diocese Visits ELCJHL

Bishop Hans Erik Nordin and a delegation of pastors, staff and lay people from the Diocese of Straengnes in Sweden arrived in the Holy Land Friday, February 2, to visit the ELCJHL and others working for a just peace in Palestine. Saturday they toured Bethlehem and some ministries of the ELCJH, and Sunday they traveled to Ramallah to worship with the people of the ELCJHL’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hope. Bishop Nordin told the assembled congregation that they were there to learn what it is like to be a community of hope in the midst of struggle. Bishop Younan of the ELCJHL preached and con-celebrated Holy Communion with Bishop Nordin, then went on to visit Ramallah residents and listen to their stories of recent years. The group will depart on Wednesday, after a full schedule of visits and meetings to get a feel for life in the midst of conflict.

For pictures, click here.

ELCA Delegation Visits Holy Land

2007 ELCA Visit

A delegation of mostly staff from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America visited the Holy Land in January to meet and speak with their sisters and brothers in the ELCJHL. In addition, they talked with people and officials from various Palestinian and Israeli organizations and towns. Mr. Chuck Steinbach of Appleton, Wisconsin, who coordinated the planning for the visiting dance troupe Al Raja from Ramallah this summer, was happy to go and meet the kids at their school and present them with a new digital camera.

Heads of African American Churches and Church World Service Visit the Holy Land

A delegation of 12 African American church leaders and leaders from Church World Service visited the Holy Land in late October and early November. The group’s main purpose was to learn about life for the Christians here and to see what they could do to help in the search for faith, justice and peace.

On their last day of planned activites, they met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including Palestinian President Abu Mazen. President Abu Mazen spoke of optimism for a recent mediation initiative, although he was also honest about the enormous challenge the present reality brings.

For more pictures click here.