Christian Love and Dialogue Can Influence Middle East Crisis – LWF

Students from the kindergarten of the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour take a break from learning their Arabic alphabet to pose for a photo. Photo: ELCJHL

Students from the kindergarten of the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour take a break from learning their Arabic alphabet to pose for a photo. Photo: ELCJHL
Students from the kindergarten of the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour take a break from learning their Arabic alphabet to pose for a photo. Photo: ELCJHL

LWF President Younan’s Public Lecture in Beirut

(LWI) – Rampant religious fanaticism in the Middle East calls Lutherans and other Christians to secure a shared future for all through love and dialogue, said Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

Younan made these remarks on 19 March, when he delivered a public lecture on “Reformation and Politics” at the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut, Lebanon. The bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) emphasized that Lutherans don’t seek to “Christianize” politics but to improve society through engagement.

“Although Christians are numerical minorities in the Middle East, we can have tremendous influence to utilize for the benefit of all persons and communities in our region,” Younan said in his paper focusing on “Lutheran Contributions to the Political Life of the Middle East.”

He was responding to a presentation by Rev. Dr Margot Kässmann, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) special envoy for the 2017 Reformation Jubilee.

“Constitutional development is a central concern for the rebuilding of the Middle East. In that process, Arab Christians emphasize commitment to equal citizenship with equal rights and equal responsibilities,” Younan said.

The LWF president said Lutherans should know that Martin Luther, who triggered the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, would find the suffering being endured by the people of Iraq and Syria reason to involve himself in such a crisis.

Luther would question the false distinction between religion and politics, promote interfaith engagement, address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a factor contributing to the current religiously-sanctioned fanaticism and promote moderation, the bishop noted.

“As a leader from a minority movement himself, Luther would no doubt understand us when we say that our danger is not in living with the ‘Other’ but when fanatics seek to persecute us,” Younan said in his address.

He pointed to the historic document From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017 to illustrate Lutheran ecumenical accountability, which emphasizes unity, transformation, the power of Jesus Christ and joint witness.

“Together, we show that the church of Jesus Christ is indeed always engaged in reform and renewal,” he said.

The waves of violence that have overtaken the Middle East have disproportionately affected the small Christian communities there, Younan said, adding that all communities are potential victims of the ongoing violence.

“Lutheran reflections on the proper authority of church and government can help shape how all communities in the Middle East move forward toward a shared future,” he concluded.

The ELCJHL bishop is on the board of NEST, an inter-confessional Protestant institution that trains pastors and other church workers in the Middle East for ministry in the churches and their related organizations.

To read the article in it’s original format, you can visit the website of the Lutheran World Federation.
To read Bishop Munib Younan’s entire speech, you can download it here. (Word)

Bishop Munib Younan Receives Honorary Doctorate from Westfälische Wilhelms-Universtät Münster

Bishop Munib Younan

EhrendoktorwÅrden Evangelisch-Theologische FakultÑt 2
Bishop Munib Younan stands with Prof. Dr. Hermut Löhr, Dean of Theology at Westfälische Wilhelms-Universtät Münster, as well as Prof. Dr. William Horbury, who was also awarded the prize. (© WWU, Peter Grewer)

On Wednesday, November 19th, 2014, Bishop Munib Younan was bestowed with the title of Doctor Theologiae Honoris Causa from the Protestant Theological Faculty of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universtät Münster for his work to bring peace to the Middle East.

Bishop thanked the gathered community for the honor bestowed upon himself and his church and spoke on the work being done in the Middle East, as well as his hopes to see what happened in Germany regarding the Berlin Wall happen in Palestine and Israel as well: “What happened to the wall in Berlin is a sign of hope for us in the Holy Land. It is my hope that the concrete and steel used to build walls today will soon be used by Palestinian and Israeli children to build bridges of understanding, justice, and reconciliation.”

Congratulations and mabrouk to Bishop Dr. Munib Younan on this achievement.

To read Bishop Younan’s full sermon, you can download it here. (PDF)
To read the Laudatio for Bishop Dr. Munib Younan presented by Professor Dr. Hans-Peter Grosshans, you can download it here. (PDF)
To read about the ceremony in German, you can visit here.

Bishop Younan Celebrates 190th Jubliee with Berliner Missionswerk (BMW)

Bishop Younan and Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a prayer at the Brandenburg Gate in remembrance of the start of World War I. (© BMW)

Bishop Younan and Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a prayer at the Brandenburg Gate in remembrance of the start of World War I. (© BMW)
Bishop Younan and Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a prayer at the Brandenburg Gate in remembrance of the start of World War I. (© BMW)

BERLIN – Bishop Younan joined the Berliner Missionswerk (BMW), a partner of the ELCJHL, for the celebration of their founding 190 years earlier in Berlin on August 31st, 2014. The celebration was both a jubilee of celebration and a conference to discuss religious issues affecting the BMW and its partners.

Bishop Younan addressed the Conference of International Partners of BMW on “cheap reconciliation” – the idea that reconciliation can be misused to prolong injustice. Bishop Younan discussed reconciliation in the context of ignorance and violence and the need for mutual recognition in the Middle East.

During the Jubilee on August 31st, 2014, Bishop Younan and the BMW dedicated a stone from the Holy Land to the BMW as a gift of partnership.

Those who had traveled from around the world to attend the jubilee were also invited to stay and pray at the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to remember the outbreak of World War II 75 years earlier. Bishop Munib Younan as well as the Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a public prayer for the representatives who joined them at Brandenburg Gate. The public prayer was followed by a memorial service at St. Mary’s Church in Berlin.

The ELCJHL would like to congratulate the Berliner Missionswerk on 190 years of service and we look forward to continuing in strong accompaniment in mission here in the Holy Land.

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”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) Calls for Immediate Cessation of Hostilities in Gaza

“In the day of my trouble I call on you” — Psalm 86:7

Witnessing the bombardments, hearing the sirens, listening to the cries of mothers and children, seeing the ambulances carrying the wounded and people living in absolute fear, the ELCJHL cries out to God. We also raise our voice to all Christian sisters and brothers, along with all people of goodwill, to end this latest round of violence between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people.

In these days, many of us are quite depressed and frustrated, left wondering where this country is headed, along with much of the Middle East. As a church that has always strongly condemned violence as a means of solving conflicts, we were deeply troubled by the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers and the kidnapping and burning alive of the Palestinian teenager. We strongly condemn both of these actions as inhumane and despicable acts.

As we condemn the kidnappings, we also unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms possible the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas against civilian targets and the ongoing Israeli blockade and bombardment of Gaza (resulting so far in the deaths of more than 200 people, 80 percent of whom were civilians and 20 percent children). Both expressions of violence are flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights laws and should be immediately ended.

This country and its people have gone through 65 years of violence, retaliations, and counter-retaliations. The ELCJHL believes that the existing political deadlock between Israel and Palestine cannot be resolved militarily. The current hostilities do not serve the long-term interest of any party. We have always believed in non-violent struggle and creative resistance to illegal state policies. Throughout our history we have worked to alleviate human suffering, promote peace and reconciliation.

We are afraid that this current wave of violence may force more Palestinian Christians to seek immigration. And what is the Holy Land without its Christians? To Palestinian Christians here in this land, I call upon you to remain, continuing your service as instruments of peace, brokers of justice, bridge builders, and agents of change.

In reaffirmation of our position, we call for:

  • Parties to the present conflict (Israel and Hamas) to agree upon an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities. This ceasefire should be facilitated by the international community to bring an end to human suffering. The focus of the international community should be on humanitarian and development assistance for the communities most negatively affected by the current round of violence. What Palestine and Israel need at the moment is justice, peace and dignity rather than the radicalization, revenge, and bloodshed promoted by one-sided diplomatic or military support for either group. The people of Palestine and Israel need to live in peace and dignity.
  • The resumption of direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace and a two-state solution based on 1967 borders and abide by international human rights and humanitarian law. The unity government of the Palestinian Authority should be respected. Any ceasefire addressing the immediate situation should be anchored in a long-term peace agreement in order to prevent other relapses into violence.
  • The lifting of the Israeli siege on Gaza. This indefinite siege on Gaza has created great suffering and instigated greater hostility. If a sustainable peace is to be achieved, Israel should lift its blockade. The unified Palestinian people of Gaza and the West Bank should enjoy their right to freedom of movement.
  • Critical support for healthcare infrastructure. The international community has long supported healthcare services for Palestinians, especially in the West Bank and Gaza. The present violence has severely affected healthcare infrastructure. We especially raise our concern for the financial crisis faced by Augusta Victoria Hospital and the system of East Jerusalem hospitals and medical centers.
  • Material support for interreligious cooperation and peacebuilding through the educational and diaconal ministries of the ELCJHL. These ministries empower the forces of moderation to build up civil society and create a shared future. Recurring cycles of violence place the church and related agencies in a chronic state of crisis and emergency, making it difficult for local institutions to thrive.
  • That the global Christian community—including the 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 in one form or another and to help the economic and development growth of the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land raises its voice to ask all people of good will to intervene in the present situation of unacceptable violence and bloodshed. Your intervention and action will create hope in a hopeless situation. If we cannot take steps toward 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.

Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

Bishop Younan Denounces Threats Against Arab Christians

A threatening letter was sent to the General Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate in Nazareth, Boulos Marcuzzo, which stated that Arab Christians had until May 5th, 2014 to leave the country. If they did not leave, 100 Christians would be killed for each hour of delay.

A person of interest from Safed was arrested and questioned by police.

Bishop Younan denounces these threats. We stand in solidarity with Vicar Boulos Marcuzzo and we ask the authorities not only to denounce these threats, but to take serious measures to bring this person to justice.

These threats only add more fuel to the conflict. Christians have lived in this land for 2,000 years, acting always as instruments of peace; bridge builders; brokers of justice; ministers of reconciliation, defenders of human rights, including gender justice; defenders of freedom and of religion. We are an integral part of our people and to our society. It is very important that these threats do not take on a life of their own and derail us further.

We promise those who threaten us: we have been here for 2,000 years and we plan to be here for another 2,000 years.

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

The Easter Message for 2014

altar-at-sunrise

“Peace be with you.” (St. John, 20:19)
The Easter Peace That Passes All Understanding – 2014
Bishop Dr. Munib Younan
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem in the name of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Peace be with you,” Jesus tells Thomas after the Resurrection.

I greet you in a time of suspicion and doubt. The story of Thomas has not ended. The story of Thomas continues to be our story, our context. It is a story where people are doubting in the Resurrection of Jesus because the fact that there is so much wrong in the world seems to suggest otherwise. Perhaps we are driven to declare as Thomas did, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25b).

Throughout the years Thomas has been known to Christendom as a man of suspicion or doubt. Some even call him “Doubting Thomas.” He is the man who does not believe until he sees for himself. Perhaps, however, we aren’t being honest with ourselves. Isn’t this narrative of a man who wrestles with his doubts the story of all of us? Isn’t this how we behave in our families and churches? Don’t we struggle daily with doubt and suspicion?

Continue reading “The Easter Message for 2014”

ELCJHL Model United Nations Teams Prepare For Competitions

Students from the Model United Nations teams from Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Ramallah pose for a photo.

Students from the Model United Nations teams from Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Ramallah pose for a photo.
Students from the Model United Nations teams from Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Ramallah pose for a photo. (© ELCJHL)

The ELCJHL schools have been preparing a handful of students to participate in Model United Nations (MUN), in Jerusalem, Ramallah and, hopefully, around the world.

The Model United Nations, operating much like the formal version, gives student delegates the chance to develop their debating skills, as well as learning more about world politics and issues.  The ELCJHL is hoping that this will not just teach their students about global issues, but also be part of their peace education by learning about the other.

In 2014, the students are participating locally at the Rosary Sisters’ High School in Jerusalem and the Friends School in Ramallah.

The ELCJHL is hoping to send the MUN delegation to Malmö, Sweden for the Model United Nations of Sweden (MUNOS) conference on May 26-28, 2014. A Palestinian delegation to this Model United Nations would be a first and it would be especially advantageous since a topic of this conference is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Fundraising is ongoing for this trip.

Not only is the ELCJHL hoping to send students internationally for MUN conferences, but is also hoping to conduct their own MUN conferences. In April 2014, the ELCJHL is hoping to have an MUN conference for all ELCJHL schools and, if funding can be secured, an international LuthMUN in 2015.

We wish our students luck in their upcoming competitions!

Global Religious Leaders Endorse “Welcoming the Stranger” Affirmations

LWF President Younan (third left) at the Religions for Peace Assembly. Photo: Religions for Peace

LWF President Younan (third left) at the Religions for Peace Assembly. Photo: Religions for Peace
LWF President Younan (third left) at the Religions for Peace Assembly. Photo: Religions for Peace

LWF President Younan: Apply Justice by Accepting “the Other”

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan joined global religious leaders in signing the historic “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders” that pledge support for refugees, internally displaced and stateless persons, and to work against xenophobia.

The signing took place on 21 November at the 9th Assembly of Religions for Peace held in Vienna, Austria, and attended by more than 600 delegates representing Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths. A representative from each religion read a part of the document before signing it.

The affirmations developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) following an LWF-led initiative, were launched in June this year, and endorsed by the LWF Council at its meeting the same month.

Younan said the signing of “Welcoming the Stranger” less than a year after its initiation was an emotional event, which illustrated what can happen when religious leaders and politicians work for the good of humanity.

Continue reading “Global Religious Leaders Endorse “Welcoming the Stranger” Affirmations”