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.

Bishop Munib Younan Responds to Bishop Eaton’s Letter to ELCJHL on Gaza Ceasefire

Dear Bishop Eaton,
Salaam and grace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I want to thank you for your letter of support and comfort. It comes at a time when we find ourselves in a terrible situation. I have always written that we in the Holy Land are in a continuous state of emergency and this violence proves that we cannot go two years without something that devastates our daily lives. However, despite all of the frustration, depression, bloodshed, and the growth of extremism – which this war will only increase – we in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) continue to be committed to a non-violent witness for justice, peace, and reconciliation.

I have worked towards peace my whole life and it disheartens me to see that in this country the power of hatred is still stronger than the power of love.  It hurts to see that the power of injustice is far more prevalent than the message of justice for each and every human being.  We are appalled to see that the logic of power is stronger than the power of logic.  But we in the ELCJHL will not allow this to frustrate our efforts or our message of peace for all humanity – the message of the cross.  Our power comes from the resurrection and although it seems dark now, the message of the resurrection – the resurrection that took place here in Jerusalem – will revive the power of hope within us.  We pray that this hatred will not be able to grow more even in the midst of occupation and extremism, but that peace based on justice will blossom in this desert of animosity and aggression.  I pray that I will see this in my lifetime.

The ELCJHL has always called for a strengthening of Christian witness in the Middle East. Christian witness is always an instrument of peace. Christians have always worked to be brokers of justice, initiators of dialogue, ministers of reconciliation, and bridge builders between all. This message needs to be strengthened not just in the Holy Land, but throughout the entire Middle East. The King of Jordan, King Abdullah II, said as much when giving the ELCJHL a small parcel of land at the historic Baptismal Site at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan when he stated that he wanted to strengthen the Arab Christian presence in the Middle East.

The ELCJHL has always worked to strengthen moderates from all religions, cultures, traditions, and nations in the Middle East. We strengthen those who see God’s image in the other and who will not promote extremism, violence, or human right’s violations.
The ELCJHL has always worked to make education a priority in the Middle East. All education, including peace education, must be the highest priority of a nation that seeks equity. We do not want or need an education of incitement or of provocation, but an education that will accept the other and to see the other as an ally in building up humanity and creating justice. Instead of using arms, weapons, rockets, or phosphorous bombs, we wish to educate our children towards peace where war and intifadas will be a thing of the past, no longer tools of the present.

The ELCJHL has always called for interfaith dialogue, a dialogue which seeks the common values of peace, justice, co-existence, and non-violence. Without dialogue between religions, extremism will grow and moderates, including Christians, will be sidelined and marginalized in their own societies. It is time not only for governments to assume their responsibilities, but also people of faith.

We would like to ask you that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) may use their power to apply pressure for a ceasefire that will end the siege of Gaza, end the occupation, and create a two-state solution, living side-by-side in peace, justice, and reconciliation, based on international law.

I thank the ELCA for their support of us as a church. I thank you on behalf of the entire ELCJHL for your prayers and comfort. Please greet your churches and congregations and thank them for their support during this difficult time. We pray that you will continue to support us and the Gospel of Love that invites us to build peace wherever we are called, as we pray for you. Let us together revive a spirit of accompaniment that will advance holistic mission, strengthen Christians, and work towards peace based on justice and reconciliation based on forgiveness.

Your Brother in Christ,
Bishop Munib Younan

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

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”

Unity in Diversity Celebrated During Jerusalem Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

JERUSALEM, 31 January 2012 – The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Jerusalem is not only a time to come together in prayer, but also a chance to explore the rich diversity of Christian traditions in Jerusalem and to build relationships.

People came from near and far to worship together in both unity and diversity over the nine days of services.

Each service reflected the deep theological and liturgical roots of its tradition, while inviting church leaders from different traditions to participate in leadership and welcoming visitors in many languages.

With a mixture of locals and internationals coming together in worship, every space was filled each evening, and in the receptions that followed each service, you found yourself at first nodding, then chatting, then truly beginning to know both visitors and locals, lay and clergy who were, like you, attending each service.

And after nine services in as many days and as many churches, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity drew to a close in Jerusalem on Sunday evening with an Agape meal of shared bread following the final service at the Greek Catholic Church of the Annunciation.

So, as the week itself draws to a close, we pray that the blessings of this week will extend in strengthened relationships, shared experiences, greater understanding, and closer unity throughout the year.

Day 1 photos

Click here to view photos from the Greek Orthodox Office of “Apodeipnon” (Compline) at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Day 2 photos

Click here to view photos from the service at the Anglican Cathedral of St. George the Martyr.

Day 3 photos

Click here to view photos from the service at the Armenian Cathedral of St. James.

Day 4 photos

Click here to view photos from the service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

Day 5 photos

Click here to view photos from the service at the Latin Patriarchate’s Church.

Day 6 photos

Click here to view photos from the service at the Upper Room “Cenacle” with the Franciscan Order.

Day 7 photos

Click here to view photos from the service at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Day 8 photos

Click here to view photos from the Coptic and the Syrian Church’s service at St. Anthony’s Coptic Orthodox Church.

Day 9 photos

Click here to view photos from the Greek Catholic Church of the Annunciation.

Bishop Younan Calls Church to Remain Steadfast, Hopeful, and Prophetic

Rev. Janne Rissanen (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland) leads the worshipping assembly in the Lord's Prayer with sign language during the service marking day four of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo © ELCJHL/Rev. Elizabeth McHan

JERUSALEM, 25 January 2012 – Worshippers from nearly every Christian tradition crowded into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem last evening to mark day four of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Together, those gathered celebrated a Service of the Word in Arabic, German, and English with Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), preaching.

In his sermon, Younan reflected on the centrality of the cross of Christ not as doctrine or decoration, but as the very way of life, unity, history, experience, and call in the church—not only in the past, but in the present life and witness of the church in society.

“The church today is again called to be bridge-builders and ambassadors of reconciliation.” Younan said. “We are called to play a role in building a modern civil society, but also to inject into society the common values of all religions that promote coexistence, peace, and justice, and accepting the other. We are called to a prophetic role, speaking the truth to power. Only when the church is involved in society, and especially among the suffering, then it will have a future.”

Younan spoke to recent articles published questioning the survival of Arab Christianity in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and developments in the Middle East that point toward a growth in extremism and threaten to curtail human rights, in particular women’s rights.

Yet, Younan said, “even in these circumstances, we will continue to be steadfast and not emigrate. For we are a people who carry a message—a message of love, a message of moderation, a message of undying hope—a message entrusted to us that is so essential in these days as the situation in the entire Middle East continues to develop. We are called to remain because the Lord called us to be brokers of justice and instruments of peace in the Holy Land.”

Younan called on the local Christian community to “Remain steadfast. Do not give up hope. Remember your calling. Be a source for moderation in the midst of a sea of extremism.”

Younan also called upon expatriate and global Christian communities to “take up your crosses in an accompaniment relationship with the local churches. Walk with us as the Emmaus disciples and Jesus walked together on that first Easter afternoon, listening to one another, learning about the current situation in Jerusalem… Come abide with us. Come share our bread. Come and see.”

Younan closed his sermon with a call to “live and witness in this spirit of the resurrection that started from Jerusalem. Let us revive our conviction that the things that unite us as Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical are much more those that divide us. Let us put aside our differences and listen to the voice calling to us to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and in the whole world.”

The service was a joint service of the Arabic-speaking, German-speaking and English-speaking congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. As well, all pastors of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions were invited to take part in the leadership of the service.

In all, there were representatives participating in worship from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the Church of Norway, the Church of Scotland, the Church of Sweden, and the United Church of Christ.

This was the fourth of nine services this week in Jerusalem to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme for this year, developed by churches in Poland, is: “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-58). The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a joint ministry of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order.

Services continue throughout Jerusalem this week, ending on Sunday, 29 January. Visit our online gallery to view new pictures from the services each day this week.

Day 3 photos

Click here to view photos from the service at the Armenian Cathedral of St. James.

Day 4 photos

Click here to view more photos from the service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

Sermon

Click here to read Bishop Younan’s full sermon.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Begins in Jerusalem

the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani gives the benediction along with representatives from other churches in Jerusalem at the close of service on Day 2 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

JERUSALEM, 24 January 2012 – Services for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began in Jerusalem this weekend with an invitation to join with the Greek Orthodox Church for the Office of “Apodeipnon” (Compline) at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Saturday evening.

The local Christian community joined again together on Sunday evening for a service at the Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr, presided over by the Rt. Rev’d Suheil S. Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

In his sermon, Bishop Dawani reflected on Jesus’ words to his disciples in Mark 10 and God’s continuing call to us: “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).

“Our Lord connects [the idea of] greatness with the love that works not for its own greatness, but for the benefits of the other” Dawani said, and proclaimed that in Jesus God was sweeping away humanity’s “love of greatness” and replacing it with God’s “greatness of love”.

In closing Dawani called upon the Christian churches in the Holy Land “to join efforts as the one family and the one Body of Christ to work towards the ministry of peace and reconciliation.”

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated in Christian churches around the world each year. It began in 1908 as the “Octave for Christian Unity”. It is jointly prepared for and published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches through its Commission on Faith and Order.

Traditionally the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is marked between 18-25 January (in the northern hemisphere) or at Pentecost (in the southern hemisphere). In Jerusalem, the Week of Prayer is marked annually during the last week of January, following the celebration of Armenian Christmas on January 18th.

Each year, ecumenical partners in a particular region are invited to form the theme and resources for the year. In 2012, preparations were made by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and Old Catholic and Protestant Churches active in Poland.

The theme for 2012 is “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58), with special concern on the transformative Church, the Body of Christ.

Services continue throughout Jerusalem this week, ending on Sunday, 29 January. Visit our online gallery to view new pictures from the services each day this week.

Day 1 photos

Click here to view photos from the Greek Orthodox Office of “Apodeipnon” (Compline) at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Day 2 photos

Click here to view photos from the service at the Anglican Cathedral of St. George the Martyr.

Learn more

Click here to learn more about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Jerusalem Christians Come Together for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Photos from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

JERUSALEM, January 28, 2011 – Jerusalem Christians of all denominations have come together for fellowship and prayer during the week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 22-30).

This special week of ecumenical prayer has been commemorated throughout the world for 103 years and in Jerusalem for decades. However, this year the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity requested that the worship materials for the world-wide celebration be prepared by Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem, remembering the first Pentecost, the focus of the week was on the unity through “the Apostles’ teaching, the breaking of break, fellowship, and prayer” (Acts 2:42).

For nine days crowds gathered at a different church each afternoon beginning on Saturday when Catholics and Protestants attended the “Apodeipnon” (compline) of the Greek Orthodox at the place of Golgotha in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was followed by services at the Greek Catholic and Armenian churches the following two afternoons.

On Tuesday afternoon January 25, the prayer was hosted by the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the old city. The Franciscan news service wrote that the sanctuary “was packed and a very warm welcome was given to Christians of all the different rites. The choir’s accompaniment to the whole meeting was highly evocative.”

Bishop Munib A. Younan focused the message for the day on the Apostles’ teaching from the early Jerusalem church noting the transformative power of education in today’s society. He compared this ecumenical program to a beautiful Middle Eastern carpet, where the various colored strands come together through the Holy Spirit as the artist creating a design originating in the Apostles’ teaching. “All eyes of the world are on Jerusalem,” he said. “I pray they will look at our beautiful carpet and say, ‘Look how much the Christians love each other.’”

During the rest of the week, this diverse and inspired community made their way to services at the Latin Catholic Church, the Upper Room, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Church, and finally on Sunday January 30 to St. George’s Anglican Cathedral.

In presenting the 2011 Christian Unity Week, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity together with the World Council of Churches underline the peculiarity of Jerusalem: “The current community experiences many of the joys and sorrows of the early church; its injustice and inequality, and its divisions, but also its faithful perseverance, and recognition of a wider unity among Christians. The churches in Jerusalem today offer us a vision of what it means to strive for unity, even amid great problems. They show us that the call to unity can be more than mere words, and indeed that it can point us toward a future where we anticipate and help build the heavenly Jerusalem.”

As part of the week’s ecumenical focus, Bishop Younan also took part in a panel discussion filmed by France 2 Television to be broadcast on January 30 in a two and a half hour special program including the unity service from Jerusalem’s Greek Catholic Church.

Click here to read Bishop Younan’s sermon from Tuesday’s service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

Prayer for Peace from Churches for Middle East Peace on Eve of Annapolis

PRAYER FOR PEACE
O God, we come to you with open hands and open hearts.
We pray for peace and for all those that suffer violence and injustice in the midst of war and conflict.
We pray for the innocent, combatants, peacemakers, and religious and political leaders.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the holy city of God and spiritual home to all the children of Abraham.

O God of mercy and compassion,
Embrace our Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters.
They have endured profound loss and sorrow.
They are fatigued by fear and anger.
Mend their broken hearts and failing spirits.
Ignite in them sparks of hope.
Comfort them and guide them onto the road of peace.

O God of peace and reconciliation,
Lift up the international leaders who search for peace.
They have talked before without success.
They face a difficult road and many obstacles.
Inspire them to move from words to actions that fulfill a greater vision of peace.
Arouse in them a passion for righteousness.
Bless them and their work for peace.

O God of all creation,
Your people cry for peace.
May your promise of justice and enduring love
Breathe renewed Life
Into our commitment to a sustainable peace,
When two states – Israel and Palestine – are a reality,
Living side-by-side in security, harmony and peace. Amen

For more on Churches for Middle East Peace, see www.cmep.org

Ecumenical Weeks of Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land

For several years now, Christian churches in Jerusalem have collaborated to offer ecumenical prayer services for peace for about two weeks in late August. Tonight, Thursday August 17, we gathered in the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer for a prayer service in German, Arabic and English. Join us in our prayers:

Merciful God, we pray for the victims of war, terror and brutal violence in the Middle East. We pray for the peoples of Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Israel. We pray for the injured, for those whose bodies or souls are wounded – especially for the children. We pray for those who have lost their beloved ones, and for those who have been maimed. We pray for the refugees who have lost their homes, their land and their livelihood, for those who fear for their lives. We pray for those who are terrorized by the sound of fighter-jets, tanks, rockets, sirens and the other horrers of war. God, grant them strength and hope, let them not fall into despair.