2016 Easter Message from Bishop Munib Younan

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2016 Easter Message

From Bishop Dr. Munib Younan

Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

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1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

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Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem, in the name of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Today Christians across the world rejoice in the Good News we have received, on which we stand, and through which we have been saved: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.

Jesus is raised from the tomb! Alleluia!

Light is stronger than darkness! Alleluia!

Life is stronger than death! Alleluia!

This is the center of our Christian faith and the source of our hope. For this reason, we celebrate Easter with joy and love.

For this reason, we sing along with Ephraem this beautiful hymn from the 4th century:

Glory to you, friend of all!

Glory to you, O merciful Lord!

Glory to you, longsuffering God!

Glory to you, who takes away all sins!

Glory to you, who came to save us!

Glory to you, who became flesh in the womb of the virgin!

Glory to you, bound in cords!

Glory to you, whipped and scourged!

Glory to you, mocked and derided!

Glory to you, nailed to the cross!

Glory to you, buried and risen!

Glory to you, proclaimed to all humankind, who believe in you! Amen.

 

This Easter Good News has come to the world again at just the right time.

At this time, the world desperately needs the message of the empty tomb. We need the light and life of Easter morning. In just the first three months of this year, we in the Middle East have been witnessing an alarming wave of violence. Recent days have seen tragedies unfold in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, the Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Nigeria, and many other nations. Even this week, which we call Holy, began with a terror attack in Brussels. It’s difficult to comprehend the amount of death and destruction which has plagued our world, in just the few short months since the world’s Christians gathered to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

All across the world today we see that a culture of death and fear is heavily promoted to the people – by extremists, by the media, even by some politicians. The message they plant in us is that we should be afraid of losing our freedoms, or afraid of giving away too much power. They tell us we should be afraid of the evil which lurks beyond our borders, or the evil which lurks even next door. This culture of death and fear instills in us a certain envy, in which the only way for us to have life is to deny the life of the other—whether the enemy, or the neighbor of a different religion, or the refugee.

This culture of death is what Jesus experienced on his Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross.

Jesus experienced a culture of deception and betrayal when one of his disciples joined him for the Last Supper, but then sold him for thirty pieces of silver.

Jesus experienced a culture of denial and abandonment when Peter emphatically denied him, not once but three times.

Jesus experienced a culture of power over others when Herod and Pilate reconciled out of their common desire to humiliate him.

Jesus knew well the culture of death, and where it ultimately leads.

Today we are haunted and even obsessed by this same culture of death, but this culture is exactly what the resurrection of Jesus destroys. The resurrection of Jesus means we must not accept such a culture. We will not give in to despair, to hopelessness, to violence, or to complacency. We need not stay in the tomb, for by the power of Jesus’ resurrection, we have been raised to new life with him.

The resurrection reveals how the justice of God is wholly different from the justice of the world. Where the world insists that death and fear and jealousy and mistrust and deceiving are unavoidable facts of existence, a culture we must accept and work within, necessary evils which ensure our own personal happiness, the resurrection proclaims exactly the opposite. By rising from the tomb, Jesus shows us a new path forward. The Risen Lord has given us a Culture of Life.

And what is this life? It is a life of freedom, a life of joy, a life of equal dignity. The resurrected life is one of acceptance and love and protection of the other. The resurrected life is one which honors every gender, every race, every ability, every nationality, every faith. This new life, our Easter life, is the culture Christians everywhere share, in spite of differences in language or tradition or geographic location. Together, in every corner of the world, followers of Jesus share and proclaim and testify to this Culture of Life.

Perhaps over the years, we have allowed the world’s culture of death and fear to influence us. Perhaps we have opened the door to jealousy, to mistrust of the other, even to an acceptance of violence. Perhaps we have forgotten how Easter morning was a new day – the first day of the week, the first day of Jesus’ resurrected life, but also the first day of the church’s unique Culture of Life.

How could anyone forget such Good News? How could we forget we have been raised? How could we forget who we are?

When the church stands by as refugee families drown seeking freedom, we have forgotten.

When the church honors bell towers and organs over bread for the hungry, we have forgotten.

When the church stays silent in the face of injustice, oppression, and occupation, we have forgotten.

When the church’s message begins to reflect fear of the world outside, we have forgotten.

When we, who have already been raised to life, begin to feel comfortable inside the tomb, we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten that we are children of the resurrection, children of abundant life.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, if we have forgotten, then the Day of Resurrection is the day we remember. On that resurrection morning, the women stood at the empty tomb and could not believe their eyes. But then, the two men in dazzling clothes appeared and said to them: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

And then, the women remembered! They remembered, and they ran to tell the Good News to all who would listen.

On this Day of the Resurrection, we also remember! We remember that the stone was already rolled back. We remember that that tomb was empty. We remember how God used the cross, an instrument of humiliation and death, to give us life. For this reason, the Orthodox liturgy sings: “Jesus is risen from the dead. He has overcome death with death and given life to all who are in tombs.”

By his rising, Jesus has freed us from the culture of death and fear. With him, and with all believers around the world, we now share one common Culture of Life.

On this Easter morning, I pray that Christians everywhere will remember who they are: People of life. People of joy and of freedom. People of mercy and forgiveness. People of love and of liberation.

Above all, remember that we are a people empowered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ to be ambassadors of our unique culture—a culture of life and life abundant. Therefore, in every church, in every community, in every nation, in every context, in every situation, let our testimony be as one:

The tomb is empty!

Life is stronger than death!

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

Il-Masih Kam! Hakkan kam!

 

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Bishop Younan Releases Statement Concerning The Tabgha Arson

TIBERIAS, Israel – July 14th, 2015

Dear Fathers,

We have come from Jerusalem to stand in solidarity with the brother monks of this monastery after the arson and burning of this historic Church. The atrocity is not only against you and this particular church vicinity, but against every Christian and believer in the One True God, and must be denounced vehemently. This Church was built on the real story of the blessing of the loaves and fish, and despite the atrocity against it, it will survive the hatred and will remain a spiritual haven and blessing to all who enter its doors.

Dear Fathers,

The problem which we face is sadly the recurrence of these incidents on religious sites. We have heard recently the authorities arrested suspects who are thought to be the perpetrators. We strongly recommend that they are taken into justice. However, the problem is much deeper and succinct: the prevalence of intolerance, religious bigotry and discrimination. This, in turn, creates a mentality of non-acceptance of diversity and of the otherness of the other.

The Lutheran Church demands a change in the public discourse, a total reform of the education systems and complete transformation of how one sees the other who is different. There is absolutely no other solution in this place other than educating our children to tolerate and co-exist with other religions in the region: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

If this Country wishes to continue being seen as Holy, this is only possible through egalitarian right, and freedom of religion where every religion has the right to equally worship the One Holy True God and to equally respect the Church as the Synagogue as the Mosque.

We are saddened by the silence vis-à-vis these atrocities. To be silent is to allow the extremists including the perpetrators to turn us to hostages and pawns. We demand that all believers in God speak up and raise their voices to denounce hostile acts such as this venomous act.

Once we speak up, then future generations would learn to accept the other who is different. This way, we promote peace and justice, living with others and reconciliation which are desperately needed in this Country.

May this venomous act be the last and may the minds of those who deny others a dignified life accept diversity as a norm and as projection of God’s multi-genius creation of human beings.

Jesus consoles us by saying: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

May God bless you and continue to protect you to further God’s kingdom in this Holy Land.

Tribute to Dr Tawfiq Nasser – LWF

Photo: Dr Tawfiq Nasser, 2014. Photo: LWF Jerusalem

 

Photo: Dr Tawfiq Nasser, 2014. Photo: LWF Jerusalem
Photo: Dr Tawfiq Nasser, 2014. Photo: LWF Jerusalem

“Long and faithful service” to the Augusta Victoria Hospital

(LWI) – With great sadness The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has learned of the death of Dr Tawfiq A. Nasser, the Chief Executive Officer of the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem. Dr Nasser passed away on the morning of 16 May 2015. He had been the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer since 2001 and was instrumental in shaping its medical orientation.

“Dr Nasser was a man of compassion and service who cared deeply about others,” LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge wrote in a condolence letter to Dr Nasser’s family.  “In the LWF, we are particularly grateful for the long and faithful service Dr Nasser gave in the development of the Augusta Victoria Hospital.”

“He cherished and loved AVH”

Dr Nasser, who was born in the AVH in 1964 when the hospital still had a maternity ward, had been the hospital’s administrative director since 1997. He took over as Chief Executive Officer in 2001, at the age of 36. Dr Nasser shaped the hospital into the leading center for nephrology and oncology in the Palestinian territories.

He graduated in biomedicine and hospital administration at the Old Dominion University in Virginia, USA. Before taking a position at the AVH, Dr Nasser worked at Sentara Health System, USA, as well as at Bir Zeit University and with Arab Care Medical Services, both in Ramallah.

Colleagues and friends praised Dr Nasser’s commitment to the AVH and its patients. “Tawfiq worked at AVH on the Mount of Olives for 18 years,” Bishop Munib A Younan, Chairperson of the board of the AVH and President of the LWF, said. “He cherished and loved AVH. Tawfiq did not want it to be just a hospital. He wanted it to be a community of healing on the Mount of Olives.”

LWF General Secretary Junge said of Dr Nasser: “As a medical doctor, he learned the healing arts and applied them to relieve human suffering. As a gifted administrator, he organized the staff, the resources and the supporters to bring the Augusta Victoria Hospital to even higher levels of service. As a Palestinian, through his words and actions as a consummate professional, he was a powerful witness for justice, peace and an end to the occupation.”

Continue delivering services

Dr Nasser continued working until early May. He had been gradually handing over responsibilities to his deputy, Walid Nammour, who will continue to ensure  professional delivery of services.

Located on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, the AVH serves thousands of patients annually. It provides specialized medical services that are either unavailable elsewhere or not readily accessible to Palestinians, including facilities for dialysis, cancer and surgery, as well as special clinics, laboratories and medical equipment. One of Dr Nasser’s achievements was to have the hospital awarded the prestigious Joint Commission International accreditation for health care quality, patient care and organizational management in 2013. He also took the decision to send volunteer medical teams into Gaza to treat the wounded during the conflict of August 2014.

“We stand by his wife and his family,” Rev. Mark Brown, Country Representative of the LWF program in Jerusalem, said. “Please keep them in your prayers. Wholly in keeping with Tawfiq’s commitment to AVH, the family requested that friends wishing to honor Tawfiq send contributions to Augusta Victoria Hospital in support of its cancer work, in lieu of flowers.”

To see this article in its original format, you can visit the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) website.

Bishop Younan Assures Egyptian Copts of LWF Communion Prayer – LWF

JERUSALEM/GENEVA, 17 February 2015 (LWI) – Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) has assured the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt of prayers and solidarity from the Lutheran communion following the recent killings of Coptic Christians by extremists affiliated to the militant group IS.

In a letter to Pope Tawadros II, Younan, also LWF President, said the killing of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya was not only an attack on humanity and on followers of Jesus Christ, but also “against people of every religion who stand for peace justice and freedom.”

“Your struggle is our struggle; your grief is our grief,” the LWF president wrote to the Coptic church leader, assuring him of prayers from the LWF communion.

A video released on 15 February depicts the killings of the Christians in Libya, believed to be kidnapped Egyptians.

To read this article in its original form, you can visit the Lutheran World Federation’s website.
To view the letter Bishop Younan wrote to Pope Tawadros II, you can view it here. (PDF)

Condolences to The People of Denmark After The Violent Attacks in Copenhagen

Her Excellency the Prime Minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt
His Excellency the Speaker of the Parliament, Mogens Lykketoft
Copenhagen, Denmark

Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.

 

Dear Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt and Speaker Lykketoft,

SaIaam and grace to you from Jerusalem.

I am writing to express my condolences to you and to the people of Denmark after the violent attacks in Copenhagen on Saturday. The perpetrator’s targets, a freedom of speech event and a synagogue, were clearly chosen to strike at the values held dear by the people of Denmark. We stand with you in strong opposition to all such acts of terror, extremism, and violence, wherever they occur in the world and whoever is the perpetrator. I hope that these incidents will only strengthen the people of Denmark to stand firm with the values of pluralism and freedom for all people.

Please know that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land is praying for the wounded and the grieving, and for you as a leader in this difficult time. Your struggle is our struggle; your grief is our grief.

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

Bishop Dr. Munib Younan

Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land


Our sincerest thanks to His Excellency, the Speaker of the Parliament, for his response:

Dear Honorable Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan,

Thank you for your very strong and kind words to me and the people of Denmark.  I hope and believe that the terrible events will lead us to standing even closer together across different religions and political affiliations to Denmark the basic values of Danish democracy.

Sincerely yours,
Mogens Lykketoft
Speaker of the Parliament of Denmark

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.

Statement issued by the Heads of churches and the Council of Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM – On  November 10, 2014,  corresponding to the 17 of Muharram 1436H, a senior delegation of Patriarchs and Bishops of the Holy City and representatives of all the churches in Jerusalem visited the Haram Asharif compound.  They were received by the Chairman and members of the Islamic Waqf Council and senior staff of Awqaf and governor of Jerusalem.
The two sides stressed the following principles:
1.                 The historical (Status quo) situation in the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Haram Asharif) and its courtyard, all buildings, and in the city of Jerusalem, should not be changed;
2.                 They emphasized full right of Muslims to worship and freedom of access to the Al Aqsa Mosque and its exclusive ownership by Muslims of all the world.
3.                 They stressed the importance of the custody of the Hashemite kingdom on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy Islamic and Christian places in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
4.                 They underlined the continuity of the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Covenant that brings Christians and Muslims together as one of fraternal coexistence in the Holy City, which is unique in the entire world.  This covenant respects the rights of Christians to worship and the full practice of their religion.
Both sides committed to pray for the end of injustice and the establishment of security and peace in this city, which should be a model of peaceful coexistence.

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”

WCC Denounces Actions Against Yazidis, Christians, and Other Minorities in Iraq

Geneva, 7 August, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On behalf of the World Council of Churches, I am writing to solicit your prayers for the Christians, the church communities and all the suffering people on the Plain of Nineveh in northern Iraq, as well as the surrounding region. Reports in recent days have confirmed the forced displacement and indiscriminate killing of Christians, Yazidis, and members of other vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq as the result of military attacks by the “Islamic State”, a group formerly known as the “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham” (ISIS).

I have communicated with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon, urging him to deploy all efforts to bring a halt to the violence in Iraq and to ensure the physical protection of all people there and support for their human rights including the right to religious liberty. Now I ask for your support, in prayer and advocacy. Please contact your government officials requesting them to:

– Instruct their UN ambassadors to bring the plight of all vulnerable people and communities in Iraq to the Security Council for immediate protective actions.
– Obtain from the UN Security Council a binding resolution that ensures the immediate safe return of all those who were obliged to flee their homes and properties.
– Double their humanitarian efforts now, including urgent aid for the internally displaced and the refugees in neighbouring countries.

Please do also notify us of your action so that we can inform the churches in Iraq and follow-up on the issue at the United Nations.

In the region that is now Iraq, Christianity took root in the earliest decades of the Christian church, and it is there that some of the most faithful of our communities have flourished to this day. These are the brothers and sisters who are under threat now.

The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Louis Raphael Sako, wrote earlier today that ISIS militants conducted a mortar assault last night that has driven as many as 100,000 Christians from their homes and villages, most fleeing on foot towards Kurdish cities where they hope to take refuge. Those fleeing include the sick and wounded the elderly, infants and pregnant women. The patriarch tells us that there is an urgent need for water, food and shelter.

Churches and property belonging to religious communities are being desecrated and destroyed by ISIS, and ancient manuscripts have been burned as an assault on the people’s religious beliefs. According to the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, Joseph Thomas, whole towns in northern Iraq have been emptied of their populations.

Let us join in prayer and unite in action to restore these shattered communities, and to aid their people.

In the love and service of Jesus Christ,
Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri
Associate General Secretary for Public Witness and Diakonia and
Acting General Secretary

To read the letter in its original format, you can download it here.  (PDF)

Norwegian Church Aid and Ecumenical Council of the Church of Norway Condemn Violence in Gaza

The atrocities of war have reached frightening dimensions in the Gaza Strip. 100 000 people are internally displaced trying to escape the assault, and the death tolls are on the rise. Three out of four that have been killed are children, women andother non-combatants. The widespread demolition of civilian infrastructure, hospitals, clinics, schools, water and sanitationfacilities, threatens the war-affected population’s access to basic services and human rights.

The staff, working at the social institutions of the churches’ in Gaza, tells us that people are seeking shelter in their churches, hospitals and schools. The church institutions are located in poor and vulnerable areas of the Gaza Strip. They report of anexhausted population who has no place to seek protection from the war. Many elderly citizens do not have the energy to flee, and remain at homes.

“Civilians have the right to protection in war. Israel is not doing enough to protect the civilian population in the Gaza Stripwho are trapped in the warfare.” Helland and Hagen Agøy say.

“We strongly condemn the brutal attacks by the Israeli military forces against the civilian population in Gaza, just as wecondemn the firing of rockets by militant groups in Gaza at populated areas in Israel,” Helland and Hagen Agøy emphasizes,as they joins the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, Olav Tveit, in his appeal on 11th of July for putting an end to the escalation of the brutal cycle of violence.

The Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, represented by Bishop Mounib Younan, appeals to all people of good will. “Palestine andIsrael now need justice, peace and dignity and not more radicalization, revenge and bloodshed that follows unilateraldiplomatic or military support to one side or the other in the conflict. Palestinians and Israelis need peace and dignity,”Bishop Younan writes from Jerusalem.

“We are also worried for the security of Israel’s population. But a solution to the repeated attacks against Israelineighborhoods surrounding the Gaza Strip, has to be developed through sustainable political solutions and not by military means, where Gaza’s civilians are paying the highest price,” Helland and Hagen Agøy conclude.