Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Visit the Holy Land

The delegation of the Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland meet with Sheikh Abed Elathim Salhab, Chairperson of the Islamic Council and Sheikh Azzam Khatib, Director of the Islamic Waqf in front of the Dome of the Rock on the Haram Ash-Sharif. © ELCJHL/Rev. Elizabeth McHan

The delegation of the Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and Bishop Dr. Munib Younan meet with Sheikh Abed Elathim Salhab, Chairperson of the Islamic Council and Sheikh Azzam Khatib, Director of the Islamic Waqf in front of the Dome of the Rock on the Haram Ash-Sharif during their recent visit. © ELCJHL/Rev. Elizabeth McHan

JERUSALEM, 3 April 2012 (ELCJHL) – The ELCJHL was honored to host the Rt. Rev. Dr. Kari Mäkinen, Archbishop of Turku and Finland, along with all of the Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and spouses.

The 21-person delegation visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Ramallah as part of a week-long visit to the Holy Land.

Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan hosted the Bishops’ visit, which included meetings with Israeli and Palestinian Authority government representatives, local and international organizations, schools, programs, and individuals.

Included in the visit were meetings with Mr. Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister for the Palestinian Authority; and Mr. Daniel Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister for the Government of Israel.

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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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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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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.