Bishop visits Sweden, strengthens partnership

ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan addressed representatives of the world’s largest Lutheran church body and signed a partnership agreement this week in Sweden.

Speaking before the church assembly of the more than 7 million member Church of Sweden, Younan told the 251 elected representatives he commended the church for its strong theology of accompaniment and hoped that it would inspire other churches. Citing a lack of charismatic leadership in the world, Younan called on the church to address the greed that contributed to the current global economic crisis.

Humanity must have “economics with ethics and politics with morals,” he said. “It’s not how much you can make but how much you are accountable in what you invest.”

His well received address came just days after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and the Diocese of Strängnäs signed a second five-year partnering agreement. The agreement calls for the Swedish diocese to stand in solidarity with the ELCJHL and remember the Palestinian church in its prayers.

Younan and a small delegation are visiting Sweden in order to renew and deepen its partnership with the Strängnäs diocese, with which it has had a relationship since 1981.

“For us in Palestine this twinning with the diocese of Strängnäs is a sign of hope which expresses itself both in word and action,” Younan said. “To be church here in Palestine is to care for people’s needs, their struggle, their sense of powerlessness and their education.”

Education is a particular focus of the delegation. School exchanges have always been a part of the formal agreement between the two churches. Plans are to continue exchanges between Palestinian schools and a school in Örebro, the main city in Strängnäs diocese.

In addition to Strängnäs, the Palestinian delegation visited the Swedish church’s main office in Uppsala, where they met with Archbishop Anders Wejryd, foreign director Margareta Grape and other officials at the church center.

In the Swedish capital of Stockholm, Bishop Younan went to the parliament and met opposition leader Mona Sahlin of the Social Democratic Party. The two discussed the important role of Christians in peace making. That day, a coalition of Swedish organizations revealed that Assa Abloy, a Swedish lock maker, has been operating a factory in an illegal Israeli settlement on the Palestinian West Bank, according to Swedish Radio News. Younan said the situation highlights the need for the church to speak out about ethical investing.

Earlier in the visit, Bishop Younan had the opportunity to preach during the first presentation of a unique mass. The mass, based on the music and liturgy of Palestinian churches, was performed in Swedish at an ecumenical service on Oct. 18 in Stockholm.

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