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.

The delegation also met with the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Yona Metzger; with Sheikh Abed Elathim Salhab, Chairperson of the Islamic Council and Sheikh Azzam Khatib, the Director of the Islamic Waqf; and gathered for supper with representatives of the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem.

Mutual words of greeting were shared during the dinner with the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem. At the conclusion of the evening, Archbishop Mäkinen spoke to the church’s call and thanked all who were present for sharing their insights and experiences, saying:

“It is our call to give a voice to the voiceless and to bring light into darkness. This is not possible if you do not hear or understand narratives that are silent or hidden. Thank you for the opportunity to be present with the churches in Jerusalem. We will pray for you and we hope that you pray for us.”

The delegation also visited Christian, Jewish, and Muslim holy sites, including the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock and the Haram Ash-Sharif, and the Western Wall.

The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) in Jerusalem also hosted a dinner for the Bishops, and highlighted the local work of FELM. The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) is a mission organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Founded in 1859, FELM in about 30 countries on five continents. Locally, FELM works together with the ELCJHL and the ACT Palestine Forum, supporting many of the Chruch’s programs and providing staff for congregational work, diaconia, education, and other development projects.

Within the ELCJHL, the delegation met with pastors Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem and president of the Synod; and Rev. Sani Ibrahim Azar, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.

The delegation also visited many ministries of the ELCJHL including: the Evangelical Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah, Al-Mahaba Kingergarten on the Mount of Olives, the Martin Luther Community Development Center in the Old City of Jerusalem, and the International Center in Bethlehem (Dar Annadwa).

The delegation also visited the Lutheran World Federation campus on the Mount of Olives for a briefing on the various projects they oversee.

The delegation also received a guided tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum and laid a wreath in memoriam to the victims of the Holocaust.

As well, the delegation was given a briefing from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

Bishop’s spouses, which included lay and clergy members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, also visited the Helen Keller School for the Visually Impaired and met with Bishop Younan’s wife, Mrs. Suad Younan, who has served as principal of the school for more than seventeen years.

In all, it was a productive visit that further built upon longstanding relationship between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. The ELCJHL is thankful for visit of the delegation, and looks forward to further conversations and work together as the church bodies continue to accompany one another.

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View photos from the various different visits conducted by the delegation from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

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Learn more about the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.