Jerusalem, 13 January 2018 – The day after the consecration of The Rev. Sani Ibrahim Azar as the fourth Palestinian Bishop of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), Bishop Azar addressed the international partner churches in attendance for the installation. The international partners of the ELCJHL include organizations, churches and councils that have entered into mutual companionship and accompaniment for the betterment of both.
Representatives from all of the 29 ecumenical partners, member organizations and companion churches attended the first address to them from the newly consecrated, Bishop Azar.
Bishop Azar casually stood in front of the group gathered in the refectory hall of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City without a podium and without notes and greeted the longtime friends and supporters of the Palestinian Lutheran church.
In a gentle and measured manner, Bishop Azar thanked partners for decades of missional work in the region. Peppered with humor, Bishop Azar told the partners that he would implement a new strategic plan for the next five years that would include: Spiritual care for the people of the church, financial sustainability projects, Diakonia to the community, and efforts to continue gender justice.
“Our pastors and laypeople will go where the people are, we will not sit by idly in our churches waiting for the people to come to us,” Bishop Azar said.
During the question and answer session of the address, Bishop Susan Johnson of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the President of The Coordination Committee for Cooperation between the ELCJHL and Overseas Partners (COCOP) asked Bishop Azar which of his many names (Sani Ibrahim “Barhoum” Charlie Azar) should the partners to use.
“In writing, Bishop Ibrahim Azar and in speaking, Bishop Barhoum,” Bishop Azar humbly replied with a smile.
Tokyo, 27 July 2017 – In a ceremony among his professional peers, long-time friends, and his supportive wife, The Right Rev. Dr. Bishop Munib Younan receives the Niwano Peace Prize today for his work toward interreligious dialogue among Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Jerusalem and worldwide. Bishop Younan is the 34th recipient of the distinguished Niwano Peace Prize.
The prize comes at a time when Muslims and Israeli security clash daily in an increasingly tense period in his homeland. Before leaving to accept the prize for his work in this very context, Bishop Younan, together with the heads of churches in the Holy Land, released a statement in support of a peaceful resolution that honors the historic status quo of Holy sites in Jerusalem.
Each year The Niwano Peace Foundation (NPF) of Japan recognizes an individual or organization that has dedicated their service and scholarship to promoting peaceful cooperation among religions particularly in places of difficulty.
With gratitude, Bishop Younan accepted the prize from the Honorary NPF President The Rev. Nichiko Niwano.
The esteemed Lutheran Bishop was selected by the NPF International Committee for his development of and involvement in organizations that foster interfaith dialogue among leaders of the three Abrahamic faiths.
“In a world characterized by leaders who seek to emphasize difference and hatred, Bishop Younan has consistently strived for the opposite. His work emphasizes peace over power and unity over monotheistic domination,” the NPF International Committee wrote.
Bishop Younan is a founding member of several Middle East interfaith groups, Council for Religious Institutions in the Holy Land (CRIHL), The Jonah Group, Al-Liqa’ Center for Religious Studies, and is currently serving two other interfaith groups, The Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, and The Prize Giving Committee of the Jordanian World Interfaith Harmony Week.
One of the practical contributions to peace established by CRIHL is to monitor textbooks in the schools, making sure that the value of coexistence is printed and ensuring that each religion is teaching the basic tenets of the other religions. The Council is in constant dialogue with the Ministry of Education to create a more balanced curriculum that reflects Jerusalem as a place for three religions, not just Judaism.
Bishop Younan stresses the importance of balanced curriculum development in education, “If you show me the curricula, I will tell you what Japan you will have in 10 years.”
The former Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President, Bishop Younan thanked LWF for the international platform that the 145-member churches of LWF provided for the mission of interreligious dialogue toward peace in the Middle East and abroad.
In his acceptance address today Bishop Younan unpacks how the religious and the political intersect and the danger of religious extremism used for self-serving political interests.
“Today, leaders within faith traditions must confront the extremists in their midst. We do this through a witness of robust moderation, rejecting that extremism is somehow the measure of faithfulness,” Bishop Younan told guests.
Finally, he reflects on his faith as a driving force in his interreligious work,
“As a Lutheran Christian, my hope is anchored in the hope of God’s coming reconciliation of all things. This hope is present today, both for our neighbors and for our global ecology and environment. This hope does not separate us from our neighbors but calls us into ever greater concern for their well-being. From this foundation, we embrace rather than exclude, standing for common values of justice, peace, equality, living together, and accepting the other.”
Former Niwano Recipients: Brazilian Liberation Activist and Catholic Archbishop Helder P. Camara 1983, World Council of Churches General Secretary Philip Potter 1986, Swiss Catholic priest and theologian, Prof. Dr. Hans Küng 2005, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal 2008, LWF General Secretary Bishop Gunner Stalsett 2013, Nigerian Pastor and Activist The Rev. Esther Abimiku Ibanga 2015.
Tel Aviv, 16 March 2017 – Jason Greenblatt, the US administration’s Special Envoy for International Negotiations, on Thursday met with senior Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Jerusalem, reportedly calling the meeting “the most important” of his visit.
Greenblatt — a close confidant of US President Donald Trump — hosted the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land (CRIHL) at the US Consulate-General in Jerusalem just before he met for a second time this week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to one participant, Greenblatt said the 90-minute encounter, attended by both Israeli chief rabbis and the chief justice of the Palestinian Authority’s Sharia court, was the most important meeting of his weeklong tour through the region.
“The leaders agreed that the search for peace must be governed by respect for life and human dignity for all people; to work together for peace, reconciliation, and a just solution; and to reject all incitement to violence,” said a statement released by the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.
On his Twitter account, Greenblatt said the clergymen were “promoting tolerance.” He said Thursday’s meeting was the first time the council had gathered since 2013, though o, said this was incorrect.
At the same time, CRIHL member Rabbi David Rosen, and interfaith advisor to the Chief Rabbinate, said Greenblatt’s initiative to meet with the council was “historic” in that it marked the first time in recent memory that a senior US administration official engaged in peacemaking efforts asked to meet with the religious leaders.
Greenblatt, an Orthodox Jew, told Rosen that his talks with Netanyahu, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah were all very meaningful, but that the gathering with the religious leaders to him was “the most important meeting at all,” Rosen said.
Rosen said he told Greenblatt that would-be peacemakers in the Middle East often believe that religion is the source of the problem and therefore choose to entirely ignore it. But that’s a fallacy, warned the British-born rabbi, who also serves as the AJC’s international director of interreligious affairs.
Bishop Munib Younan, who heads the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and is the President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and is a CRIHL member, told Greenblatt that while religious leaders cannot make peace in the Middle East, it is impossible to make peace without them.
The meeting, which was scheduled to last for an hour but continued a half an hour late, was marked by some heated discussions between Muslim and Israel clergymen over who is responsible for incitement, Rosen said.
“But all agreed that they must work together to combat incitement,” he said. “Everyone agreed that promoting values of sanctity of life, of dignity of the human person, of religious freedom and of the protection of holy sites is something that they must all stand together for.”
Rosen, a veteran promoter of interfaith understanding, said he could not tell whether Greenblatt’s initiative to foster an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will have more success than previous such efforts.
“We certainly had enough disappointments here over last decades to warrant a certain amount of skepticism,” he said. “But if we don’t support every possible initiative to bring an end to the conflict, we have our children and grandchildren to answer to.”
CRIHL, founded in 2005, is the “first consultative body representing the highest official religious authorities in the Holy Land (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam),” according to its website.
Members OF CRIHL include both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbis, the heads of the PA’s sharia courts and various local Christian groups, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Latin Patriarchate, the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate, the Anglican-Episcopal Church and several others.
Greenblatt has been shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah for the past few days, meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas and other Israeli and Palestinian top officials.
Greenblatt also met with civilian leaders from both sides. He visited, for instance, Yeshivat Hakotel, a Talmudic seminary in Jerusalem’s Old City. He also spoke to Palestinian youth leaders in the Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah “to understand their daily experiences,” as he wrote on his Twitter account.
He also met with a “cross section of folks from Gaza” who gave him “hope we can find solutions to humanitarian challenges while meeting Israel’s security needs,” he tweeted.
Chrisitan Leaders, Muslim Council of Elders Meet at Al-Azhar: Promote Freedom, Diversity
Cairo, 2 March 2017 – A two-day conference in Cairo, Eygpt under the theme of freedom, citizenship, diversity, and integration was attended by Bishop Munib Younan and 65 other religious leaders organized by Al-Azhar University and the UAE Muslim Council of Elders at Al-Azhar Mosque.
The religious leaders were all given the floor during key sessions to speak about their expressions of the Al-Azhar Declaration of Islamic-Christian Mutual Co-Existence, a six-article statement, which condemns violence in the name of religion – any religion. (Bishop Younan’s Speech)
After two days of interreligious dialogue, the meeting held up the statement from Al-Azhar as a model of diverse religions living together.
Article 4 of the statement emphasizes the protection of citizenship and properties and the right to be “citizens” with dignity, and respect of each citizen’s humanity. Article 4 proposes that these basic statements are the role of the national state, everywhere.
“Arab and Muslim societies have a long tradition in living together with each other by accepting diversity and pluralism,” Bishop Younan said.
Recalling his participation with the Marrakesh Document of 2016, which calls for equal citizenship in the Arab and Muslim worlds, Bishop Younan refuses to use the term minority to describe other religions that are small in number but would rather use the terminology of “citizenship.”
This would be in accordance with the Al-Azhar Declaration of Islamic-Christian Mutual Co-Existence, as well.
50 countries from the Middle East, Europe and, the U.S were present.
French President, François Hollande, met with Christian leaders in Jerusalem on Monday, November 18th, at St. Ann’s Church in the Old City of Jerusalem to discuss the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the issues surrounding Jerusalem.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos, Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal, and Archbishop Youssef Jules El Zereyi of the Greek Catholic Patriarchate, and ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan in speaking with President Hollande about Jerusalem as a shared capital for two states and three religions.
President Hollande told the gathered leaders that France has historically been a protector of Catholicism in the Holy Land and will continue to help Catholics and all Christians who live here. Patriarch Twal asked President Hollande if France could request that funds be earmarked for Christian health and education out of the money that France currently provides to the Palestinian Authority.
Patriarch Theophilos conveyed to the President that the time is now for people and governments around the world to support a Christian presence in Jerusalem so that the legacy and care of Christian holy places could continue, uninterrupted for over 2,000 years.
Bishop Younan addressed the audience about the importance that President Hollande met with Christian leaders in St. Ann’s Church in Jerusalem. Bishop Younan emphasized the necessity of speaking out for a shared Jerusalem, the importance of interfaith dialogue, including the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL), and interfaith dialogue’s role in building up trust between the three religions and their work in peace education.
CRIHL’s recent study of textbooks in Israel and Palestine found that many textbooks in Israeli and Palestinian schools do not support co-existence of peoples or a shared Jerusalem. Bishop Younan and the other religious leaders hoped to convey to President Hollande, those gathered, and to leaders around the world that there will be no peace without justice in Jerusalem, a city that is open to all people, that will be without walls and without an army.
To read the textbook study completed by CRIHL, visit their website here.
In I John 4:20-21, it is written, “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” In the original context, the writer was reminding the early Christians that their declaration of love for God and acts of devotion to Christ meant nothing if they held their neighbors in contempt. In our modern context, we should also understand that the writer was not admonishing the Christians to merely love other Christians, but that “brothers (and sisters)” was meant to convey a needful regard for humanity itself.
In recent months we have seen a rise in the occurrence of the so-called “price tag” acts of vandalism. Since the beginning of 2013, perpetrators committed over twenty acts of vandalism at Holy Sites, including churches, mosques, and synagogues. Recently, the Church of the Dormition on Mt. Zion were prey to this sort of attack. The term “price tag” is pejorative and dehumanizing. It is meant to instill fear in the hearts of the site’s inhabitants that they will “pay a price” for remaining.
JERUSALEM, 3rd June, 2013 – During the month of May an unprecedented number of sites holy to all three religions have been attacked, some repeatedly. Synagogues in Bat Yam and Haifa, a mosque in Umm Al-Qutuf, graves in As-Sawiya, and the Church of the Dormition on Mount Zion have all been desecrated with offensive graffiti. The Council views these attacks on Holy sites as despicable and believes they contribute to a divisive and hostile environment.
The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land calls on the police forces and respective municipalities to do their utmost to prevent such attacks and restore safety and respect for Holy Sites of all religions.
The press release in Arabic and links to follow for more information are after the jump.
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.
Washington, D.C., 29 February 2012 (The American Task Force on Palestine)– The American Task Force on Palestine yesterday hosted a Washington dinner for the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL), the consultative body that comprises the most senior official Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders. CRIHL was established as the implementing body of the historic declaration signed in Alexandria, Egypt in 2002 in which Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders pledged to work together to end violence and promote peace. The event was sponsored by ATFP board member Dr. Adnan M. M. Mjalli and moderated by ATFP President Dr. Ziad J. Asali. Numerous CRIHL members spoke at the event, which was a rare instance of Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders from Palestinian and Israeli societies assembling to promote dialogue and advocate for peace.
In his remarks, CRIHL Convener Rev. Dr. & Canon Trond Bakkevig of Norway noted that his family had lived in Amman, Jordan, before 1967, and travelled to Jerusalem, which is about an hour drive away, on a weekly basis. He said since those formative experiences, he has been committed to seeking peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land. Bakkevig said that leaders in all local communities “need to take responsibility for resolving the conflict” and that what outsiders like himself can do is “help facilitate dialogue and promote understanding.” He said the Council from the outset understood that it had to be based on these local religious institutions, and said the Chief Rabbinate, local churches and the Sharia Council all responded very positively when the idea was first floated and did not hesitate to join the Council. He said it is very significant that many of these religious authorities are linked to political institutions, for example the close relationship between the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, while Muslim and Christian institutions work closely with the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Wakf and Religious Affairs. Such religious leaders “do not substitute for political leadership,” he said, but “they can help guide politicians on religious matters.”
JERUSALEM, 27 February 2012 – Bishop Younan is in the US this week as a member of a delegation from the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) meeting with interfaith and governmental representatives. The visit is centered in and around Washington, D.C.
On the schedule for tomorrow is an event hosted by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) entitled “Preventing Incitement and Promoting Peace: Obstacles and Opportunities for Religious Peacemaking in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”. For more information, see the announcement from USIP below:
JERUSALEM, 20 February 2012 (CRIHL) – Following the acts of desecration of the Baptist Church in West Jerusalem, the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) released the following statement:
The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land condemns the acts of desecration of the Baptist Church in west Jerusalem this morning. The Council calls upon people from all faiths – Christians, Jews and Muslims – to respect all Holy Places and sites for all three religions, and strongly discourages extremists’ behaviour that exploits or involves religion in a political/territorial dispute.
In the name of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, The Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs at the PA and The Heads of the Local Churches of the Holy Land,
The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land