Bethlehem, 30 October 2017 – The Evangelical Lutheran Schools (ELS) in Palestine are comprised of Muslim and Christian students. Within the percentage of Christian students attending the ELS institutions, less than 2 percent are Lutherans with the majority of Christian students coming from Middle Eastern Orthodox traditions.
So why celebrate Reformation 500 Day with so few Lutheran students?
2016 was marked by a historical event when the Bishop of the ELCJHL, The Rev. Dr. Munib A. Younan; Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church; and The Rev. Martin Junge, the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), co-presided in a Joint-Common Prayer in Commemoration of the Reformation in Lund, Sweden.
Bishop Younan and Pope Francis co-signed a statement that pledged to continue ecumenical cooperation throughout both churches.
Therefore, a school with the richness of religious diversity, such as the ELS, provides an obvious ecumenical and interfaith environment to learn about the Reformation.
“We are not here to convert but to emphasize the importance of knowing what Lutheran Reformation means,” (ELS) Director of Education and Educational Programs Dr. Charlie Haddad told the group of 8th-graders gathered in the Dar al-Kalima Evangelical Lutheran School gymnasium.
“This event distinguishes our schools from the others.”
For the Muslim, the Orthodox Christian, and the Evangelical Christian, the Reformation not only represents a theological occasion, but it represents a social change, Dr. Haddad said to the students and teachers.
“The reformation continues as we reconcile with the Catholic church. All churches should talk about reconciliation within each society,” Bishop Younan said.
Bishop Younan said that to disagree is not a license for intolerance and that if we are truly a reforming church, then we are tolerant of other religions, even when we disagree. He urged the students to keep away from religious prejudice and intolerance.
Dr. Haddad offered a cash reward to the top essays from students themed, What should be reformed in my community today?