COCOP Statement on the Annexation Plans of the Israeli Government

A Statement from the Partners of the ELCJHL

“They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, Peace,” when there is no peace.” – Jeremiah 6:14

The international partners of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) at their virtual meeting on June 30, 2020, expressed their great concern about the current political situation in the Holy Land. The members of the Coordination Committee of Overseas Partners of the ELCJHL (COCOP) unanimously declared that the current plans of the Israeli government to annex the Jordan Valley and other parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories are against international law. The concern is that the annexation plans will lead to more political instability.

The members of COCOP express their concern for peace and the well-being of the people living in Israel and Palestine; Jews, Christians, and Muslims. They confirm their solidarity with their sister church as well as with all other Christians in the Holy Land. They also affirm their commitment to interreligious cooperation and partnership in the Holy Land and beyond. They are afraid that the annexation plans will lead to even more Christian emigration because through annexation many parishioners will lose their land. That means the Christian presence and witness in the Holy Land would continue to diminish. This would cause direct effects also on the spiritual life of the people and on the interfaith dialogue.

They are aware that other organization and churches in different countries have already expressed their deep concerns, such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Canada, and the USA, where the COCOP partners come from. They are aware of the Statement of Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches of Jerusalem of May 7, 2020 as well as the Statement of the Bishop of the ELCJHL, ‘Liberation, Not Annexation,” from Pentecost 2020. In addition, there are many other statements, including an Ecumenical Statement from the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the World Council of Churches and ACT Alliance dated June 29, 2020.

The members of COCOP call upon:

  • the Israeli government to stop the annexation plans and end the occupation
  • the international community to put pressure on the Israeli government to hold Israel accountable if they go ahead with the annexation plans
  • the Palestinian leadership to end internal disagreements and to speak with one voice when opposing the annexation plans of the Israeli government
  • Israeli and Palestinian civil society to speak out against the annexation and advocate for negotiations
  • those with political responsibility in Israel Palestine to resume negotiations to resolve the conflict on the basis of international law and of the internationally agreed call for a two-state solution.

It is the hope of the international partners of the ELCJHL that – together with other churches and church related organizations – all those calls will be heard and the requested actions will be taken. The members of COCOP will continue to stand in solidarity with their sister church, especially in her effort to pray, preach, work, and teach the value of life, understand, and coexistence, and to continue to advocate for their liberation and freedom. The partners together with the ELCJHL will continue to work and pray for reconciliation and peace with justice in Israel and Palestine.

Signed by:

  • Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), Chairperson of COCOP
  • Bishop Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Co-Chairperson of COCOP

A Message from COCOP to Bishop Ibrahim Azar

Dear Bishop Azar,

As COCOP partners, we would like to express our appreciation, support and solidarity with you and the leadership of the ELCJHL.

You have had to address numerous internal and external challenges this past year including the situation in Jordan, funding of your important ministries with a skeleton staff, dealing with a global COVID-19 crisis, and figuring out ways to continue caring for the lives of the members of your congregations, employees, students and their families while budgeted income was no longer assured. You did all this while living under the shadow of a challenging pandemic and political situation, which is now culminating in the threat of annexation.

We, therefore, would like you to know that we are united in thanking God for your faithfulness in ministry, and grateful for your leadership under these challenging circumstances. We support the decisions that you have made, including:

  • Raising your voice and reaching out to other faith leaders and the local ecumenical family to denounce violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and we encourage you to continue to do so.
  • The decision taken by the Church leadership regarding the situation in Amman. We know it was done after a lot of prayerful considerations and consultations and in the best interest of the Church.
  • The ELCJHL’s support of her congregations and the most vulnerable families during the COVID-19.
  • The ELCJHL’s emphasis on gender justice, equality, and women empowerment, and we encourage you to continue to do so.
  • The ELCJHL’s approach in dealing with the surrounding turmoil in faithfulness to what Jesus would expect from his church.
  • The ELCJHL’s clear, transparent, and accountable organizational structures and decision-making mechanisms.

We are committed to our mutual agreements with the ELCJHL, and we will continue to accompany you in realizing the ELCJHL’s vision for mission.


COCOP Partners

From Palestine to Germany

Exchange Students Have Lifelong Benefits

Fadi (front left) dancing traditional Palestinian Dabke dance at The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour during a 2016 school performance. Photo by Ben Gray/ELCJHL

Written by Fadi Elyateem

The exchange year in Germany changed my life.

Because of the year, I can speak German fluently, I know the German culture better and now I will always find help in Germany.

The more people you know, the easier and more beautiful your life.

In my exchange year, I lived with two host families. The first host family lived in the city of Xanten, cooked modern food and was atheist. Since I come from a Christian background that was very funny for me in the beginning. Through time, I learned a lot about the atheist and his family. After half a year with this family, I could think differently and critically.

The second host family was extremely different than the first host family. They lived in the countryside far from Xanten, often made peasant meals and was a Christian. I had to ride a bicycle and then take a bus to school. The second family had many children who always ate together. Prayer was given before and after dinner and they went to worship almost every Sunday. This changed my view of other Christian denominations which allowed me to think even more critical.

There was also a third host family. I did not live with them, but played the trombone in their trombone choir. The man was the trombone choirmaster. They always drove me to and from home. With this family I had a lot of fun and spent lots of time with them because we had many rehearsals and concerts. The woman is a professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen and she introduced me to the university several times and I was able to do a language test, which certifies that I am allowed to study at the University of Duisburg-Essen without having any other language lessons.

Xanten is the twin town of my hometown, Beit Sahour. The high school in Xanten also has partnership with my school, the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour. That made it all the likelier to get into high school in Xanten. There I went to an international and English speaking class – a European class.

The European class provided opportunities to get to know more about many other countries. In the class there were 21 pupils representing eight different nationalities. Students from Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Montenegro, the USA, Bulgaria and of course Palestine participated in the class. The exposure to these international students improved my knowledge of these countries.

The Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour is a PASCH school or “Schools: Partners for the Future” initiative. It is a global network of some 1,800 schools that place a high value on German.

PASCH is an initiative of the Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA), the Goethe-Institut (GI), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Educational Exchange Service of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (PAD).

I was allowed to write and complete the language test German Language Diploma Level Two (DSD II). This gave me the opportunity to study all over Germany and apply for a scholarship from DAAD, the prerequisite of which was to be the DSD-II and a student at a PASCH school.

I was awarded the scholarship and a place to study medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Without the exchange year, I cannot imagine what my life would be like.

That’s why I want to thank all the people I met during the year. Lastly, I would like to thank the Evangelical Lutheran School, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and its teachers for giving me many opportunities and for supporting me in achieving my goal.

Many Thanks!

Propst Wolfgang Schmidt Leaves Post at Redeemer Lutheran Church

Propst Wolfgang Schmidt delivers a farewell sermon. Photo by Ben Gray/ELCJHL

Jerusalem – In a farewell service on Wednesday 4 September 2019, Rev Wolfgang Schmidt and his wife Anette Pflanz Schmidt said good bye to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.

Rev Schmidt was propst of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and serving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (EKD) for 7 years. Redeemer is also home to The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

In March, Rev Schmidt accepted a position in Karlsruhe, Germany as head of the Department of Education in the Protestant Oberkirchenrat.

Under the umbrella of the EKD, The Evangelical Jerusalem Foundation of which Rev Schmidt was the propst cares for the spiritual life at the Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem, The Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Foundation which is connected to the Lutheran World Federation campus on the Mount of Olives and The German Archeological Institute that runs programs in Jerusalem and in Amman.

The EKD and the ELCJHL have been in ecumenical fellowship since the foundation of the ELCJHL.

ELCJHL Bishop Azar and Rev Wolfgang Schmidt led the recession of clergy out of the Church of the Redeemer following service. Photo by Ben Gray/ELCJHL

In attendance to bid Rev Schmidt, his wife and sons farewell were representatives from the Twelve Christian Churches of Jerusalem, The German Evangelical Lutheran School Talitha Kumi Principal Mattias Wolf, the Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar and pastors of the ELCJHL, The Lutheran World Federation Jerusalem Program Representative Sieglinde Weinbrenner, other partner organizations, and OKR Rev Martin Puehn of EKD as well a host of guests and congregation members.

Brass for Peace, a cooperative non-profit brass orchestra between students from Germany and students from the Evangelical Lutheran Schools in the West Bank, performed during the reception that followed. Talitha Kumi choir led the congregation in worship.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! I want to end my years in Jerusalem with this hymn of praise! Anette, my wife and I, have received such a blessed time in this city and this country out of God’s hand!

Rev Wolfgang Schmidt

Rev Rainer Stuhlmann from EKD will act as interim propst for one year.

Rev Schmidt’s sermon below: English and German

COCOP Resources

Only participants with the link can view this page.

2020 “Virtual” COCOP Resources

They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.

Jeremiah 6:14

Below, find the Agenda for the COCOP 2020 meetings, held at Abrahams Herberge in Beit Jala for local partners and via Zoom for international partners.

COCOP 2020 Agenda

Each of the following reports is downloadable and able to be viewed on an electronic reader or printed. To download the report to your personal device, click on the arrow pointing “down” in the upper right hand corner of the document.

COCOP 2020 Full Reports is optimized for online reading and includes the Bishop’s Report, the Congregational Reports, and the Additional Reports in a single document. It features internal hyperlinks which allow you to easily navigate between the sections of the report. Simply click on the name of the report you would wish to view in the Table of Contents on the second page. When you have finished reading that section, you can click [ Return to Table of Contents ] to select a new section.

COCOP 2020 Full Reports

The Bishop’s Report, Congregational Reports, and Additional Reports are optimized for printing, but can also be viewed on an electronic reader.

2020 Bishop’s Report

2020 Congregational Reports

2020 Additional Reports

2020 Educational Ministries Report

Bishop Azar Addresses ELCJHL Partners

Bishop Ibrahim Azar speaks to the ELCJHL partners on Saturday, January 13, his first full day as bishop of the church. Pictured, (left) Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Bishop Susan Johnson of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.  Photo by Ben Gray / ELCJHL

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.

Photo Gallery of the Address

Celebrating 30 Years of Ministry

ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan pulls away the veil of the monument placed on site at Christmas Lutheran Church commemorating The Rev. Mitri Raheb’s 30 years at the Bethlehem church as pastor. Ben Gray/ELCJHL

Bethlehem – The Church, community, family, and friends came together today, June 9, 2017, to celebrate 30 years of faithful service to The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church by The Rev. Mitri Raheb. – The Church, community, family, and friends came together today, June 9, 2017, to celebrate 30 years of faithful service to The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church by The Rev. Mitri Raheb.

Sunday, June 4th was the last worship service presided by Rev. Raheb at Christmas Lutheran. Rev. Raheb will remain an ELCJHL ordained minister with a concentrated focus on the Diyar Consortium. Diyar is a collaboration of college, and wellness, arts and cultural centers in Bethlehem for community enrichment.

The small Bethlehem church was packed with beloved friends, parishioners, ELCJHL clergy, representatives from the Palestinian Authority; including the Mayor of Bethlehem, Mr. Tony Salman. The ecumenical public support for Rev. Raheb’s shift from the pastor of a parish to the full-time minister and manager of Diyar was also present. In attendance was the Greek Orthodox Bishop Attalah Hanna, Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabah, the Palestinian Ambassador to the Vatican Mr. Issa Kassissieh, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Christian Relations Mr. Ziad Bandak.

The Finland Ambassador to Palestine, Ms. Anu Saarela and German Representative to Palestine, Mr. Peter Beerwerth came to honor Rev. Raheb’s work in the church and in the global arena. The Coordination Committee for Cooperation between the ELCJHL and Overseas Partners (COCOP), representing nine international Lutheran churches and organizations, also honored the international relationship Rev. Raheb has cultivated.

Rev. Raheb was honored in sermons and speeches for his daily dedication to the church and the empowerment of his people in the face of persecution while living under 50 years of occupation. It was said that his gentle spirit, tenacity toward change, justice, equality and business sense are his marks of excellence. It was said that Rev. Raheb always uplifts others to take pride in being born in the very place where Jesus was born, and to not give up hope in the power of the cross, which he discusses in his latest publication co-authored with Dr. Suzanne Watts Henderson, The Cross in Contexts: Suffering and Redemption in Palestine.

Patriarch Emeritus Sabah, jokingly referred to Rev. Raheb as Obama Obama, making reference to Rev. Raheb’s German Media Award in 2011 given to leaders who demonstrate exceptional excellence, vision, and leadership. In May, the same award was presented to Former U.S. President Barack Obama in Berlin.

There was praise as Rev. Raheb was referred to as a gardener of the people and of the community. He is known for community redevelopment or planting new olive trees where war and poverty had demolished others. His peers were referring to his work at Diyar Consortium as a large part of that redevelopment in Bethlehem. Diyar was created in 1995 out of the destruction from the second Intifada that ravished Bethlehem economically and socially. The center offers a place to create art, learn skills, and reclaim heritage through its many community outreach programs.

This is where Rev. Raheb will consolidate his ministerial and managerial work. It was said that his ministry broadens beyond parish ministry.

He was lauded as a Palestinian Liberation Theologian who speaks unwaveringly with boldness, courage, and gentleness about the plight of the Palestinian people.

The Rev. Munther Isaac succeeds Rev. Raheb as the pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church – Bethlehem.

Arabic Language Press Release:  Arabic Language Press Release

Live Stream:

Rev. Mitri’s Farewell Address:

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”Farewell Address of the Rev”]

Bishop Younan’s Sermon:

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”Bishop Sermon Mitri 9 June 2017″]




Bishop Munib Younan Honored By Westfälische Wilhelms-Universtät Münster

Bishop Munib Younan has been honored with the title of Doctor Theologiae Honoris Causa from the Protestant Theological Faculty of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universtät Münster.

Bishop Younan is being awarded for his reconciling and ecumenical work in the Middle East.  The decision states:

„Munib Younan wirkt als evangelischer Theologe in einer konfliktbeladenen Region als versöhnender Brückenbauer zwischen Religionen und Ethnien. Er lebt und praktiziert die evangelische Einsicht in die grundlegende Bedeutung der Vergebung für das menschliche Miteinander, aus der Versöhnung erwachsen kann. Als Bischof einer kleinen evangelischen Kirche hält er mit hoher theologischer Urteilskraft die evangelische Stimme im Nahen und Mittleren Osten präsent und betreibt aktive Versöhnungsarbeit in ökumenischen und interreligiösen Dialogen und in den Bildungsaktivitäten seiner Kirche.“

“Munib Younan acts as an Evangelical theologian and as a reconciling, bridge-builder between both religions and ethnic groups in a very conflict-laden area.  He lives and practices his Evangelical perspectives in a very meaningful way, through forgiveness and reconciliation.  Though Bishop of a small church, he has high theological power to make his Evangelical voice active in the Middle East, in active reconciliation work,  ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and through the educational ministries of his church.”

This distinction will be bestowed upon Bishop Munib Younan on November 19th, 2014 at the University’s Centennial celebration.

Congratulations to Bishop Munib Younan on this special achievement, which he accepted with thankfulness.

Palästinensische Christen: “Gewaltakte verurteilen und Zweideutigkeit vermeiden”

Bischof Younan: Situation der Christen eng mit der politischen Lage verknüpft

Bischof Younan: Situation der Christen eng mit der politischen Lage verknüpft
Bischof Younan: Situation der Christen eng mit der politischen Lage verknüpft
(Spiegel Online)

Bischof Munib Younan vertritt eine christliche Minderheit in den palästinensischen Gebieten und Ostjerusalem. Offen kritisiert er die Besatzungspolitik der Israelis und Übergriffe radikaler Siedler auf heilige Stätten. “Wer schweigt, hilft den Extremisten”, sagt er.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Bischof Younan, Sie sind evangelischer Christ, aber auch Sohn palästinensischer Flüchtlinge, der die israelische Siedlungspolitik verurteilt. Es gibt Kritiker, die behaupten, Sie seien nur zu 10 Prozent Christ, aber zu 90 Prozent Politiker. Stimmt das?

Younan: Ich bin Kirchenführer. Es ist nicht meine Aufgabe, Politik zu machen. Eine Kirche ist nur glaubhaft, wenn sie der Wahrheit verpflichtet ist. Sobald sie anfängt, Machtspiele zu spielen, ist das nicht mehr der Fall.

SPIEGEL ONLINEAber Sie ergreifen eindeutig Partei für die Sache der Palästinenser.

Younan: Ich bin palästinensischer Flüchtling und evangelischer Christ, ich trage den Schmerz meines Volkes unter meiner Haut. Ich kann nicht dabei zusehen, wie Menschen unterdrückt werden, und dazu schweigen. Der Theologe und Widerstandskämpfer Dietrich Bonhoeffer hat gefordert, die Kirche solle das Gewissen des Staates sein. Ich habe täglich mit drei Staaten zu tun: Jordanien, Palästina und Israel. Da muss ich sagen, was richtig und was falsch ist.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Viele Ihrer christlichen Glaubensbrüder in Jerusalem halten sich zurück, wenn es darum geht, politisch Stellung zu beziehen.

Younan: Sie haben eine Position, aber sie tun nicht genug. Wir Christen aus Jerusalem müssen unsere Stimme erheben für den Friedensprozess. Ich verstehe die deutsche Zurückhaltung wegen des Holocausts und der sehr speziellen Beziehung zu Israel. Wenn ich in Deutschland bin, sage ich meinen Gesprächspartnern immer: Ihr müsste keine doppelte Schuld auf euch laden. Wer wird euch einen Antisemiten schimpfen, wenn ihr auf ein Ende der Besetzung und eine Zweistaatenlösung drängt?

Continue reading “Palästinensische Christen: “Gewaltakte verurteilen und Zweideutigkeit vermeiden””

President Annette Kurschus of the Evangelische Kirche von Westfalen Visits ELCJHL

ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan presents Westphalia President Annette Kurschus with a gift of appreciation.  © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL
ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan presents Westphalia President Annette Kurschus with a gift of appreciation. © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL

JERUSALEM – The President of the Evangelische Kirche von Westfalen, Annette Kurschus, visited the ELCJHL on invitation of Bishop Younan to help nourish and grow the relationship between the two churches. Annette Kurschus, joined by Rev. Gerhard Duncker and a delegation of leaders from her church in Westphalia, visited a number of the ELCJHL’s ministries, including the school in Beit Sahour and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.  The delegation also visited the ministries of the Evangelischen Kirche (EKD) in Jerusalem.

Westphalia President Annette Kurschus preaches with Pastor Ibrahim Azar © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL
Westphalia President Annette Kurschus preaches with Pastor Ibrahim Azar. © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL

President Kurschus and her delegation joined Bishop Munib Younan at a service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem on Sunday, April 7th. The service was held in both German and Arabic with President Kurschus giving the sermon in German and Lutheran Church of the Redeemer pastor Rev. Ibrahim Azar translating for the congregation.

Bishop Younan welcomed the President and her delegation and said that he hoped that the relationship between the ELCJHL and the Evangelische Kirche von Westfalen would continue to grow. Bishop Younan presented gifts to both President Kurschus and to Rev. Gerhard Duncker, who Bishop Younan recognized for his service to the ELCJHL over the years in representing the Church in Westphalia.

To see photos from the event, visit the ELCJHL’s photo gallery.