Bishop Munib Younan Responds to Bishop Eaton’s Letter to ELCJHL on Gaza Ceasefire

Dear Bishop Eaton,
Salaam and grace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I want to thank you for your letter of support and comfort. It comes at a time when we find ourselves in a terrible situation. I have always written that we in the Holy Land are in a continuous state of emergency and this violence proves that we cannot go two years without something that devastates our daily lives. However, despite all of the frustration, depression, bloodshed, and the growth of extremism – which this war will only increase – we in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) continue to be committed to a non-violent witness for justice, peace, and reconciliation.

I have worked towards peace my whole life and it disheartens me to see that in this country the power of hatred is still stronger than the power of love.  It hurts to see that the power of injustice is far more prevalent than the message of justice for each and every human being.  We are appalled to see that the logic of power is stronger than the power of logic.  But we in the ELCJHL will not allow this to frustrate our efforts or our message of peace for all humanity – the message of the cross.  Our power comes from the resurrection and although it seems dark now, the message of the resurrection – the resurrection that took place here in Jerusalem – will revive the power of hope within us.  We pray that this hatred will not be able to grow more even in the midst of occupation and extremism, but that peace based on justice will blossom in this desert of animosity and aggression.  I pray that I will see this in my lifetime.

The ELCJHL has always called for a strengthening of Christian witness in the Middle East. Christian witness is always an instrument of peace. Christians have always worked to be brokers of justice, initiators of dialogue, ministers of reconciliation, and bridge builders between all. This message needs to be strengthened not just in the Holy Land, but throughout the entire Middle East. The King of Jordan, King Abdullah II, said as much when giving the ELCJHL a small parcel of land at the historic Baptismal Site at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan when he stated that he wanted to strengthen the Arab Christian presence in the Middle East.

The ELCJHL has always worked to strengthen moderates from all religions, cultures, traditions, and nations in the Middle East. We strengthen those who see God’s image in the other and who will not promote extremism, violence, or human right’s violations.
The ELCJHL has always worked to make education a priority in the Middle East. All education, including peace education, must be the highest priority of a nation that seeks equity. We do not want or need an education of incitement or of provocation, but an education that will accept the other and to see the other as an ally in building up humanity and creating justice. Instead of using arms, weapons, rockets, or phosphorous bombs, we wish to educate our children towards peace where war and intifadas will be a thing of the past, no longer tools of the present.

The ELCJHL has always called for interfaith dialogue, a dialogue which seeks the common values of peace, justice, co-existence, and non-violence. Without dialogue between religions, extremism will grow and moderates, including Christians, will be sidelined and marginalized in their own societies. It is time not only for governments to assume their responsibilities, but also people of faith.

We would like to ask you that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) may use their power to apply pressure for a ceasefire that will end the siege of Gaza, end the occupation, and create a two-state solution, living side-by-side in peace, justice, and reconciliation, based on international law.

I thank the ELCA for their support of us as a church. I thank you on behalf of the entire ELCJHL for your prayers and comfort. Please greet your churches and congregations and thank them for their support during this difficult time. We pray that you will continue to support us and the Gospel of Love that invites us to build peace wherever we are called, as we pray for you. Let us together revive a spirit of accompaniment that will advance holistic mission, strengthen Christians, and work towards peace based on justice and reconciliation based on forgiveness.

Your Brother in Christ,
Bishop Munib Younan

ELCA presiding bishop joins call for peace in the Holy Land

CHICAGO (E​LCA) – As the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip further escalates, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, pre​siding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), expressed her profound concern for members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land in a July 17, 2014, letter to that denomination’s bishop, the Rev. Dr. Munib A. Younan.

            “Our hearts are heavy as we read about and see images of the violence being inflicted on both Israelis and Palestinians. This suffering and loss of life are inexcusable before God. As followers with you of the Prince of Peace, and as children of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, we long for peace and a just resolution to the escalating conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people,” Eaton wrote, adding that she is responding directly to Younan’s call to participate in interventions and actions “to create hope in a hopeless situation.”
In a July 16 public statement, Younan asked that Christians and “all people of good will intervene in the present situation of unacceptable violence and bloodshed.” He said, “If we cannot take steps towards peace, we will continue to be held hostage by extremism. Please do not leave us alone in this moment of struggle. The whole Middle East is boiling. We need your prophetic voice and support so that peace built on justice and reconciliation built on forgiveness will prevail.”
In her letter to Younan, Eaton shared that “we join you in your call for a cessation of all hostilities between Israel and Hamas and a return to direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace based upon a two-state solution and adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law.”
The ELCA presiding b​ishop wrote that she will encourage all ELCA congregations to continue their prayers for peace in the Holy Land, including participation in “a minute of silence” during Sunday worship.
Although her intended visit to Jordan and the Holy Land scheduled for later this month has been postponed, Eaton told Younan that she looks “forward to our time together.” In her letter, she noted the “steadfastness” of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land: “The church’s strong witness for coexistence grounded in peace with justice permeates every level of congregational, educational and diaconal service. Our faith is strengthened by knowing how, even in the midst of great difficulties, the Body of Christ is working in Palestine and Jordan for the good of all communities.
“Along with the witness of your pastors and lay leaders, your witness, Bishop Younan, has strengthened our confidence that peace can indeed be achieved among the two peoples and three religions that share the Holy Land. Your statements, speeches and sermons have been a model for promoting both political and interreligious coexistence, along with your strong support of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, which you helped found,” Eaton wrote.
The ELCA presiding bishop also expressed her gratitude for Younan’s capacity to uplift “the voices of moderation and against extremism.” She expressed her appreciation in particular for the long-standing work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land’s schools in demonstrating “the importance of education through a curriculum based on peace, nonviolence, peaceful co-existence and the strengthening of civil society for the benefit of all communities.”
Through an ELCA “Peace Not Walls” action alert issued July 17, ELCA members are being encouraged to contact members of U.S. Congress to ask for an end “to the latest round of violence.” The alert offers a sample letter which ELCA members can use to contact U.S. Senators and Representatives, featuring elements of Younan’s July 16 statement that calls for the “immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza.”
Younan also calls for the resumption of direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace; critical support for healthcare infrastructure; material support for interreligious cooperation and peacebuilding through the educational and diaconal ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land; and that the global Christian community, including member churches of The Lutheran World Federation, provide necessary assistance to those who have been internally displaced or affected by the current wave of violence and to help the economic and development of the growth of the Palestinian people.
The ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land are member churches of The Lutheran World Federation – a global communion of 144 churches representing more than 70 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion’s only member church from the United States.

To read the full text of Bishop Eaton’s letter, practice advocacy with the ELCA’s Peace Not Walls Ministry, or read the ELCA’s “Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine,” visit the ELCA’s press release regarding Bishop Eaton’s letter.

Volunteers Commissioned During English-Speaking Service

2013-2014 Young Adults in Global Mission
2013-2014 Young Adults in Global Mission
The 2013-2014 Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) were commissioned for their year of service. (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)

Bishop Munib Younan and the English-Speaking congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) welcomed new volunteers for a year of service in the Holy Land. The six Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) volunteers, known as Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) were blessed. The YAGM work with the ELCJHL’s schools and ministries and worship with Palestinian Christians throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank. Other volunteers who were commissioned were with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Lutheran World Federation, Jerusalem Program. Bishop Munib Younan, Rev. Mark Brown, Church Council President, Rev. Jeff VonWald, Co-YAGM Coordinator, and Revs. Martin and Angela Zimmann, pastors of the English-Speaking congregation, commissioned and welcomed the new volunteers.

“We are accompanying each other with the various gifts that we have and that God has bestowed upon us,” said Bishop Munib Younan during the service. “You have come here to serve as equals with equal partners, to accompany them as they accompany you.”

“May God bless you in this very demanding, but very rewarding, experience.”

To listen to music from the service, visit the ELCJHL’s Soundcloud page.

To see photos from the service, visit our photo gallery.

The Volunteers are Commissioned
All volunteers were commissioned at the English-Speaking congregation of the ELCJHL. (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)

Now what? A post U.S. Presidential Election Message

“Whether you are rejoicing or lamenting the outcomes of the election, or maybe you’re just relieved that campaigning is over, we need to ask, ‘Now what?'” ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson offers a message following the 2012 U.S. elections.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is made up of more than 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the United States and Caribbean.

ELCA, other churches call for investigation of U.S. military aid to Israel

October 5, 2012

CHICAGO (ELCA) – Concerned about the deteriorating conditions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and the commitment for a just peace, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and other U.S. Christian leaders are urging Congress to conduct an investigation into possible human rights and weapon violations by the government of Israel.

In an Oct. 5 letter to Congress, the religious leaders cited possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which respectively excludes assistance to any country that engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limits the use of U.S. weapons to “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.”

The leaders also urged Congress “to undertake careful scrutiny to ensure that our aid is not supporting actions by the government of Israel that undermine prospects for peace. We urge Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.”

Continue reading “ELCA, other churches call for investigation of U.S. military aid to Israel”

Pastor Fred Strickert and Diaconal Minister Gloria Strickert Installed to the English-Speaking Congregation at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, ELCJHL

Rev. Fred and Gloria Strickert, Laying on of Hands, Gloria Strickert and Rev. Elizabeth McHan Presentation Pictured here: Rev. Fred and Gloria Strickert, Laying on of Hands, Presentation of Gloria Strickert and Rev. Elizabeth McHan.

JERUSALEM, September 17, 2010 – On Sunday, September 12, 2010, Pastor Fred Strickert and Diaconal Minister Gloria Strickert were installed to the English-Speaking Congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem. Bishop Younan preached and presided at the service. Propst Dr. Uwe Graebe, representing the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Rev. Mark Brown, chair of the congregational council and ELCA pastor serving as Regional Representative with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Jerusalem, and Rev. Sani Ibrahim Azar, Pastor of the Arabic-Speaking Congregation at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and President of the Synod of the ELCJHL assisted.

Present for the laying on of hands were clergy from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Church of Sweden, the Church of Scotland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the Church of Norway, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) & the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Pastor Fred Strickert, PhD, graduated from Christ-Seminary Seminex (LSTC) and received a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from the University of Iowa. He was ordained in Papua New Guinea in 1975 and rostered in the AELC, ALC, and ELCA. He has taught on the seminary level in Papua New Guinea and India and taught at Wartburg College, in Waverly, Iowa, for 24 years. He has led student travel courses for several decades to the Middle East, Honduras, and Tanzania. He has also published on New Testament and Archaeology issues, as well as the Palestinian struggle including Rachel Weeping: Jews, Christians, and Muslims at a Fortress Tomb (Liturgical Press, 2008), co-authoring with Rev. Mitri Raheb, Bethlehem 2000: Past and Present (Interlink Publishing, 1998); and editing Alison Jones Nassar’s Imm Mathilda: A Bethlehem Mother’s Diary (Kirk House Publishers, 2003) and Bishop Munib Younan’s Witnessing for Peace: In Jerusalem and the World (Fortress Press, 2003).

Diaconal Minister Gloria Strickert, is a graduate of Wartburg Seminary and was consecrated as a Diaconal Minister in 1996. She has served in Spiritual Care in hospitals in Waterloo, Iowa, for fifteen years and previously worked in education ministries in the LCMS and LCA. She also worked in Papua New Guinea for six years and spent a year as a Global Mission Volunteer at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.

The congregation also recognized the many members who were beginning service with an Affirmation of Vocation.

In his sermon, Bishop Younan spoke of the theology of accompaniment in connection to the English-Speaking Congregation of the ELCJHL, saying, “We are very proud that the ELCJHL and the ELCA have together developed a deep theology of accompaniment in which we walk together with love, in faith and hope that, through the witness of the other, God is revealing God’s very self to us… For this reason, we step out in faith to accompany and encourage our expatriate brothers and sisters. So that people who come from various denominational backgrounds and cultures can find in this congregation a home, and here they may experience the love of God reaching out to the world.”

In closing, Bishop Younan encouraged the congregation to remember the element of joy in the parables of Luke 15, saying, “I believe that each and every worship service must be a time of joy as we, together as sinners, experience the power of forgiveness and the strength of God’s love for us. We come here lost like the sheep, and the coin; but we are found by God’s love. We are sinners; yet forgiven. This joyful realization must envelop our lives and send us out from this service empowered by the grace of God. We must go out with joy, proclaiming this love that comes from God.”

The ELCJHL rejoices in the new ministry of Pastor Fred and Gloria Strickert, together with the English-Speaking Congregation at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, ELCJHL.

Click here to learn more about the ministry of the English-Speaking Congregation at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

Faith leaders react to the Free Gaza flotilla incident

The efforts of peace activitists to break the Gaza siege from the sea were thwarted on May 31, 2010, when Israeli soldiers boarded at least one ship in the flotilla and killed at least nine people on board. Here are two responses to the incident from a faith perspective.

Click here for a statement from Sabeel, the Palestinian liberation theology center in Jerusalem.

Click here for a statement from Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, the U.S. partner of the ELCJHL.

ELCJHL’s U.S. partner church leader meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah

Bishop Mark Hanson and King Abdullah II

Bishop Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, joined other U.S. religious leaders in meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan in Washington, D.C., on April 20, 2009. The meeting was a follow-up to Hanson’s January meeting with the king in Jordan. At both events, the king and Christian leaders discussed the importance of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

EEC teaches water conservation in rural schools


by Kendra Kintzi

In a world filled with mounting concerns about the effects of our human actions on the environment, many of our most precious resources have taken on new dimensions of social and ecological significance. As a critical resource essential to the continuation of all forms of life, water holds a uniquely pivotal place in the spectrum of these debates over natural resources. Access to adequate, safe water is one of the most fundamental human rights necessary for the realization of basic human dignity. Yet for many Palestinians, the struggles of water shortage and daily water insecurity are an all too pressing reality.

The primary water source located under the West Bank, the Western (Mountain) Aquifer, is at risk of overuse and contamination as the construction of military barriers and water-intensive, environmentally-damaging Israeli settlements continues, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs. Individuals and communities who are dependent on agrarian or ruminant lifestyles are particularly vulnerable to this infringement on natural water sources, as their entire social and economic livelihood is jeopardized. Given the strictures imposed by Israeli control over regional water sources, conservation education is the only tool by which Palestinians can take action and maintain access to this crucial resource and human right.

Within this context, the Environmental Education Center has worked hard over the past months to bolster and expand its water conservation programs through educational outreach in public schools. In an effort to reach out to more remote communities beyond the Bethlehem vicinity, the EEC started up a new educational program in November and December with students from government schools in the villages of Janata and Rashaida. Within these rural villages, most families earn a significant part (if not all) of their income either from herding sheep or goats, or cultivating local crops.

Staff members visited these schools with interactive presentations to introduce concepts of responsible water management and sustainable water use, involving the students in hands-on activities to further explore the meaning and significance of this important resource in their lives. After these presentations, the students were taken on field trips to the EEC campus in Beit Jala, where they toured the botanical gardens and learned more about water recycling at our waste-water renewal and natural treatment facility. The students enjoyed a picnic amongst the native trees surrounding the outdoor classroom, and learned more about the importance of water for local bird biodiversity with demonstrations from the bird ringing station.

Teachers, principals and numerous parents also participated in a seminar concerning conservation strategies and simple steps that individuals can take to improve community health and protect precious natural resources at their disposal. Although these are only small steps toward restoring equitable water distribution and sustainable resource use, these activities provided a unique opportunity for students to engage with this pressing issue and begin to formulate innovative new strategies to benefit their communities.

Kendra Kintzi is a volunteer at the EEC through the ELCA’s “Young Adults in Global Mission” program. She is a member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Santa Maria, Calif.

ELCJHL welcomes six Young Adults in Global Mission

For the first time, six Young Adults in Global Mission – a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – have been assigned to Jerusalem and the West Bank. For the next year, they will serve in various ELCJHL school and other ministries. The YAGMs recently met with ELCJHL Bishop Younan, who welcomed them and told them of the important role they can play in “breaking the circle of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East.”

The ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program provides one-year mission service and learning opportunities in international settings. As the young adult volunteers offer themselves in service, they also learn more about themselves, their relationship with God and their place in God’s world. Young adults are transformed by their experiences, equipping them upon return to take on responsibilities within the church and to provide a global perspective on issues facing the church and society.