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

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””

Bishop Younan Plants Tree in the Luther Garden at Wittenberg

Bishop Younan plants a tree in Wittenberg and in Jerusalem

WITTENBERG, November 5, 2010 – It was the dove that came back with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak and the sign of hope that must have been to Noah and his family that Bishop Younan reflected on as he planted a tree in the Luther Garden in Wittenberg, Germany in early November.

“When Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow, his response was that he would plant an apple tree. For Noah, the world had actually come to an end. The mythological world of the early chapters of Genesis was now a thing of the past, drown in the chaotic waters of the flood. Yet the presence of a living tree announced the promised future of a world transformed in God. Not just any tree, but the freshly plucked leaf of an olive tree.”

And as Younan planted a tree in the Luther Garden, a garden that will be filled with new and abundant life, seeded by the churches of the Lutheran communio in these years building up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, olive trees were planted at each of the congregations, schools, programs, and partners of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the church in which Younan presides as Bishop.

In his reflection, Younan spoke of the hope for the future that the olive tree continues to embody for the people of the ELCJHL. “The olive tree can be surprising,” Younan said. “A single small shoot growing up from the bottom of an all but dead tree, can signify the beginning of a new era of abundant life, growing for centuries, and providing for generations of families not yet born.”

Younan spoke about how a single small shoot can enliven hope, and planted this new tree “as a visible symbol of the faith, love, and hope by which we pray that God may transform the world.”

Younan ended with verses 8 and 9 from Psalm 52:

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
I will thank you forever, because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

Local church representatives, Mayor Eckhard Naumann of Wittenberg, and Minister-President of Saxony-Anhalt Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Bohmer were among those present for the tree planting.

ELCJHL Meets with International Partners (COCOP)

The Coordinating Council for the Cooperation of Overseas Partners of the ELCJHL (COCOP) celebrated its 30th year of partnership at the recent annual meeting in May at Dar Annadwa conference center in Bethlehem. On the study day before the council meeting, Rev. Hannes Ganssbauer from Germany, who was instrumental in the early years of the partnership, gave the history of the partnership, and Mrs. Aida Haddad, wife of the late Bishop Emeritus Daoud Haddad, gave reflections from the Bishop’s writings. As usual, the group heard updates from the churches, schools and ministries and strategized about future plans. The week concluded with a memorial service for Bishop Haddad at Augusta Victoria’s Festival Hall.