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

Bishop Younan Accepts the Niwano Peace Prize, Today

Bishop Dr. Munib Younan accepts the Niwano Peace Prize from the Rev. Nichiko Niwano during a ceremony Thursday morning 27 July 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Ben Gray / ELCJHL

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.


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Christians and Muslims Meet Under the Tent of Abraham

The Tent of Abraham, Abraham Herberge ministry.


Beit Jala, Palestine – Abraham’s Herberge (Beit Ibrahim) is more than just a hostel, it is a mission.

“The Tent of Abraham”  is a figurative tent that welcomes all into its borders and embraces children of the village Al-Ubeidiya.  The program located east of Bethlehem was created by the staff and committee of Abraham’s Herberge to offer a supplemental education to children in Al-Ubeidiya and surrounding villages that do not receive the resources they need to flourish.  The programs offer English and German, Dabke dance, and an Environment Club.

“The work we have started here is very precious to us because it shows that we are serving the whole society,” Bishop Munib Younan said. “The children are from the Palestinian Muslim community with whom we have had a relationship for over 10-years. The community eventually asked us to come create a program for the children and this also serves as a model of accompaniment.”

The budget received from ELCJHL  partners in Germany and Switzerland help support the program.

On Saturday, April 22 The Tent of Abraham celebrated a Spring Feast where students chanted  Arabic songs, recited poems and danced Dabke. This sort of celebration reinforces a motto of The Evangelical Lutheran Schools that children should be proud of their Palestinian identity which strengthens their power to overcome obstacles.

The Tent of Abraham committee includes Bishop Munib Younan, Bishop-elect Ibrahim Azar, Director of Abraham’s Herberge Naim Muallem, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation Beit Jala Pastor Saliba Rishmawi, and other community leaders.

Bishop Munib Younan was just named the 34th recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize for facilitating inter-religious dialogue in the region.