Bishop Younan Addresses General Synod of the Vereinigte Evangelisch-Luterische Kirche Deutschlands (VELKD)

Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands (VELKD)

HANNOVER, November 4, 2010 – “The unity of our Lutheran communion is our aim, and it must be our goal that no actions or decisions by individual churches can be viewed as divisive for this communion. Because, in our unity, there is a living witness.”

With these words Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) opened his address to the Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands (VELKD) in November 2010.

Younan was invited to address the eleventh General Synod of the VELKD in Hannover during their November meetings, and was pleased to be able to attend.

This visit gave the opportunity for Younan to share his appreciation for the strong support of VELKD as well as to outline more fully the path of accompaniment that stretches out before and beyond the Lutheran communio.

In his address, Younan called for continued partnership between churches in the Middle East, the churches of Europe, and of the world, and thanked VELKD for its commitment to interfaith dialogue.

Drawing his address to a close, Younan addressed the concerns of Christians in the Middle East and the growth of extremism in all religions, saying:

“For me, extremism cannot be fought except with the weapons of education and interfaith dialogue. For this reason, the LWF, VELKD, and ELCJHL must be committed to working together so that churches and various development agencies can succeed in their mission. Education can teach the world to be more tolerant and to respect the rights of the other, accepting the other as they are. Through interfaith dialogue we can understand and accept our differences while recognizing equality in our humanity. This is the reason that in our education we want to promote a theology of creation side by side with a theology of salvation.”


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas congratulates newly elected President of the Lutheran World Federation

President Abbas and Bishop Younan Shake Hands

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, greets Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan at their August 19 meeting. (Photo: © Mark Brown, LWF Jerusalem)

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas expressed to Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan his sincere joy and satisfaction upon receiving the news of the Bishop’s election as the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President at the recent LWF assembly held in Stuttgart, Germany, in late July. PA President Abbas also emphasized repeatedly his solid support of the Bishop in his new role as the LWF President.

The PA President and Bishop Younan met on Thursday, August 19, 2010, at the Office of the President in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Representatives in the delegation were The Right Rev. Dr. Munib A. Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and LWF President; The Rev. Ibrahim Azar, Pastor of the Church of the Redeemer Arabic Congregation and President of the ELCJHL Synod; Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, Chief Executive Officer of Augusta Victoria Hospital; and The Rev. Mark Brown, Regional Representative, LWF Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority representatives present were PA President Mahmoud Abbas; Dr. Mahmoud Habash, Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs; Dr. Saeb Erekat, Head of the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department; and Mr. Ziad Bandak, Advisor to the President on Christian Affairs.

Discussions focused on the constituency of the LWF, highlighting growing Lutheran communities in Asia and Africa; the significance of the recent LWF elections; and the importance of an Arab-Palestinian Christian holding the position of President of the LWF.

The President emphasized the major role Bishop Younan will play as the LWF President in offering encouragement and direction in the upcoming peace talks, and reiterated the importance of the church as a promoter of moderation in the region. Mr. Ziad Bandak, Advisor to the President on Christian Affairs, highlighted the positive political and economic role the Lutheran Church plays in all the areas where it serves.

Bishop Younan informed the President of the official position of the LWF on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The LWF calls for a two state solution based on the 1967 borders where the Palestinians and Israelis are living side by side in peace, justice and reconciliation, a halt to settlement activities, the sharing of Jerusalem as a capital for two states, a political solution for the refugees, and a sharing of natural resources. The PA President was highly supportive in its position on final status issues of the conflict.

The PA President, Bishop Younan, and the delegation also discussed the programs of the LWF and the ELCJHL in Jerusalem, including the vital role of the Augusta Victoria Hospital, the importance of the Mount of Olives Housing Project, and plans of the ELCJHL to develop within Jerusalem’s Old City a school of nursing with a specialization in gerontology.

President Abbas ended the meeting by affirming the role of Bishop Younan as an exemplary ambassador for peace, justice and moderation, and expressed full confidence in the Bishop to represent the whole of the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians alike, in his person as he travels through the LWF fields of operation and elsewhere in the world.

The Lutheran World Federation Returns to Lund to Celebrate 60th Anniversary

Over 100 Lutheran Church Leaders Will Join LWF Council

GENEVA, 18 March 2007 (LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) returns to the Swedish city of Lund, to celebrate its 60th anniversary at the place where it was founded in 1947.

“Living in Communion in the World Today” is the theme of the 20-27 March LWF Council meeting, which will also include a church leadership consultation.

The 49-member LWF Council governs the LWF between Assemblies, normally held every six years. It meets every 12 to 18 months. The current Council was elected during the July 2003 LWF Tenth Assembly in Winnipeg, Canada. It comprises the President, Treasurer as well as ordained and lay persons from among the 140 LWF member churches. As this year’s meeting includes the anniversary celebrations, over 450 participants are expected, among them 105 Lutheran church leaders.

The consultation between the Council and the worldwide Lutheran leadership will start on Wednesday, 21 March. Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari will address the participants during the 24 March session on the “House of Europe.” Sunday, 25 March, is dedicated to the festive anniversary celebrations, which will take place in the Lund Cathedral and at the Lund University campus.

Talking to Lutheran World Information (LWI) ahead of the Council and Church Leadership Consultation, LWF General Secretary, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko underlined the importance of the international consultation: “I hope we can continue to build and strengthen Lutheran identity for the sake of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church of which the Lutheran communion is an inseparable part,” he said.

Read the full article at the Lutheran World Federation website.

The Church: Called to a Ministry of Reconciliation

The closing day of the weeklong LWF Council Annual Meeting began with a prayer service at the wall, praying for an end to divisions, walls, violence and occupation. It ended with the Council adopting a statement calling for the end of the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a two-state solution with a shared Jerusalem. Holding the Annual Meeting in the Holy Land was important for the 170 people gathered, participants and hosts alike.

Bishop Younan, at an opening press conference in Jerusalem Aug 30, thanked the Council for coming to the cradle of Christian faith where Palestinian Christians have been custodians of the faith from the beginning:

LWF President Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA; LWF Vice-Chair Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL and the Rev. Ishmael Noko, LWF General Secretary led the prayer service at the Wall near the entrance to Bethlehem. Photo by LWF/D.-MGrotzsch.

Our roots are here.
Your roots are here.
By coming here you tell us
that we are not alone.
–ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan, LWF Vice Chair

The LWF Council held its Annual Meeting in Jerusalem and Bethlehem from August 30 – September 6, gathering 170 people from the almost 70 million Lutherans they represent worldwide in almost 80 countries. President Hanson said that their presence in the Holy Land was a way to stand in solidarity with the ELCJHL: “to be present here, accompanying one another, learning from one another while standing shoulder to shoulder in the context of the other.”

Many expressed shock and outrage at the Wall and how it was affecting daily life by splitting families from their churches, land, jobs and communities. “How can this be happening in this day and age?” asked one conference participant. She said she understood the need for Israeli security and fighting terrorism, but punishing a whole people for the acts of a few was illegal and immoral.

Visits to Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met an LWF delegation led by President Bishop Mark S. Hanson; General Secretary Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko; and Vice-President for the Asia region, Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan in the PA offices in Gaza City September 3. He praised the LWF for its continued efforts to work for peace, justice and reconciliation in the region, and presented Bishops Hanson and Younan with Bethlehem 2000 Medal for their work.

“I know how much you are doing for our people, [for] Muslims and Christians, and Jerusalem,” Abbas told them. They spoke about the Middle East peace process, prospects for Lutheran schools, services offered by the LWF-run Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, and inter-faith relations.

Concerning the recent Israeli withdrawal from Gaza settlements, Abbas stressed the need to “take the momentum and work very hard to return to the Roadmap for Peace,” developed by the United States, in cooperation with Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations (the Quartet), for a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Much has changed [but] much remains to be done,” he said.

General Secretary Ismael Noko expressed his gratitude to the PA President for the Palestinians’ gesture of welcome to the LWF Council and solidarity with the ELCJHL. He said the venue of the meeting was an opportunity for representatives of LWF member churches worldwide to share the experiences of the Palestinian people with their churches.

Visit to Israeli President Moshe Katsav

The same leaders met with Israeli President Moshe Katsav to discuss the future of Middle East peace, conditions of the Palestinian people and the status of the AVH tax case.

Katsav spoke of the importance and the trauma of the Gaza disengagement for his people, and said that because of this a “historic opportunity” is here that the Palestinians should now take hold of. He said that President Abbas must now get terrorism under control, which Katsav believes he can do. He also said that the suffering, injustice and harsh realities of the Palestinians were brought on by the Palestinians and their terror. Bishop Younan said that the security of Israelis and the freedom and justice of the Palestinians were dependent on the other. Younan told Katsav that local religious leaders have started a “Council for Religious Leadership in the Holy Land” to promote greater religious understanding.

They urged the President to intervene on behalf of the AVH tax case in which the Israeli government is attempting to revoke a decades-long tax exemption that has allowed the hospital to function. Israel says that all other hospitals pay taxes and AVH should be no exception. LWF Area Representative the Rev. Mark Brown pointed out that other Israeli hospitals are entitled to benefits and resources that AVH would not be able to enjoy. He also cited the poor economic conditions the patient base lives in:

“The hospital is unique. We’re serving people who are not part of the national health insurance who have little or no capacity to pay,” Brown said of the AVH’s services that include cancer treatment and kidney dialysis.

Visits with Church and Political Leaders in Jordan

This same group of leaders traveled to Jordan the weekend before the Annual Council Meeting began. They discussed the role of faith communities in promoting a culture of non-violence, respect for all religions and peaceful co-existence with Jordanian government officials in Amman.

At a meeting with Jordanian Prime Minister Adnan Badran, delegation leaders Hanson, Noko and Younan commended Jordan’s contribution to the Middle East peace process, especially its support for inter-religious dialogue and far-reaching efforts to promote a culture of non-violence in resolving conflict. The meeting with Badran who is also Minister of Defence was also attended by Foreign Minister Farouq Qasrawi.

The representatives of the Jordanian government and king commended the LWF for its support to Palestinian refugees over several decades especially through humanitarian relief work. They also expressed willingness to work with the ELCJHL and the LWF on joint efforts to promote practical religious co-existence.

During separate meetings with the king’s personal envoy Prince Ghazi, and advisor, Mr Akel Biltaji, the significance of religious education in early schooling was discussed. Jordan, the LWF delegation learned, is involving students in education projects that promote religious tolerance. The LWF leaders also commended Jordan’s role as the custodian of holy sites in the Holy Land.

His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi, personal envoy and special advisor to King Abdullah, spoke frankly of the situation in Israel and the West Bank, emphasized the Royal Family’s interest in peaceful relations between Muslims and Christians, and sought formally to work with Lutherans to promote greater understanding.

Ghazi said Jordan is particularly concerned about the West Bank separation barrier which makes a two-state solution between Palestinians and Israelis impossible.

The prince proposed a Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, which attempts to avoid “a clash of civilizations” and depoliticizes religion. There is a growing awareness among Muslims that there needs to be dialogue with Christians and others, he said. Education is also important for Muslims to promote greater understanding with others. Seven “principles” of emphasis for Muslims the prince highlighted were: no terrorism, no offensive jihad, good citizenry, the possibility of democracy, respect for religions, human rights and women’s rights, he said. “Those are seven issues we think we can deliver through education,” he said. Taken from stories by John Brooks, ELCA News Director