Church of Norway Presiding Bishop and Delegation Visit Jerusalem

Bishop Younan visits with Church of Norway Delegation, including Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien, during their visit to the Middle East.

JERUSALEM, 20 March 2012 (ELCJHL)– A High-level delegation from the Church of Norway, including Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien and Church Council President Mr. Svein-Arne Lindø, visited yesterday with Bishop Munib Younan and ELCJHL Women’s Work Facilitator Mrs. Bassimah Jaraiseh.

Bishop Younan met with the delegation to discuss the present and ongoing mission and ministry of the ELCJHL. Younan highlighted in particular the importance of the educational ministries of the ELCJHL, including the four ELCJHL k-12 Schools who annually educate more than 3,000 students.

Younan focused on the co-educational inter-religious educational environment offered to students in the ELCJHL Schools. Of the ELCJHL’s student enrollment, nearly half of its students are Muslim. The other half of student enrollment represent almost all thirteen church bodies present in the area. Five percent of ELCJHL students are Lutheran.

“Our goal,” Younan said, “is to raise up our Muslim students to be constructive, effective and moderate Muslims; to raise up our Christian students to be constructive, effective and moderate Christians; all together with our Lutheran students in a Lutheran spirit that uplifts equal education and opportunities for its students, regardless of gender, race, or religion.”

Within an area of the world in which religious extremism that sets one religion against another is on the rise, Younan spoke of the ELCJHL’s focus on breaking down barriers, eradicating stereotypes, and raising up students to know and respect one another, finding the common values of love of God and love of neighbor that resonate throughout the Abrahamic religions.

Younan continued, “We are proud to be raising up new leaders who will work with one another for justice, peace, reconciliation and forgiveness in mosques and churches, in schools and workplaces.”

The ELCJHL has a long history of service in education that is designed to meet the needs of the Palestinian people as a whole, through holistic education that develops each student, and works to support a society in which justice, peace, co-existence, and mutual respect can thrive.

Amidst the continued unresolved political situation, the economic effects often reach children first, and their education along with it. The ELCJHL has doubled its local tuition contributions in the last decade, and continues to strive to become financially self-sustaining. But, until the surrounding situation changes, the scholarship support afforded by church organizations, such as the Church of Norway, along with individual scholarship support, is instrumental in sustaining the ELCJHL educational mission.

The Church of Norway and the ELCJHL are long-time partners in mission and diakonia. In recent years, the Church of Norway has been instrumental in funding the ongoing work of the women of the ELCJHL.

It is the goal of the Women of the ELCJHL to raise awareness about contemporary societal issues and the rights of women, to strengthen the social and psychological network among women, and to empower women in church and society to bring about changes in society to positively impact present and future generations.

The delegation from the Church of Norway also included Rev. Jens-Petter Johnsen, Director of Church Council; Rev. Kjetil Aano, Chairman of Council of Ecumenical and International Relations; Mrs. Berit Hagen Agøy, General Secretary of Council of Ecumenical and International Relations; Rev Dr Trond Bakkevig, Convener of Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land; Dr Dr Iver B. Neumann, Professor and research director at Norwegian Institute of International Affairs; Mr. Jan Erik Sundby, Representative of Borg diocese; Rev Dr Anne Hege Grung, Research fellow, University of Oslo; Mrs Gudrun Bertinussen, Norwegian Church Aid representative to the Middle East; and Mr. Sven Thore Kloster, Advisor on interreligious relations, Council of Ecumenical and International Relations.

The Church of Norway delegation visited Jerusalem as part of their current Middle East tour, which will also include visits in Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt.


View more photos from the Church of Norway delegation visit.