Prayer of Mourning for Lebanon

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. Psalm 57:1-2

Dear partners in ministry,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you to share the news of a terrible tragedy in Lebanon. On the evening of August 4, two explosions in the port area of downtown Beirut created widespread destruction, injury and death. As you have likely seen on international news reports, the second explosion leveled the area around the port, tossing cars and blowing out buildings. The toll in human lives is yet to be known, but as of this writing, more than 100 people are dead, more than 4,000 injured, and hundreds more are still missing. The official cause of these explosions has not been confirmed, but it may have been an accident due to a fire in the vicinity of buildings containing highly explosive substances.

Although there is no institutional Lutheran presence in Lebanon, we are in partnership with a number of Christian ministries in Beirut, including the Evangelical National Church of Beirut, the All Saints Anglican Church Beirut, the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical
Churches, and the Near East School of Theology, a seminary which a number of our ELCJHL pastors have attended. As of now, we do not know of any casualties in these communities, but some of their buildings sustained significant damage. And, of course, the nation of Lebanon has been greatly struggling in recent weeks with the economic and health effects of COVID-19, and with political turmoil. In addition to the loss of life, the infrastructure of Beirut has been significantly affected, including damage to hospitals and to the port area itself, which handles imports of necessary basics such as wheat.

I share this to give you a sense of the extent of this crisis, which is still developing, and to ask you to join me in prayers for our partners in ministry in Beirut and for the Lebanese people. This coming Sunday, August 9, our worship services in all of the ELCJHL congregations will pray for the victims of the Lebanon disaster, and we will hold a special offering to raise funds to support our partner churches in Lebanon as they serve their communitiesaffected by this tragedy. We pray that you will join us in answering the call to serve our neighbors.

In Christ,

Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar

Mais: I Will Not Leave My Home

Voices of the Living Stones: Stories from the ELCJHL

Before dawn on the morning of Wednesday, July 1, soldiers of the Israeli Occupation entered the Fadaiel home in the al-Tirah neighborhood of Ramallah. Mais Fadaiel, a rising 8th grade student at the Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah, was at home with her mother, Haneen Nassar Fadaiel. The soldiers asked Mais’ mother for her identification and cell phone and told her to come with them. She simply asked for five minutes to get dressed.

As Haneen dressed, she comforted Mais, telling her daughter not to cry. The soldiers then bound Haneen and took her away, leaving 14-year-old Mais alone in the house. Desperate to say one last goodbye to her mother and wondering what would happen to her in Israeli detention, Mais followed the soldiers out to the street. The soldiers then fired a sound bomb at Mais, but she remained on her feet, refusing to run and hide.

The early morning arrest is not new to Mais or her family, but rather part of a long history of injustice perpetrated by the Israeli Occupation. “I kept thinking of a sentence one of the officers said to me – that history repeats itself,” Mais recalled as she described the events of that morning.

The Fadaiel Family: Haneen, Rami, and Mais

Mais’ father, Rami Fadaiel, was not present the morning of Haneen’s arrest because he is currently a prisoner of the Occupation, held in administrative detention for the last 20 months. Administrative detention, wherein a person is held without trial or charges on the allegation that the person plans to commit a future offense, is a tactic frequently used by the Israeli Occupation to hold thousands of Palestinians for lengthy periods of time. In fact, Mais has only spent a cumulative three years with her father, as he’s spent most of her life in and out of detention. There are very few pictures of the young family together and the gaps between the photos stretch months or even years, representing the time Rami has been held away from his wife and young daughter.

The family’s memory of unjust detention stretches back even further, however, with eerie echoes to Mais’ situation today. More than 30 years ago, in 1989, Mais’ maternal grandparents were arrested from their home in the predawn hours, leaving her mother Haneen and her uncle (then ages five and four, respectively) alone in the house. The children went to live with their grandparents for the 5 years their parents were imprisoned, leaving thire family home abandoned. Mais grew up knowing her mother’s story, and she refuses today to let history repeat itself by leaving her own family home.

Although she is only 14, Mais shows a remarkable resilience born of this family history of strength in the face of injustice. Mais stays in her family home alone in order to protect her family’s dignity and pride, refusing to abandon the house. In doing so, she keeps the spirit of her family alive and clings to the hope that they might soon be reunited.

Mona Fadaiel, Mais’ grandmother, believes that the arrest of Haneen was especially painful for Mais, as it left her without any parental care. “Where is the humanity?” she asks of the Israeli Occupation. “Is this not a crime against children for which the Occupation must be held accountable?”

Thankfully, Haneen Nassar Fadaiel was released from Israeli detention on Monday, July 20. After a total of 19 days living in her home alone, Mais was reunited with her mother. Rami Fadaiel remains in administrative detention, separated from his wife and daughter.

The Fadaiel family is a Palestinian Christian family living in the al-Tirah neighborhood of Ramallah, in the West Bank. Mais Fadaiel, age 14, is a student at the Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah. She will be in 8th grade for the 2020-2021 school year. Her mother, Haneen Nassar Fadaiel, is a graduate of the School of Hope and serves on the Parents’ Council of the school. Mais’ maternal grandmother, Maha Nassar, was also a physics teacher at the school.

Unfortunately, the story of the Fadaiel family is not unique. Arbitrary detention and early morning raids are common occurrences in Palestine as a result of the Israeli Occupation. We ask for your continued prayers for the Fadaiel family and that all those held in captivity are reunited with their families.

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

Congratulations to Pastor Rodny Said

Meet the ELCJHL’s Newest Pastor!

On Sunday, June 28, Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar ordained Rodny Samir Rafiq Said as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. The service of ordination was held at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Church of the Redeemer has a special significance to Pastor Rodny, as it is Pastor his home congregation. He grew up attending services with his family in the historic building, learning the stories of the faith alongside the stories of his people. Pastor Rodny was surrounded by faith and hope even amid the challenging circumstances that embody life as a Palestinian Christian.

As he grew, Pastor Rodny became involved with the Sahiroon Youth Training Program, a program of the ELCJHL Youth Desk. Along with the other young people of the church, he participated in activities and training sessions that encouraged his leadership potential. Now, one of Pastor Rodny’s goals is to revitalize the Sahiroon Youth Training program and encourage other young people to find leadership positions in the church and society.

Pastor Rodny attended Bethlehem University for three terms before moving to Canada to attend Wilfrid Laurier University / Martin Luther University College. During his time in Canada, Pastor Rodny remained involved with the church and volunteered as a translator and interpreter with the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support (MCRS), helping to support refugees in their immigration process.

At Martin Luther University College, Pastor Rodny also sang in the Inshallah Choir, a community choir of more than 130 voices that gathers to sing songs of praise and pray, of joy and lament. The choir sings song from around the world and focuses on exploring multicultural diversity.

Pastor Rodny graduated from Wilfried Laurier University with a Bachelors degree in Christian Studies and Global Citizenship in 2017, and he continued on at Martin Luther University College to receive a Masters of Divinity in 2020.

After graduating from seminary, Pastor Rodny returned to Palestine and served as the Vicar for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour, under the guidance of Pastor Munther Isaac. He is excited to continue to deepen relationships with the congregation and school at Beit Sahour and to participate in God’s mission in the Holy Land.

Together with the Bishop, the other pastors of the ELCJHL, and the entirety of the membership of the church, we celebrate what God has already done in Pastor Rodny’s life and look forward to his leadership and service in the future.

Congratulations to the 2020 Graduates of the Lutheran Schools

(English Follows)

تهنئة بالنجاح والتفوق لطلبة الثانوية العامة “انجاز” في المدارس الانجيلية اللوثرية في رام الله وبيت لحم وبيت ساحور وبيت جالا

القدس – يتقدم سيادة المطران سني-ابراهيم شارلي عازر، مطران الكنيسة الإنجيلية اللوثرية في الأردن والأراضي المقدسة والمجلس والمجمع الكنسي باحر التهاني والتبريكات الى طلاب وطالبات الثانوية العامة انجاز بفرعيه العلمي والأدبي في جميع المدارس الانجيلية اللوثرية في رام الله وبيت لحم وبيت ساحور وبيت جالا على النجاح الباهر الذي حققوه في امتحان شهادة الثانوية العامة  “انجاز” حيث حصد الكثير من طلابنا على علامات متفوقة كان اعلاها الطالب علي توفيق سلمان الذي حصل على معدل 98.9 الفرع العلمي واحتل المرتبة الخامسة مكرر على محافظة بيت لحم وبفارق بسيط حصل الطالب جوزيف أمير رشماوي على معدل 98.6  الفرع العلمي ويحتل المرتبة السابعة على محافظة بيت لحم.  

متمنينا لهم جميعا دوام التقدم والنجاح والتوفيق في متابعة دراساتهم وحياتهم المستقبلية لخدمة شعبهم ووطنهم.

كما ويتقدم سيادة المطران من مدير التربية في المدارس الانجيلية اللوثرية ومن مدراء كل من مدرسة الرجاء الإنجيلية اللوثرية – رام الله، ومدرسة دار الكلمة الإنجيلية اللوثرية – بيت لحم، والمدرسة الإنجيلية اللوثرية – بيت ساحور، ومدرسة طاليثا قومي – بيت جالا والى جميع أعضاء الهيئة التدريسية والتربوية وأهالي الطلاب باحر التهاني والشكر الجزيل على كافة الجهود التي بذلوها لإنجاز هذه النتيجة المشرفة.  بارككم الله جميعا .لما فيه خير مدارسنا وطلابنا وطالباتنا ووطننا العزيز

Congratulations on the Success and Excellence of the Students of the Lutheran Schools in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala on their “Injaz” Exams

Bishop Sani Ibrahim Charlie Azar, on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Church Council, and the congregations, extends the warmest congratulations and blessings to the high school graduates for their achievement on the “Injaz” graduation exams, in both the scientific and literary tracks. In all of the Lutheran Schools the students achieved impressive success in the “Injaz” exams. Many of our students obtained excellent marks, the highest of which was Ali Tawfiq Salman, who received a score of 98.9 on the exam in the scientific track and ranked fifth among all the students in the Bethlehem Governorate. With only a slight difference in score, the student Joseph Amir Rishmawi scored 98.6 on the exam in the scientific track and ranked seventh in the Bethlehem Governorate.

We wish all the graduates continuous progress and success in their future studies, pursuits, and lives as they serve their people and their homeland.

The Bishop, the Director Education of the Evangelical Lutheran Schools, and the Principals of each of the Evangelical Lutheran Schools (The Evangelical Lutheran School of Hope – Ramallah, the Dar al-Kalima Evangelical Lutheran School – Bethlehem, the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour, and Talitha Kumi School – Beit Jala) the warmest congratulations and thanks to all the members of the teaching and educational staff and to the the families of the students for all their efforts to achieve this honorable result.

May God bless you all, for the good of our schools, students, and our dearest homeland.

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.

Sincerely,

COCOP Partners

In Response to the Decision Concerning Jaffa Gate

Joint Statement from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

We, the Heads of the Churches and Christian Communities in Jerusalem, stand united in our commitment to safeguard the historical Status Quo of the Holy Sites and rights of the Churches which are universally recognized.

The case of Jaffa Gate threatens this Status Quo. We are concerned by the recent judgment of the District Court of Jerusalem, which dismissed evidence demonstrating the Greek Orthodox Church case. We strongly support the efforts of the Greek Orthodox Church in their plea for justice.

We don’t see this case as a mere property dispute. We see the undertaking of radical groups to take control of properties at Jaffa Gate as a systematic attempt to undermine the integrity of the Holy City, to obstruct the Christian pilgrim route, and to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem.

This case does not affect only the Greek Orthodox Church and its properties. It will harm also the peaceful nature of coexistence among the communities for which Jerusalem has been known.

We call on the Israeli government to act in order to safeguard the integrity of the Christian heritage and patrimony in the Old City, as well as the Holy Sites and the rights of the residents of the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem.

These are places which over two billion Christians around the world look at as the very heart of their faith; which millions of Christian pilgrims visit each year; and in which the local Christians live out their faith.

Together with the Prophet Amos, we cry: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

  • Patriarch Theophilos III, Greak Orthodox Patriarchate
  • Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
  • Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Adminstrator, Latin Patriarchate
  • Fr. Francesco Patton, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
  • Archbishop Anba Antonious, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
  • Archbishop Gabriel Daho, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
  • Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
  • Archbishop Yaser Al-Ayash, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriachate
  • Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
  • Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
  • Bishop Ibrahim Sani Azar, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
  • Father Ephram Samaan, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
  • Rt. Rev. Joseph Nersès Zabarian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

The Ordination of Rodny Said

A Joyous Occasion!

Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land cordially invites you to the Ordination Service of Vicar Rodny Samir Rafiq Said. The service will be held on Sunday, June 28th, 2020, at 4:00pm at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem.

A reception will follow at the Church Hall after the service.

Your presence is a joy for us! Alf mabrouk, Vicar Rodny!