Dedication of Abrahams-Herberge in Beit Jala

After seven long years of prayer, work, construction, delays, curfews, closures and determination, Abraham’s House (Abrahams-Herberge in German) is a reality at last. On October 30, 2003, the building and its ministry were dedicated to the glory of God in the presence of hundreds of people. Located on the church compound of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Beit Jala, Abraham’s House is a retreat and study center with a guest house where youth and adults of all three Abrahamic faiths can gather to build understanding and reconciliation.

Over two-hundred people from Germany came to celebrate the dedication, representing many churches and individuals that had contributed financially to build Abraham’s House, including the EKD, the NMZ and many other churches in Germany. The Lutheran Church of the Reformation was overflowing with Palestinian, Israeli, German and American people, many of whom sat outdoors or in the parish hall, listening to the service. Rev. Jadallah Shihadeh, pastor of the Reformation church, greeted the many visitors, including several Jewish rabbis and Muslim clerics. Music, God’s Word, messages, expressions of gratitude and great joy filled the people and the church. Bishop Maria Jepsen of the Northelbian Church in Germany joined ELCJ Bishop Dr. Munib Younan and Propst em. Helmut Glatte from Germany in bringing messages, and Rev. Herman Keller of Hamburg, Germany, brought the sermon.

The sanctuary of the Reformation church has also been completely remodeled as Abraham’s House was being built. At the front of the church a stained glass window now towers behind the altar area, showing Abraham welcoming the three angels, as described in Genesis 18. The hospitality of Abraham is the model for what the new Abraham’s House and its ministry is offering to Jews, Christians and Muslims as they gather to know and understand each other, leading to reconciliation. In Abraham’s House the natural stone and beautiful Palestinian tiles and painting combine to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. The guesthouse can hold about fifty people, and the youth housing also on the church compound can hold about forty.

Rev. Jadalah Shihadeh is the pastor of the Abraham’s House and may be contacted about holding conferences or retreats in Abraham’s House or about staying in the guesthouse.; Telephone: +972 – 2 – 274.2613; Fax: 2744.966

Dedication of the newly renovated Hall in Amman

The Lutheran Good Shepherd Church in Amman, Jordan, dedicated its newly renovated congregational hall on Sunday, October 19, after the worship service. The Northelbian Mission Center in Germany (NMZ) generously donated the money for the extensive renovation and Rev. Samer Azer, the church elders and the congregation worked relentlessly to complete the work which adds a whole new dimension to the beauty of the entire church building. As Bishop Younan said, “The congregation hall will now serve the congregational work, the children’s, youth and women’s work, as well as ecumenical relations among the Amman churches and our dialogue with Muslims.”

Representatives of all the Amman churches, Muslim clerics and friends and members of the Jordanian parliament joined with the Good Shepherd congregation to celebrate the dedication. Very importantly, this work and dedication follows in the line of Bishop Emeritus Daoud Haddad’s statement when the congregation was established: “It is mission in the heart of the Arab world.” The ministry which this renovated parish hall will enable serves not only the congregation but all of Jordanian society. The ELCJ center in the Good Shepherd church is a light for everyone in Amman, Bishop Younan said in his dedication sermon.

Many thanks go to the NMZ for the funding, to Rev. Azar, the church council and members of the Good Shepherd church for their hard work in completing this renovation, and to all those who donated gifts in kind.

Installation of Pastor Russel Siler

On Sunday, September 7, 2003 Rev. Russell Siler was installed as the pastor of the English-speaking ministry at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan installed Rev. Siler and many pastors from various countries, speaking in their languages, laid hands of blessing on Rev. Siler as part of the installation service. Bishop Younan and Rev. Siler both preached. Many guests from Jerusalem were present with the congregation, worshipping in the Cloister Chapel of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

Dedication of Dar al-Kalima Health & Wellness Center in Bethlehem

On Friday, September 5, 2003 the Dar al-Kalima Health and Wellness Center celebrated its dedication and grand opening in an outdoor ceremony on the school grounds. Bishop Younan, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb and Dr. As’ad Ramlawi, director of Preventive and Community Medicine at the Palestinian Ministry of Health spoke to the many guests from Palestine, the United States and the Nordic countries. Wheat Ridge Ministries from the U.S., a major contributor to the Wellness Center, was represented by a delegation of eighteen people; Mr. Gregg Smith and Dr. Richard Bimler addressed the audience. Performing were karate students from Dar al-Kalima and musicians from the community. Dar al-Kalima students sang the school anthem and released many baloons. The Health and Wellness Center tour following the program revealed exercise and training rooms, classrooms, and a beatiful swimming pool. “As the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has the theme ‘For the healing of the world’, such a Health and Wellness Center shows that the Lutheran Church’s theology is to care for the whole perons, mentally, physically and spiritually,” Bishop Younan said.

Dedication of Ad-Dar Cultural & Conference Center

On Monday, September 1, 2003, the long-awaited dedication and grand opening of the Ad-Dar Cultural and Conference Center alongside the Lutheran Christmas Church (ELCJ) in Bethlehem was held. Many guests came from Finland (the government of Finland gave generous financial support in building the Conference Center), the United States and other countries to join the Palestinian Church and people in celebrating the event. The International Center of Bethlehem (ICB) is a Lutheran based, ecumenically-oriented institution serving the whole Palestinian community. Through empowering the local community, developing human resources, cultivating artistic talents and facilitating intercultural encounters, the ICB actively promotes the building of Palestinian civil society. Another way of building the society is the Dar al-Kalima Academy which is a small community college facility offering training in music, arts and crafts, media, communication, cultural management, tourism and Christian ministry

Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, Ms. Paula Lehtomaki the Finnish Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, and Dr. Nabeel Kassis, Minister of Planning in the Palestinian Authority, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb along with Palestinian dignitaries, the ICB, church and academy staff celebrated the dedication and grand opening with many guests. Music was provided by the National Conservatory of Music at ICB. Bishop Younan said: “Music, arts and theology will help in building a modern civil society, teaching freedom of speech, opinion and expression. I pray that Ad-Dar would play an active role where the ELCJ is seen as empowering the powerless.”

Visit of the German President to Talitha Kumi School

On June 22, 2003 his Excellency Johannes Rau, President of the Federal Republic of Germany was welcomed to Talitha Kumi Lutheran School in Beit Jala by the students and teachers, Principal Willhelm Golller and Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan. He spent time visiting with children and touring the school complex. President Rau was very impressed by the school which the German government and related agancies help to support.

Visit of an ELCA high-level delegation

From May 22 – 28, 2003 Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and an eight-member delegation visited the ELCJ churches and schools; Lutheran World Federation projects; Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders and Palestinian and Israeli officials. Highlights included visits with children and teachers at ELCJ schools, the graduation ceremonies at Talitha Kumi and Beit Sahour Lutheran schools and a worship service at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Old City Jerusalem, at which Bishop Hanson preached the sermon with Bishop Younan doing the Arabic translation

Women of the ELCJHL Encounters on ‘Reconciliation’

JERUSALEM, April 14, 2000 – Two one-day encounters took place in the Redeemer Church on the subject of “Reconciliation,” one on 19 November 1999 and the other on 14 April 2000. Both programs were launched with brief worship services that were followed by sessions that included expositions and logical disputations on this highly-discussed subject. Women’s physical and mental health issues were explored with the help of professionals in the field of spirituality, psychology and psychiatry. The leaders were Dr. Amal Merizian Khazen, head of the Nazareth Hospital Nursing School, and Dr. Vivica Hazboun who manages the Family and Child Counseling Center in Bethlehem.

Guideline questions for the two encounters were as follows:

  • Where do we stand vis-à-vis reconciliation at the threshold of the third millennium?
  • Before dwelling in general epithets and maxims like “reconciliation,” “peace-making” “conviviality,” “dialogue”, and so on, are women at peace with themselves and with their immediate communities?
  • How does the church relate to women’s mental, spiritual, and physical health needs?
  • How does the environment affect the well-being of women?
  • What does it mean to reconcile with oneself and the “Other”?

Women of the ELCJHL Report of Activities

Domestic Violence

Our women’s committee chose “violence” as a main theme for the year 1999 and held a conference on domestic violence in Haifa 21-23 June. The conference was sponsored by the Department for Mission and Development, Women in Church and Society, Lutheran World Federation.

Stemming from a pressing need for investigation and education, the subject of domestic violence emerged in the light of increasing incidents of abuse and violence reported in the media and narrated by individual women. The 1999 programs included one-day encounters, women’s activities in the congregations, and the three day summer conference.

Eighty-five women participated in the conference in Haifa. Seventy-three were Lutherans representing all of the congregations in the ELCJHL. The others represented Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Episcopal Churches from Haifa.

The guest speakers included a woman lawyer, Ms. Halima Abu Sulb, who is a Muslim. She is a feminist suffragist and works at the Women’s Center for social and legal counseling in Jerusalem. The other guest speaker was Ms. Rana Salfity, a Christian, who is a social worker who works in the counseling and rehabilitation field with battered women. A full report of the conference is available.

A Message from Jerusalem

A Message from Jerusalem
26 March, 1999

We Palestinian Christians of the Holy Land dedicate this day, Friday, March 26, 1999, as a day of prayer and fasting for our city Jerusalem. Jerusalem today, is an occupied city. It came under Israeli sovereignty by a unilateral Israeli decision that violates international law and the consensus of the international community. It is maintained by the power of might rather than justice and right. We therefore declare – peacefully, non-violently and with calm reasoning – that the present situation of Jerusalem can never lead to a secure and durable peace. We refuse to accept it and firmly believe that it is also unacceptable to God.

Israel’s monopoly of control over the Holy City, to the exclusive benefit of Jews, increases tension between Israelis and Palestinians and exacerbates the violence. Israel continues to confiscate more Palestinian land and property for the building of Jewish colonies. It persists in demolishing Palestinian homes and in confiscating Palestinians’ identity cards causing their forced expulsion from the city. Israel continues to close Jerusalem to Palestinians, to deprive them of their livelihood and deny them access to the Holy City even for worship. All these measures, as well as the humiliating and inhumane treatment of Palestinians are in violation of religious, moral, and ethical principles, as well as international conventions.

We reaffirm that the city of Jerusalem is a city for two peoples – Palestinians and Israelis – and three religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism; and that its sovereignty must be shared. We, therefore, call upon the Israeli government to halt unilateral changes of the city’s character and composition, and the violation of the rights of its indigenous people whether religious or political. We also call upon all peace-loving governments, institutions and individuals to continue working for an end to aggression and the establishment of justice.

As we commemorate the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate his glorious resurrection, we affirm, inspired by his great example, the victory of right over wrong, of justice over oppression and of life over death. We live in the hope of a better future for all the people of our region. We pray to Almighty God, to cause a miracle to happen, to bring about a change in our situation and grant our city and country a just and secure peace.