Statement issued by the Heads of churches and the Council of Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM – On  November 10, 2014,  corresponding to the 17 of Muharram 1436H, a senior delegation of Patriarchs and Bishops of the Holy City and representatives of all the churches in Jerusalem visited the Haram Asharif compound.  They were received by the Chairman and members of the Islamic Waqf Council and senior staff of Awqaf and governor of Jerusalem.
The two sides stressed the following principles:
1.                 The historical (Status quo) situation in the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Haram Asharif) and its courtyard, all buildings, and in the city of Jerusalem, should not be changed;
2.                 They emphasized full right of Muslims to worship and freedom of access to the Al Aqsa Mosque and its exclusive ownership by Muslims of all the world.
3.                 They stressed the importance of the custody of the Hashemite kingdom on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy Islamic and Christian places in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
4.                 They underlined the continuity of the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Covenant that brings Christians and Muslims together as one of fraternal coexistence in the Holy City, which is unique in the entire world.  This covenant respects the rights of Christians to worship and the full practice of their religion.
Both sides committed to pray for the end of injustice and the establishment of security and peace in this city, which should be a model of peaceful coexistence.

Heads of Churches Visit Al-Aqsa Mosque and Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem

Christian and Islamic leaders in Jerusalem pose for a group photo in front of the Dome of the Rock.
Christian and Islamic leaders in Jerusalem pose for a group photo in front of the Dome of the Rock.
The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem visited the Grand Mufti and the Islamic Waqf to show solidarity between the two religions and to endorse the historic Status Quo of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem. (© D. Hudson/ELCJHL)

JERUSALEM – On November 10th, 2014, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem visited Sheikh Abed Al-Atheem, Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Azam Abed Alkhatib Altamimi, Head of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem to show their support for the historical Status Quo and a show of solidarity between the two faiths. The Heads of Churches included His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of the Greek Orthodox Church, and His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal of the Latin Church, His Beatitude Patriarch Nourhan Manougian of the Armenian Church, His Grace Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, as well as representatives from the Coptic and Anglican churches.

Tensions have mounted in recent days due to a perceived possibility to a change in the Status Quo as well as the shooting of a right-wing rabbi who was pushing for a change in the historical Status Quo involving the Haram Esh-Sharif.

“Holy places must not become political. Some are trying to make the political conflict into a religious war where we will all be losers, except for the extremists,” said Bishop Munib Younan.

Under the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, Jordan has custodianship of the Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Nearly two years ago, President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II of Jordan signed a Memorandum of Understanding that Jordan, through the King, is custodian of the Holy Sites.

Bishop Younan spoke out against any changes to the historical Status Quo: “In Jerusalem, it is very important to keep both the historic Status Quo, freedom of religion, and access to Holy Places.”

Bishop Younan and Mainline Evangelical Churches Meet With Grand Imam of Al-Azhar

Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki Stephanous introduces Bishop Munib Younan to His Excellency Ahmed Tayyeb, The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (© Al Azar Al Shareef)
Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki Stephanous introduces Bishop Munib Younan to His Excellency Ahmed Tayyeb, The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (© Al Azar Al Shareef)
Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki Stephanous introduces Bishop Munib Younan to His Excellency Ahmed Tayyeb, The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (© Al Azar Al Shareef)

AL-AZHAR, Egypt – With the help of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), the leadership of the Mainline Evangelical Churches of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Jordan, and Egypt were given a chance to meet with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, His Excellency Ahmed Tayyib, the highest authority of Islam.

Led by Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki Stephanous, General Director of CEOSS and President of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC), and in the presence of the General Secretary of FMEEC, Mrs. Rosangela Jarjour, the heads of churches discussed the significance of Al-Azhar and the significance of the Grand Imam using his authority to speak out for moderate Islam.

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Bishop Younan’s Speech to the Fellowship of of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) On The Ecumenical Response to the Present Middle East Crisis

CAIRO, September 10th 


 

Your Beatitudes,
Your Eminences,
People of God,

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Jesus Christ says to us today, “Get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you.” (Acts 26.16–17)

Today, as I come before you to discuss the crisis facing the Middle East and especially the crisis facing Arab and Middle Eastern Christians, these words of the risen Christ to the Saul resonate for us and for the communities we represent. “Get up and stand on your feet!” “I will rescue you!” There is work to be done in my name.

I have been asked to speak on the ecumenical response to our present crisis. Therefore, my message today is both internal and external, speaking to Christians in the Middle East as well as to the global Body of Christ. An ecumenical response—a response by the entire household of Christian faith—is necessarily global. But the response must first begin with us. As Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3.25). In the presence of these pressing challenges, it is time to get our Arab Christian house in order.

Continue reading “Bishop Younan’s Speech to the Fellowship of of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) On The Ecumenical Response to the Present Middle East Crisis”

Urgent Appeal from the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon to all the Evangelical and Protestant Churches and Organizations Across the World

1. We, the leaders of Evangelical and Protestant churches and organizations affiliated to the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon, have met together at this critical juncture of our history in order to
reflect on the current situation, and on the tragic events that our people in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are passing through. We are most concerned over the great human suffering and political difficulties that our people in these countries are facing. We have deeply reflected upon this deteriorating state of affairs, and have been greatly disturbed and shocked by the ugly incidents of violence that innocent civilians and entire communities, especially Christian, have been subjected to.

2. We also write to you in solidarity with the various appeals and statements that have been issued by the leaders of our sister Eastern Churches, as well as by some Islamic groups, concerning the recent development of events in Iraq; and especially the forced displacement and murderous killings of individuals and groups by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), killings that verge on being a bona fide genocide.

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WCC Denounces Actions Against Yazidis, Christians, and Other Minorities in Iraq

Geneva, 7 August, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On behalf of the World Council of Churches, I am writing to solicit your prayers for the Christians, the church communities and all the suffering people on the Plain of Nineveh in northern Iraq, as well as the surrounding region. Reports in recent days have confirmed the forced displacement and indiscriminate killing of Christians, Yazidis, and members of other vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq as the result of military attacks by the “Islamic State”, a group formerly known as the “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham” (ISIS).

I have communicated with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon, urging him to deploy all efforts to bring a halt to the violence in Iraq and to ensure the physical protection of all people there and support for their human rights including the right to religious liberty. Now I ask for your support, in prayer and advocacy. Please contact your government officials requesting them to:

– Instruct their UN ambassadors to bring the plight of all vulnerable people and communities in Iraq to the Security Council for immediate protective actions.
– Obtain from the UN Security Council a binding resolution that ensures the immediate safe return of all those who were obliged to flee their homes and properties.
– Double their humanitarian efforts now, including urgent aid for the internally displaced and the refugees in neighbouring countries.

Please do also notify us of your action so that we can inform the churches in Iraq and follow-up on the issue at the United Nations.

In the region that is now Iraq, Christianity took root in the earliest decades of the Christian church, and it is there that some of the most faithful of our communities have flourished to this day. These are the brothers and sisters who are under threat now.

The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Louis Raphael Sako, wrote earlier today that ISIS militants conducted a mortar assault last night that has driven as many as 100,000 Christians from their homes and villages, most fleeing on foot towards Kurdish cities where they hope to take refuge. Those fleeing include the sick and wounded the elderly, infants and pregnant women. The patriarch tells us that there is an urgent need for water, food and shelter.

Churches and property belonging to religious communities are being desecrated and destroyed by ISIS, and ancient manuscripts have been burned as an assault on the people’s religious beliefs. According to the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, Joseph Thomas, whole towns in northern Iraq have been emptied of their populations.

Let us join in prayer and unite in action to restore these shattered communities, and to aid their people.

In the love and service of Jesus Christ,
Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri
Associate General Secretary for Public Witness and Diakonia and
Acting General Secretary

To read the letter in its original format, you can download it here.  (PDF)

Bishop Munib Younan Visits Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem

A group of Christians visited Sheikh Abed Atheem, Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque and M. Azam Abed Alkhatib Altamimi, Head of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem to discuss the Israeli Knesset's debate about the sovereignty of Al-Aqsa Mosque. (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)
A group of Christians visited Sheikh Abed Atheem, Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque and M. Azam Abed Alkhatib Altamimi, Head of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem to discuss the Israeli Knesset's debate about the sovereignty of Al-Aqsa Mosque. (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)
A group of Christians visited Sheikh Abed Atheem, Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque and M. Azam Abed Alkhatib Altamimi, Head of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem to discuss the Israeli Knesset’s debate about the sovereignty of Al-Aqsa Mosque. (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)

Bishop Munib Younan and Msgr. William Shomali of the Latin Church met with Sheikh Abed Atheem, Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque and M. Azam Abed Alkhatib Altamimi, Head of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem to discuss the upcoming Israeli Knesset’s evening debate on a bill to end Jordanian custodianship of Al-Aqsa’s Mosque.

Under the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, Jordan has custodianship of the Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.  A year ago, President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II of Jordan signed a Memorandum of Understanding that Jordan, through the king, will continue the custodianship of the holy places in Jerusalem.

“The religious Status Quo in Jerusalem must be respected.  We are asking all officials not to transform the political conflict into a religious one because that is very dangerous to all of us,” said Bishop Younan.

To see photos from the visit, you can visit the ELCJHL’s Photo Gallery.

Christmas Message for 2013

"The light shines in the darkness…"

"The light shines in the darkness…"

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.                                                                    – John 1:5

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

I send you the heartiest of Christmas greetings from Jerusalem, the city of our Lord’s death and resurrection. These greetings come from the whole of the ELCJHL, including our congregations in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and in Beit Sahour, where the shepherds first heard the Good News of his birth.

Sometimes, preachers and teachers try to be creative in their telling of the Christmas message. One of the students in our schools said: “It is the same old message of peace that we repeat every year.” She is absolutely right: It is the same message of our Prince of Peace. Still, had the Church not kept repeating for 2000 years the Good News of Bethlehem, the message would have been forgotten.

Even though the Christmas message is two thousand years old, it continues to touch hearts, minds, and souls around the world. With the shepherds in Beit Sahour, we still hear the Angels proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

In this Christmas message, I would like to share three points with you regarding the current situation in the Middle East. I will address the region as a whole, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the ongoing issues faced by Christians in the Middle East.

The Middle East

The whole Middle East is in turmoil. Some analysts are saying that this turmoil is the birth pang of democracy. While some work to address the people’s demands and build stronger civil society, others are introducing political and religious extremism into daily life. We are becoming numb to the daily reports of worsening conditions. But we cannot be calm or indifferent when we see children, youth, and women becoming victims of war instead of building their futures and their countries.

Continue reading “Christmas Message for 2013”

LWF Concerned about Attempt to Violate Freedom of Religion in Malaysia

LWF Council member Philip Lok, Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore. Photo: LWF/H. Putsman-Penet
LWF Council member Philip Lok, Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore. Photo: LWF/H. Putsman-Penet
LWF Council member Philip Lok, Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore. Photo: LWF/H. Putsman-Penet

Court Rules That Christian Publication May Not Use “Allah” Name

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has expressed deep concern over a Court of Appeal ruling in Malaysia, forbidding a Roman Catholic publication from using the Malay-language word “Allah” for God.

In a 5 November letter to LWF member church leaders in Malaysia, LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge called the ruling an attempt to suppress freedom of religion and expression in Malaysia that could lead to confusion, resentment and discord.

“This ruling … goes against the centuries-old, well-accepted use of the word ‘Allah’ by Arab Christians in the Middle East and other parts of the world; violates the freedom of religion and freedom of expression of Christians in Malaysia; and threatens to create unnecessary division and discord between Christians and Muslims in Malaysia,” they said.

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Bishop Munib Younan Receives Al-Hussein Decoration for Distinguished Service, First Class

Bishop Munib Younan awarded Al-Hussein Decoration for Distinguished Service, First Class

Bishop Munib Younan awarded Al-Hussein Decoration for Distinguished Service, First Class

In a ceremony on Tuesday, September 3rd, King Abdullah II of Jordan presented Bishop Munib Younan with the Al-Hussein Decoration for Distinguished Service, First Class by King Abdullah II.  Bishop Younan was awarded the medal for his work towards peace, co-existence, and interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims.  The Al-Hussein Decoration for Distinguished Service, First Class rewards distinction and achievement in particular fields, including philanthropy, literature, the arts, science, scholarship and education, industry and commerce, or public service.

The award was handed out during a conference hosted by King Abdullah II and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, the King’s chief advisor for religious and cultural affairs, on Arab Christians entitled, “The Challenges Facing Arab Christians.”  The conference was attended by Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, and both Muslim and Christian religious leaders from around the world, including Patriarch of the Holy City and the rest of Palestine and Jordan Orthodox His Beatitude (H.B.) Theophilos III, Armenian Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem H.B. Nourhanne Manouguean, and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Jordan H.B. Fuad Twal.  During the ceremony H.B. John X of Antioch, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, and Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole Levant, were also honored by King Abdullah II.