Church Council from Church of Norway Visits ELCJHL Church Council

Bishop Munib Younan addresses the assembled Church Councils. (© D. Hudson/ELCJHL)
Bishop Munib Younan addresses the assembled Church Councils. (© D. Hudson/ELCJHL)
Bishop Munib Younan addresses the assembled Church Councils. (© D. Hudson/ELCJHL)

BEIT JALA – Bishop Atle Sommerfeldt, Bishop of the Diocese of Borg, Church of Norway, and the Church Council from the same region visited the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan of the Holy Land from Thursday, February 26th, 2015 to March 2nd, 2015 in a bid to strengthen their relationship and to learn more about the operation of each church’s council.

The meeting included discussions on being the Lutheran Church in each church’s unique context as well as finding new ways in which the churches could further develop cooperation between not only each Church Council, but between the church bodies as a whole.

Bishop Younan remarked on the visit: “This is a remarkable thing that we have really met the two church councils – with our ELCJHL pastors – and have discussed the issue of Lutheran identity in both Norwegian and Palestinian contexts.  We have seen both the similarities and differences.  Meetings of church councils will only deepen the relationship between the two churches.  I am asking others to seriously think of adopting an agenda where church councils have the opportunity to meet – worshipping with us and seeing our reality as well as discussing issues of concern, differences, and even issues of disagreement in each church deepens our sense of communion.”

Bishop Munib Younan and the ELCJHL thank Bishop Atle Sommerfeldt and the Church Council of the Diocese of Borg for their visit and for further deepening the relationship between the two churches.

Norwegian Church Aid and Ecumenical Council of the Church of Norway Condemn Violence in Gaza

The atrocities of war have reached frightening dimensions in the Gaza Strip. 100 000 people are internally displaced trying to escape the assault, and the death tolls are on the rise. Three out of four that have been killed are children, women andother non-combatants. The widespread demolition of civilian infrastructure, hospitals, clinics, schools, water and sanitationfacilities, threatens the war-affected population’s access to basic services and human rights.

The staff, working at the social institutions of the churches’ in Gaza, tells us that people are seeking shelter in their churches, hospitals and schools. The church institutions are located in poor and vulnerable areas of the Gaza Strip. They report of anexhausted population who has no place to seek protection from the war. Many elderly citizens do not have the energy to flee, and remain at homes.

“Civilians have the right to protection in war. Israel is not doing enough to protect the civilian population in the Gaza Stripwho are trapped in the warfare.” Helland and Hagen Agøy say.

“We strongly condemn the brutal attacks by the Israeli military forces against the civilian population in Gaza, just as wecondemn the firing of rockets by militant groups in Gaza at populated areas in Israel,” Helland and Hagen Agøy emphasizes,as they joins the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, Olav Tveit, in his appeal on 11th of July for putting an end to the escalation of the brutal cycle of violence.

The Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, represented by Bishop Mounib Younan, appeals to all people of good will. “Palestine andIsrael now need justice, peace and dignity and not more radicalization, revenge and bloodshed that follows unilateraldiplomatic or military support to one side or the other in the conflict. Palestinians and Israelis need peace and dignity,”Bishop Younan writes from Jerusalem.

“We are also worried for the security of Israel’s population. But a solution to the repeated attacks against Israelineighborhoods surrounding the Gaza Strip, has to be developed through sustainable political solutions and not by military means, where Gaza’s civilians are paying the highest price,” Helland and Hagen Agøy conclude.

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.

Bishop Younan Congratulates Bishop Atle Sommerfeldt and Looks Forward to Continued Accompaniment Together

Church leaders gather round for a blessing of the laying on of hands as Alte Sommerfeldt is consecrated as Bishop of the Diocese of Borg by Presiding Bishop Helge Haugland Byfuglien, Sunday, 29 January 2012. Photo © Linn Cathrin Olsen/SCANPIX

FREDRIKSTAD, NORWAY/JERUSALEM, 1 February 2012 – This past weekend Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan “joyfully participated” at the consecration of Rev. Atle Sommerfeldt as bishop of the Diocese of Borg in the Church of Norway.

Younan was present for the consecration both in his role as bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and as president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

This may have been their first meeting as Bishop and Bishop for the two, but Sommerfeldt and Younan are far from strangers to one another. Younan previously worked in close cooperation with Sommerfeldt in his former role as General Secretary of Norwegian Church Aid, a position Sommerfeldt held for the past 17 years.

Sommerfeldt and Younan will continue to cooperate closely in Sommerfeldt’s new role as bishop, as the Diocese of Borg and the ELCJHL continue in their Partnership Agreement that has been a part of both of their ministries for more than a decade.

In his words of greeting Younan spoke to the differing contexts and challenges of their respective church dioceses, yet pointed to the essentials of spirituality, mission and purpose that hold the same across context. Essentials in which the theology of Accompaniment is rooted. Essentials that push us to ask and discuss together the broader questions of how to deepen love of God and love of neighbor; and how to strengthen community and unity in a spirit of diakonia.

Younan also thanked the Church of Norway for its important work for peace, justice, equal rights, and human dignity. Younan uplifted four examples of this work:

  • The Church of Norway’s recent Strategic Plan for Sami Church Life;
  • The Joint Statement Opposing Religious Extremism adopted by the Islamic Council of Norway and the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations;
  • The strong position of the Church of Norway and the Norwegian government on building peace and justice, and reconciliation based on forgiveness, especially in their promotion of “a two state solution in the Holy Land, meaning a State of Palestine along 1967 borders, side by side with the State of Israel—in peace, justice, equality and cooperation, and with Jerusalem being shared between Jews, Muslims and Christians; Palestinians and Israelis”;
  • And finally, in the Church of Norway’s support and work in building good interfaith relations, such as in the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, which is convened by Canon Trond Bakkevig, representing the Church of Norway.

In closing, Younan invited Sommerfeldt and the Diocese of Borg to “come and see” and visit the ELCJHL, saying “we remain always ready to welcome you.”

And in looking forward to their continued accompaniment of one another in their Partnership Agreement, Younan encouraged their respective dioceses to continue to “explore how, as we live in Norway and the Holy Land, we may continue to accompany each other for mutual benefit […] in the spirit of prayerful encouragement.”

Younan was last in Norway in October for the consecration of Rev. Helga Haugland Byfuglien as the first Presiding Bishop of the Norwegian Bishop’s Conference.

Norwegian bishops meet with partners, visit Holy Land sites

2010 Norwegian Bishops Delegation

Norwegian bishops and officials joined Bishop Munib A. Younan on a tour of the Haram es-Sharif (“Noble Sanctuary”) in Jerusalem’s Old City in late January. Here they pause in the Al-Aqsa (“Farthest”) Mosque for a group photo. The bishops visited sites in Jordan, Israel and Palestine during their week-long trip to the Holy Land. It included visits with Dr. Rafiq Husseini, Chief of Staff Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and with Nasser A. Lozi, chief of the Royal Hashemite Court of Jordan’s King Abdullah.