In late October, representatives of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land and of the Alliance of Civilizations, met in Lisbon at the invitation of Jorge Sampaio, a former president of Portugal. The Alliance is an initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General and seeks to galvanize international action against extremism. ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan said the two organizations agreed to work together and, as a result, expects the UN to better appreciate the role of religious leaders in Palestine-Israel.
The Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni today to discuss the potential positive role religious leaders can play in helping to build peace, mutual understanding and reconciliation in the Holy Land. The Council also released a statement declaring the sacredness of human life as a basic premise of all three religions and therefore calling for a ceasefire and end to violence. Last week, the Council released a statement denouncing the recent burnings of Christian Bibles in Or Yehudah.
Click here for the statement calling for a ceasefire.
Click here for the statement on book burnings.
Top religious leaders from Jerusalem – Muslims, Christians and Jews – were invited to Washington to discuss their peace initiative together called the Council for Religious Institutions in the Holy Land. The group has been working together for more than a year to work together to protect all holy sites, scriptures and symbols. They released a statement this week:
We, believers from three religions, have been placed in this land, Jews, Christians and Muslims. It is our responsibility to find the right way to live together in peace rather than to fight and kill one other. Palestinians yearn for the end to occupation and for what they see as their inalienable rights. Israelis long for the day when they can live in personal and national security. Together we must find ways of reaching these goals.ges and Holy Communion.
For the full statement, click here.
During the course of the week, members of the council met with members of Congress and the Bush administration to discuss support for their peace initiatives. The group met Nov. 6 with Sen. Joseph Liebermann (I-CT), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), with more than a dozen House members on Nov. 7 and are scheduled to meet Nov. 8 with David Welch, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs. Younan is also scheduled to meet Nov. 8 with Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ).
For information from Religions for Peace, click here.
For ELCA news service bulletin click here.
November 7, 2007
All of us believe in one Creator and Guide of the Universe. We believe that the essence of religion is to worship Him and respect the life and dignity of all human beings, regardless of religion, nationality and gender. We accordingly commit ourselves to using our positions of leadership, and the influence of our good offices, to advance these sacred values, to prevent religion from being used as a source of conflict, and instead serve the goals of just and comprehensive peace and reconciliation.
Our respective Holy Places have become a major element in our conflict. We lament that this is the case, as our respective attachments to our holy places should not be a cause of bloodshed, let alone be sites of violence or other expressions of hatred. Holy places must remain dedicated to prayer and worship only, places where believers have free access and put themselves in the presence of the Creator. Holy places are there for believers to draw inspiration to strengthen their acceptance and love of Almighty and all His creatures, from all religions and all nationalities. Accordingly each religious community should treat the Holy Sites of the other faiths in a manner that respects their integrity and independence and avoids any act of desecration, aggression or harm.
We, believers from three religions, have been placed in this land, Jews, Christians and Muslims. It is our responsibility to find the right way to live together in peace rather than to fight and kill one other. Palestinians yearn for the end to occupation and for what they see as their inalienable rights. Israelis long for the day when they can live in personal and national security. Together we must find ways of reaching these goals.
Towards these ends we are actively working to:
- Establish “hot line” procedures of rapid communication among ourselves in order to address and advise government officials regarding issues of protection of and access to Holy Sites before such issues become cause for conflict.
- Establish mechanisms to monitor media for derogatory representations of any religion, and issue statements in response to such representations.
- Together reflect on the future of Jerusalem, support the designation of the Old City of Jerusalem as a World Heritage Site, work to secure open access to the Old City for all communities, and seek a common vision for this city which all of us regard as holy.
- Promote education for mutual respect and acceptance in schools and in the media. We will sponsor a conference for Israeli and Palestinian educators, academics and Ministers of Education on “The Role of Religion in Educating for Peace: Principles and Practices.”
- Demonstrate through our relations that differences can and should be addressed through dialogue rather than through violence, and strive to bring this message to our respective communities and political leaders that they may embrace this approach accordingly.
- Provide ongoing consultation to our government leaders, and through the example of our work together remind them that the interests of one community can only be served by also respecting and valuing the humanity and interests of all other communities.
The same leaders met with Israeli President Moshe Katsav to discuss the future of Middle East peace, conditions of the Palestinian people and the status of the AVH tax case.
Katsav spoke of the importance and the trauma of the Gaza disengagement for his people, and said that because of this a “historic opportunity” is here that the Palestinians should now take hold of. He said that President Abbas must now get terrorism under control, which Katsav believes he can do. He also said that the suffering, injustice and harsh realities of the Palestinians were brought on by the Palestinians and their terror. Bishop Younan said that the security of Israelis and the freedom and justice of the Palestinians were dependent on the other. Younan told Katsav that local religious leaders have started a “Council for Religious Leadership in the Holy Land” to promote greater religious understanding.
They urged the President to intervene on behalf of the AVH tax case in which the Israeli government is attempting to revoke a decades-long tax exemption that has allowed the hospital to function. Israel says that all other hospitals pay taxes and AVH should be no exception. LWF Area Representative the Rev. Mark Brown pointed out that other Israeli hospitals are entitled to benefits and resources that AVH would not be able to enjoy. He also cited the poor economic conditions the patient base lives in:
“The hospital is unique. We’re serving people who are not part of the national health insurance who have little or no capacity to pay,” Brown said of the AVH’s services that include cancer treatment and kidney dialysis.