The World Council of Churches sent a three-member delegation to Lebanon and Jerusalem August 10 – August 16 whose main aim was “to manifest our solidarity to the people of Lebanon and Palestine/Israel, to meet as many representatives of Churches, Muslim and Jewish leaders, civil society and the Governments.” The delgation consisted of Ms. Marilia Schiller, programme executive of staff of the WCC; Pastor Jean-Arnold Clermont, President of the French Protestant Federation and of the Conference of European Churches; and Mgr. Bernard Aubertin, Archbishop of Tours in France, delegate of the Catholic Conference of French Bishops. In a statement released at a press conference Monday, Aug. 14, the delegation said they had also gone “to listen to the people we met, especially the leaders of the churches, to take back with us the voices of the people of Lebanon and Palestine/Israel, so that the churches we represent can speak out in their name.”
“We heard the voices of all our partners in Lebanon who couldn’t understand the violence of destruction: more than a thousand civilian victims, crimes of war against children and infants (noting particularly Qana and the Mar Jayun convoy), destruction of infrastructure – and as the Lebanese Prime Minister told us – “a Lebanon cut in pieces”. They could not understand the violence of the military offensive, except that the intention was to destroy Lebanon. We heard also the voices of the same Christian leaders in Lebanon condemning without reservation the attacks of Hizbollah which cost the lives of eight Israeli soldiers and the capture of two others, and condemning any form of violence and the killing of civilians. But the same leaders supported the resistance of the Lebanese people underlying the unity of this country as a model of multicultural and muti-confessional understanding of democracy.”
For Full Press Conference Statement click here.
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga visited the Holy Land recently, and stopped in on Redeemer Lutheran Church and the ELCJHL on Monday, Feb. 20. The Rev. Russ Siler, pastor of the English-speaking congregation at Redeemer Church, welcomed the President’s delegation in the absence of Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, and gave an explanation of the history of the church. The Revs Ruduger Scholz, Kjell Jonasson and Julie Rowe and ELCJHL General Secretary George Awad also received the delegation.
15 people, including 7 young adults from the USA and 3 from Sweden, are visiting the ELCJHL for over 2 weeks. The Southeast Michigan Synod of the ELCA, a companion synod of the ELCJHL, has been planning the trip for over a year. They wanted their young people and others from ELCJHL partners to meet the young people of the ELCJHL in their own churches and homes to learn about the church’s ministry and life here. They went to each congregation, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, where 6 of the ELCJHL youth there welcomed them, showed them their lives in Amman and then traveled with them to Petra.
The original plan to have a group of ELCJHL youth accompany the group the whole time was unworkable because they didn’t have permits to get from one city to the other. From permits to checkpoints, roadblocks to the Wall, the visiting group began to see that a normal life is virtually impossible under military occupation. So the group ebbed and flowed, depending on which Palestinian youth could attend each day. Nevertheless, they formed a strong bond through the stories and sharing of experiences.
At each congregation, group leader Scott Thams presented the churches with CDs of the Bible in Arabic and gave them bracelets they had made to raise funds for the trip that said “Bridges not Walls” in Arabic and English. He brought greetings from the synod, where they have been working hard to raise awareness of the harsh Palestinian reality and the need for a just peace.
From March 15-23, 2004, a delegation of three people from the Church of Norway, Diocese of Borg, came to Jerusalem, Ramallah, the Bethlehem area and also Amman, Jordan, to learn more about the ELCJ churches, schools and community programs, and to enliven the partnership between the Diocese of Borg and the ELCJ.
Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme was the leader of the delegation and was accompanied by the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, the new Executive Director of the Church of Norway and Office of International Relations, and the Rev. Leiv Levinsen, a pastor in the Borg Diocese.
The delegation also visited Augusta Victoria Hospital and Norwegian ministries in Israel. The group met several of the Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem.
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