RAMALLAH – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hope in Ramallah held a short prayer service and Easter egg hunt on April 11th, 2015. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hope – as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Amman, Jordan – celebrate on an ecumenical calendar. These two congregations celebrate together with their Orthodox brothers and sisters for Easter while Orthodox congregations celebrate on the Lutheran/Western calendar for Christmas. Because of this, The Church of Hope and the Church of the Good Shepherd celebrated Easter one week after the rest of the ELCJHL congregations.
JERUSALEM – The Lutheran and Anglican churches joined for the Good Friday Via Dolorosa Walk on Friday, April 3rd, 2015. The walk follows what is traditionally known as the “Way of Pain” and the procession of Jesus Christ to the cross. The walk ended at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem with prayers and veneration of the cross.
BEIT JALA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Beit Jala celebrated Palm Sunday with palms and flowers before joining the local Catholic Church for a procession through Beit Jala. After the service, the congregation gathered outside the sanctuary to process through Beit Jala, meeting the Catholic procession halfway through the city.
JERUSALEM – Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), as well as Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Metropolitan Dr Gennadios of Sassima and Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, vice-moderators of the Central Committee, spent time with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land during their pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel on March 7th-12th, 2015.
The delegation held worship at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem with Propst Wolfgang Schmidt, Representative of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland (EKD) in Jerusalem and Rev. Carrie Smith, pastor of the English-Speaking Congregation in Jerusalem and Special Assistant to Bishop Munib Younan on Monday, March 9th, 2015. At the conclusion of worship, the group went together to visit the Haram Esh-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque where they met with the director of the Islamic Waqf in charge of the holy site.
As well as visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the delegation, with Bishop Munib Younan, were invited with the Heads of Churches to an official lunch at the Latin Patriarchate by Patriarch Fuod Twal.
“Our role is to give Christian witness to the world and work for justice and peace,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in regards to his visit to the Holy Land.
The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, including Patriarch Theophilos III of the Greek Orthodox Church, Patriarch Fuod Twal of the Latin Church, and Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL, held a discussion with the WCC delegation on the significance of ecumenism in a time of growing extremism. In regards to the talk and the visit, Bishop Munib Younan stated, “The more we feel united, the more we can combat any kind of extremism that is existing in the Middle East.”
JERUSALEM – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land hosted a service for the Week of Prayer in Christian Unity on Tuesday, January 27th, 2015. The service was a joint service between the Arabic, English, and German Speaking congregations in Jerusalem. This year, the sermon was given by pastor of the English Speaking Congregation in Jerusalem, Rev. Carrie Smith.
To read Rev. Carrie’s sermon for the service, you can read it on her blog.
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.
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.”
JERUSALEM – The Arabic, English, and German congregations gathered together on Friday, October 31st, 2014 for the annual Reformation Day service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.
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.
BERLIN – Bishop Younan joined the Berliner Missionswerk (BMW), a partner of the ELCJHL, for the celebration of their founding 190 years earlier in Berlin on August 31st, 2014. The celebration was both a jubilee of celebration and a conference to discuss religious issues affecting the BMW and its partners.
Bishop Younan addressed the Conference of International Partners of BMW on “cheap reconciliation” – the idea that reconciliation can be misused to prolong injustice. Bishop Younan discussed reconciliation in the context of ignorance and violence and the need for mutual recognition in the Middle East.
During the Jubilee on August 31st, 2014, Bishop Younan and the BMW dedicated a stone from the Holy Land to the BMW as a gift of partnership.
Those who had traveled from around the world to attend the jubilee were also invited to stay and pray at the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to remember the outbreak of World War II 75 years earlier. Bishop Munib Younan as well as the Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a public prayer for the representatives who joined them at Brandenburg Gate. The public prayer was followed by a memorial service at St. Mary’s Church in Berlin.
The ELCJHL would like to congratulate the Berliner Missionswerk on 190 years of service and we look forward to continuing in strong accompaniment in mission here in the Holy Land.