Reformation at the ELCJHL

The traditional Reformation service was celebrated as usual on October 31, a festival communion service in 6 different languages. Many local heads of churches attended the Reformation Service even though their tradition does not celebrate it. In addition, His Beatitude Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos II came to the reception following the service for the first time, a growing sign of the growing unity of the Palestinian Christian churches. Also, a delegation of African American heads of churches from the US participated. ELCJHL schools celebrated Reformation Day in gatherings that commemorated exhibited their understanding of the Reformation. Click here for more photos.

Christians and Muslim Faith Leaders Celebrate Iftar Meal Together

The Oriental Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican Churches invited the higher Islamic council, Chief Islamic Justice Sheikh al Tamimi, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, Islamic Awqaf Adnan Hussein, Jerusalem PLC members and about 100 other dignitaries and civil society leaders both Christian and Muslim to celebrate a traditional “iftar” meal Tuesday after the Ramadan fasting day ended. Bishop Younan welcomed the group, and PA President Abu Mazen’s Chief of Staff Mr. Rafik Husseini gave the President’s regrets that he couldn’t be there since these community-building events are so important.

The speakers called for an end to recent tensions between Muslims and Christians, with Sheikh Tamimi recalling the Covenant of Omar in the 7th century which calls for good relations between Muslims and Christians. He recalled that the majority of Christians and Muslims have lived together in peace since then. The speakers agreed that they should work together to see that statements and events outside of this area not affect relations here. All the speakers emphasized the importance of the Holy City of Jerusalem for all, and His Beatitude Michel Sabbah reiterated their common belief that Jerusalem must be shared among Christian, Muslim and Jew and between Palestinian and Israeli. He said these kinds of events are important and must be continued to strengthen community. They also called for unity not only between Muslim and Christian but also among all the Palestinian factions, and urged an end to violence of all kinds.

Bishop Younan Attends World Conference of Religions for Peace 8th General Assembly in Kyoto, Japan

Jerusalem faith leaders Bishop Munib Younan, Sheikh al Tamimi, the Chief Islamic Justice in Jerusalem, and Rabbi David Rosen, the International Director of Inter-Religious Relations with the American Jewish Committee and the International Jewish Committee, were among the faith leaders gathered at the World Conference of Religions for Peace 8th General Assembly in Kyoto, Japan, in the end of August. The Assembly ended on 29 August with 800 delegates from more than 100 countries and all major religious traditions endorsing the Kyoto Declaration on Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security.

“At a time when religion is being hijacked by extremists, the religious leaders gathered in Kyoto demonstrate for all the world the power of religious communities to illuminate the path to peace when they work together,” said William F. Vendley, secretary general of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) who read out the declaration at the end of the meeting.

“The Kyoto Declaration offers a new vision of shared security that properly places religious communities at the centre of efforts to confront violence in all its forms,” said Vendley, a Roman Catholic from the United States.

Read the full Kyoto Declaration

During the conference, special meetings of Christians, Muslims and Jews were organized to discuss the problems in the Middle East. Bishop Younan said he believed the Oslo peace accords between Israelis and Palestinians in 1993 failed have failed because there was no religious input into them.

“Religion should play a positive role and be a driving force of solution for the sufferer,” Bishop Munib Younan said.

Ecumenical Weeks of Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land

For several years now, Christian churches in Jerusalem have collaborated to offer ecumenical prayer services for peace for about two weeks in late August. Tonight, Thursday August 17, we gathered in the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer for a prayer service in German, Arabic and English. Join us in our prayers:

Merciful God, we pray for the victims of war, terror and brutal violence in the Middle East. We pray for the peoples of Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Israel. We pray for the injured, for those whose bodies or souls are wounded – especially for the children. We pray for those who have lost their beloved ones, and for those who have been maimed. We pray for the refugees who have lost their homes, their land and their livelihood, for those who fear for their lives. We pray for those who are terrorized by the sound of fighter-jets, tanks, rockets, sirens and the other horrers of war. God, grant them strength and hope, let them not fall into despair.

The Politics of Sacred Space and the Pursuit of Peace

“How do our religious views of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem affect the peace process in Israel/Palestine?” “Is this a religious conflict or a political conflict?”

More than 100 gathered for a conference at Tantur Ecumenical Institute about these and other questions about religious views of Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Holy Sites in Jerusalem and how they affect the goal of peace-making. Sponsored by the Joan Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, speakers presented papers and invited dialogue on the topic.

Failed Church Bombing in Nazareth Sparks Protests and Appeals for Tolerance

2006 Failed Nazareth Bombing

Thousands gathered Saturday in Nazareth to protest a failed bombing attempt by a Jewish family Friday night at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, where Christians had gathered for traditional Lenten prayers. Fortunately, the homemade mixture of fireworks, flammable liquids and a jar of marbles and nails to serve as shrapnel didn’t explode properly, one witness said, and no one was seriously hurt. But when Muslims and Christians gathered quickly to protect the Holy Site, the army was called out to protect the Jewish family and disperse the crowd, using tear gas and force. Saturday’s protest was a mixture of anger and fear at what Muslims and Christians say is a growing intolerance for their religious sites and freedom.

Heads of churches and Muslim leaders gathered Sunday with Municipality officials, Knesset members and community leaders to calm fears and to call for religious tolerance and education against extremism. They led marchers through the streets to the courtyard of the Church, where the mayor, the Latin Patriarch and a local Muslim sheikh addressed the crowd.

A 25th Anniversary in Nablus

Bishop Younan and Archiemadrite Mtanios Haddad of the Greek Melkite Church in Jerusalem led a delegation to Nablus to participate in the 25th Anniversary Mass for Father Yusef Saad. The church was overflowing with worshippers who attended the mass, held one year after they had celebrated the 25th anniversary of the church with a blessing of a whole new set of icons (pictured below). Father Sa’ad and his wife welcomed the crowd briefly to their house and then to a banquet where the celebration continued. In the Oriental traditions, men can become priests after they are married, if the community agrees that the family is a good role model. According to Bishop Younan, it is crucial that all of the Christians of the Holy Land support one another as members of the same Body of Christ. The elders of the Christian community in Nablus appreciate these visits, as their community has dwindled to 650 out of a population of 130,000. The delegation ended the day by going to the Christian Muktar’s new home to bless his house.

The Amman Message Anniversary

In late October, Bishop Younan joined almost 200 Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith leaders gathered in Amman for the one year anniversary of the release of the Amman Message by King Abdullah last year. The Amman Message is an initiative to raise the moderate voices of Islam who interpret the Koran as teaching co-existence, peace and justice among all people. Learned scholars, patriarchs and church leaders spoke about the importance of taking this message to the world to help temper the fundamentalism and extremism that threatens a true understanding of the faith as they see it. One scholar reminded the group that the standard Muslim greeting is one of Peace: May Peace be upon you. Others urged the world to listen to other voices of Islam.

“Just as we don’t judge Christians by the actions of those who came to occupy our lands, and just as we don’t judge Judaism by the actions of their extremists, so we ask the world not to judge Islam by the actions of a few extremists. Bid Laden and Zakawe are criminals and killers. They do not represent Islam,” said Salah El-Din Kaftaro from Syria.

Bishop Younan spoke on a panel about Christianity’s role in helping the Amman initiative. He praised the initiative for its theology that promotes an Islamic theology of tolerance, love and mutual respect for one another. It also condemns any kind of terrorism or extremism. He said the Arab Christian Church can be instrumental in building bridges between Islam and the Western world because of its 1400 years of living peacefully with Muslims.

See for the full Amman Message …

A Danish Church Delegation Visits Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip

Representatives from the Lutheran, Baptist and Methodist churches in Denmark as well as representatives from DanChurch Aid and the Ecumenical Council in Denmark visited Palestine and Israel from March 13-20, 2004. The leaders of the delegation were the Rt. Rev. Kresten Drejergaard, Bishop of Fuenen (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, ELCD); the Rev. Ane Hjerrild, the General Secretary on International Relations for ELCD; and Mr. Uffe Gjerding, DanChurch Aids Coordinator. The Danish delegation worshipped with the Arabic-speaking congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Old City Jerusalem, on March 14 and visited with Bishop Younan and Pr. Sani Ibrahim Azar. The delegation also visited the International Center in Bethlehem, with the Christmas Lutheran Church and the ELCJ; Augusta Victoria Hospital; and the Middle East Council of Churches programs in Gaza. The delegation visited with church leaders at Notre Dame in Jerusalem where the delegation members were briefed about the current political and humanitarian situation.