ELCJHL Schools: Creative Writing Project

A recent publication for Palestinian children is the result of the teamwork of seven student editors in sixth grade from the Evangelical Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah. Children from various schools in Palestine contributed articles, poems, stories, and art work for Al Raja al Sagheer, (The Little Hope), which may be one of the first children’s magazine in Palestine written by children in grades 1-6. According to the editors, only children younger than thirteen were allowed to submit entries. This is the fifth issue for this publication, which is underwritten by local donors and businesses. Such activities are important to the Lutheran Schools’ commitment to encouraging creativity and higher level thinking skills as part of a holistic education.

ELCJHL Women Gather for Jericho Retreat

Feb. 15, 2007 – For the first time in years, ELCJHL women from Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour gathered together in Jericho for a 24-hour retreat celebrating the unity and strength of women and faith. Though the churches are close together geographically (Jerusalem is only about 13 kilometers from Ramallah and not more than 8 kilometers from Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, they have been unable to meet because of movement restrictions and the increasing isolation of Palestinians locked into small enclaves by fences, walls and Israeli-only roads. Unfortunately, it was still too difficult to get the women from Amman’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church to come. They will have their own retreat.

2007 Women's Retreat to JerichoMovement, energy and excitement filled the gathering of the almost 100 women, who sang, prayed, had devotions and reflected on the role of women in the church, civil society, family and government.

Pastor Ramez Ansara opened the retreat Thursday evening with a devotion about unity based on Ephesians 4:1-18: (the gifts he gave…) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. This text will also be the theme for the World Day of Prayer, to be held Friday, March 2, which the ELCJHL women organize together with other Jerusalem church women’s groups. The evening was also filled with favorite songs and a musical solo by Mrs. Hannelori Shihadeh.

Dar al Kalima Principal Mrs. Nae’la Kharroub led some movement and game activities, then a specialist gave a demonstration about the importance of care of face and skin. Bishop Younan opened the next morning with a devotion about Jacob, and then Dr. Nuha Khoury gave a presentation about the status of women in Palestine. the educational staffs are women, but that appears to be one of the only areas where women are accepted on a widespread basis. About 30%Recent studies continue to confirm that violence against women continues to be a problem in Palestine. A 2006 study showed that 61% of married women and 53% of unmarried women (18 and older) have suffered at least one episode of psychological violence, and that 23% of married women and and 24% of unmarried women (18 and older) have experienced at least one episode of physical abuse. Job opportunities continue to be limited for women, who also tend to be less likely to be allowed overseas for university education than their male counterparts.

The retreat ended as the large group broke into smaller groups to brainstorm ideas about how to foster leadership among women in the church, in civil society and politics. Recommendations are being compiled and Mrs. Suad Younan, the chair of the Women’s Committee who organized the retreat, will also be organizing the follow-up. All expressed wishes to gather again soon.

Bishop Younan to World: Let’s Get Palestinian Children Back to School

by Bishop Munib Younan

As I was driving to Ramallah the other day and stopped at an intersection, a child came up to the car with a towel to try to clean my windshield. I said, “what is this?” He said, “Please, for God’s sake, one shekel. I want to eat!” Other children later started following us when we were walking, “Please, a shekel, a shekel.” I was offended and humiliated to watch Palestinian children turn into beggars. And then, I realized it was daytime, and these children should be in school, but they were just a few of the more than 725,000 public school students who have been out of school for two months now because there are no salaries to pay the teachers. As a Palestinian Bishop, this saddens and angers me.

These children have become the pawns of the politics between the Palestinians and the whole Western world and between the infighting of Hamas and Fatah. It is time that we all – Palestinians, Israelis and the international community – stopped making the children the victims of this political statemate.

We all know the best path for developing a modern, democratic society is education. We all know that education for children is a basic human right, as in the UN declaration for human rights. Children should be in school, opening their minds to the world’s best practices and learning to build their community. Now, as a result of the international boycott against the political leaders, our children are becoming beggars and our teen-agers are becoming more embittered by injustice and hypocrisy and driven into the arms of the extremists. This worries every one of us and should worry the international community.

I call on the international community to help us get our children back in school. If we work together, we can make this happen by the end of next week’s Muslim holiday feast of Eid al Fitr.

I call on Hamas and Fatah to stop the infighting and move forward to solutions that promote peace with justice. We cannot allow ourselves to be drawn into a civil war where everyone is the loser. The future of our children is at stake. We must act now.

In the meantime, we in the Lutheran schools continue to be open and to serve as many students as we can, regardless of religion, gender, political or denominational affiliation. It is their natural human right.

Latvian President Visits Holy Land and ELCJHL

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.

ELCJHL Elections

Congratulations to our New Synod President – Rev. Sani Ibrahim Azar – and to All Newly Elected Leaders!

Here are the complete results of the ELCJHL Synod elections held Jan. 20th for the 11th legislative period:

Synod – The Legislative Body

  • Synod President:Rev. Sani Ibrahim Azar
  • Synod Vice President: Mr. Saliba Zeidan
  • Synod Secretary: Leena Al Hanna
  • Synod Cooptive Members:
    • Mr. David Tannous
    • Mr. Adel Khadder
    • Mr. Mikhail Younan
    • Mr. Rizek Amer

Church Council – The Executive Body

  • Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, Chairperson in his capacity as head of ELCJHL
  • Rev. Sani Ibrahim Azar, In his capacity as President of the Synod
  • Rev. Jadallah Shihadeh
  • Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb
  • Mr. Hani Odeh
  • Mr. Jack Bahbah
  • Mr. Sani Kasabreh

The Evangelical Lutheran School Board (ELSB)

  • Mr.Abdallah Awwad
  • Mr. Alfred Musallam
  • Mr. Adel Khadder
  • Mrs. Muna Tannous

Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers!

Every five years, each congregation elects new council members who then meet to elect the synod of 37 members and a president, deputy president and secretary. For the first time, the leaders elected a woman to one of the top positions of secretary. In addition, 4 other women were elected.

Mrs.Muna Tannous, newly elected to the new Ramallah council pictured at left, is excited to take on new challenges. She said they will examine and explore all the various ministries of the church before deciding priorities and activities.

ELCJHL Bishop Urges Tolerance Not Desecration

In the wake of accusations of the desecration of Holy Scriptures recently, Bishop Munib Younan issued the following statement:

A Call for Co-existence not Desecration: Sacred Scriptures, Sacred Places – A Sacred Trust for Peace:

The reality of Jerusalem and the Holy Land has taught us deep respect for the three Monotheistic religions so that we strive to live together in tolerance and mutual acceptance.

Despite any differences of doctrine or teachings there is a red line which we all agree can not be crossed. We all respect the Jewish, Muslim and Christian Holy Scriptures and Holy Places.

For us this fundamental principle of mutual respect for that which each religion holds sacred is inviolable. No person or group can be permitted to trivialize, destroy or besmirch these sacred things.

We are distressed and alarmed by the shocking allegations that in the U.S. Military Base at Guantanamo Bay and now here in Meggido and Nafhah prisons irresponsible persons have desecrated the Holy Koran.

We as a Palestinian Christians and our ELCJHL church, firmly denounce all such acts of desecration and violation of sacred scripture. The fact that sacred books are abused or desecrated in order to torture, pressure, humiliate or demoralize prisoners is an abomination. The dignity and human rights of all prisoners must be ensured according to the rule of law, human rights and the standards of justice according to Geneva Conventions. In equal measure the dignity and sacredness of the Holy Scriptures must be defended and preserved.

No one has the right to desecrate the sacred writings of any religion for any purpose. We therefore demand that the responsible authorities take the strongest measures possible to investigate these allegations and hold those responsible for any such violation of sacred trust accountable. In so doing they must redouble all efforts to prevent and eliminate religious abuse.

We are equally alarmed by recent cynical attempts to incite conflict by repeated threats to harm and attempts invade the precincts of the Al Aqsa mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem –the third most Holy Site for Muslims. Jerusalem must be maintained as a city shared by three religions and two peoples. As Palestinian Christians we stand to defend the sanctity of Al Aqsa for the Muslims and the Holy Sites for the Jews as well as to defend Christian Holy Sites for our faithful.

Authorities and Government officials must ensure that no one uses Holy Books, Holy Writings or Holy places to transform a political conflict into a religious conflict. As religious leaders we will not accept or tolerate such unholy manipulation, not in Israel, not in Palestine and not anywhere else in the world!

We are calling on the local and international community to vigorously oppose and stop the use of religion for hidden political agendas or aims.

We wish to make known to the whole world that Jerusalem shows that religious co-existence is possible, even in situations of political conflict. It is possible for the three Monotheistic religions to mutually respect the believers and Holy Places of each religion. We have a sacred obligation and divine call to work together to protect all Holy Places so that the Status Quo of the Holy Places remains intact and religious co-existence is upheld.

Our daily lives together in the Holy Land has taught us to defend and respect the Koran, the Torah and the Bible not to desecrate or diminish that which is Holy to our neighbors, our brothers and sisters of other faiths.

To desecrate the Holy Place or Holy Book of one is a desecration for all. To violate any Holy Place is an assault on all people of Faith. To insult the teaching of any is scorn the teachings of all three Monotheistic religions!

We pray to the Almighty God and call upon all adherents of religions, people of conscience, politicians, educators and people responsible in civil societies, that religious co-existence based on mutual respect and tolerance may continue in this Holy Land as a paradigm for the whole world.