The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) Calls for Immediate Cessation of Hostilities in Gaza

“In the day of my trouble I call on you” — Psalm 86:7

Witnessing the bombardments, hearing the sirens, listening to the cries of mothers and children, seeing the ambulances carrying the wounded and people living in absolute fear, the ELCJHL cries out to God. We also raise our voice to all Christian sisters and brothers, along with all people of goodwill, to end this latest round of violence between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people.

In these days, many of us are quite depressed and frustrated, left wondering where this country is headed, along with much of the Middle East. As a church that has always strongly condemned violence as a means of solving conflicts, we were deeply troubled by the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers and the kidnapping and burning alive of the Palestinian teenager. We strongly condemn both of these actions as inhumane and despicable acts.

As we condemn the kidnappings, we also unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms possible the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas against civilian targets and the ongoing Israeli blockade and bombardment of Gaza (resulting so far in the deaths of more than 200 people, 80 percent of whom were civilians and 20 percent children). Both expressions of violence are flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights laws and should be immediately ended.

This country and its people have gone through 65 years of violence, retaliations, and counter-retaliations. The ELCJHL believes that the existing political deadlock between Israel and Palestine cannot be resolved militarily. The current hostilities do not serve the long-term interest of any party. We have always believed in non-violent struggle and creative resistance to illegal state policies. Throughout our history we have worked to alleviate human suffering, promote peace and reconciliation.

We are afraid that this current wave of violence may force more Palestinian Christians to seek immigration. And what is the Holy Land without its Christians? To Palestinian Christians here in this land, I call upon you to remain, continuing your service as instruments of peace, brokers of justice, bridge builders, and agents of change.

In reaffirmation of our position, we call for:

  • Parties to the present conflict (Israel and Hamas) to agree upon an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities. This ceasefire should be facilitated by the international community to bring an end to human suffering. The focus of the international community should be on humanitarian and development assistance for the communities most negatively affected by the current round of violence. What Palestine and Israel need at the moment is justice, peace and dignity rather than the radicalization, revenge, and bloodshed promoted by one-sided diplomatic or military support for either group. The people of Palestine and Israel need to live in peace and dignity.
  • The resumption of direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace and a two-state solution based on 1967 borders and abide by international human rights and humanitarian law. The unity government of the Palestinian Authority should be respected. Any ceasefire addressing the immediate situation should be anchored in a long-term peace agreement in order to prevent other relapses into violence.
  • The lifting of the Israeli siege on Gaza. This indefinite siege on Gaza has created great suffering and instigated greater hostility. If a sustainable peace is to be achieved, Israel should lift its blockade. The unified Palestinian people of Gaza and the West Bank should enjoy their right to freedom of movement.
  • Critical support for healthcare infrastructure. The international community has long supported healthcare services for Palestinians, especially in the West Bank and Gaza. The present violence has severely affected healthcare infrastructure. We especially raise our concern for the financial crisis faced by Augusta Victoria Hospital and the system of East Jerusalem hospitals and medical centers.
  • Material support for interreligious cooperation and peacebuilding through the educational and diaconal ministries of the ELCJHL. These ministries empower the forces of moderation to build up civil society and create a shared future. Recurring cycles of violence place the church and related agencies in a chronic state of crisis and emergency, making it difficult for local institutions to thrive.
  • That the global Christian community—including the member churches of the Lutheran World Federation—provide necessary assistance to those who have been internally displaced or affected by the current wave of violence in one form or another and to help the economic and development growth of the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land raises its voice to ask all people of good will to intervene in the present situation of unacceptable violence and bloodshed. Your intervention and action will create hope in a hopeless situation. If we cannot take steps toward peace, we will continue to be held hostage by extremism. Please do not leave us alone in this moment of struggle. The whole Middle East is boiling. We need your prophetic voice and support so that peace built on justice and reconciliation built on forgiveness will prevail.

Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

Bishops allowed to enter Gaza on third attempt

After three attempts in five weeks, three area bishops were finally allowed to enter Gaza to visit churches and humanitarian projects. Anglican Bishop Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan and Greek Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour made their pastoral visit to Gaza on March 10. Earlier, bishops Dawani and Younan were the only two of a delegation of five bishops denied entry at the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza on Feb. 4. Later, the three bishops applied for permission to enter Gaza on Feb. 24 but were denied for undisclosed reasons.

The ELCJHL’s press release on the visit is available here.

 

Church of Sweden and ELCJHL call for Sweden to help in pursuit of peace

Archbishop Anders Wejryd of the Church of Sweden and ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan issued a joint statement calling on the Swedish government to take an active role in seeking peace in the Holy Land. They issued their statement after Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt presented that country’s Parliament a declaration stating that peace between Israel and Palestine will be a top agenda item for his government this year. The declaration came after a representative of the Church of Sweden visited Gaza in the wake of Israel’s recent bombing campaign there.

Read the full statement here.

Bishops denied entry to Gaza to visit Christians, projects

bishops at Erez

Despite assurances from the Israeli government, ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan (pictured, at right) and Anglican Bishop Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani (at left) were denied entry to Gaza today. They were traveling with the heads of churches of Jerusalem to visit Christians in the region. The two are the only Palestinians in the group and the only ones to be denied entry. The group planned to visit churches, humanitarian projects of the Middle East Council of Churches and the Al Ahli Hospital.

Click here for the ELCJHL press release on the incident.

Lutheran filmmaker leads video workshops for students

Following an invitation from Peace Not Walls staff, on January 5 Lutheran filmmaker Tim Frakes donated his time and expertise for two website and video production workshops for high school students at schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). Ten students, a teacher, a volunteer, and a principal attended at no cost during their winter school break and in spite of the fighting in the nearby Gaza Strip.

Participants were instructed in basic camera technique, composition, and sound recording, and were also introduced to new video social networking sites, blogging, and Facebook. Students showed interest, and through Facebook some now have continued their conversation with Frakes.  Frakes told the students, “I don’t want to teach you how to make videos; I want you to change the world through your videos.”

The workshops were held at the Dar Al Kalima Lutheran School in Bethlehem and at the Evangelical Lutheran School of Beit Sahour and were organized by Sister Sylvia Countess, ELCA Global Mission assistant to ELCJHL schools director Dr. Charlie Haddad.


Sister Sylvia Countess addresses workshop participants at the Dar al-Kalima Lutheran School in Bethlehem.


A student at the Dar al-Kalima Lutheran School in Bethlehem listens during the workshop.


Workshop Leader Tim Frakes

 

(Reproduced with permission from elca.org)

Bishop Younan Denounces Gaza YMCA Bombing

Sunday, Feb. 17 – Arabic newspapers throughout Palestine carried the story today of Bishop Younan’s condemnation of the recent bombing of the Gaza YMCA. A rough translation of the Al Quds story follows:

Bishop Munib Younan has denounced the ugly crime that took place recently in Gaza, the bombing of the library of the YMCA. He said that this atrocity only provokes division and aims to harm the brotherly and sisterly relations between the Palestinian Muslims and Christians. He said such an act is not just a crime against the YMCA but against the whole Palestinian people.

The Bishop said “We in the church strongly condemn this cowardly atrocity that aimed at a national institution that serves Muslims and Christians alike without any distinction. What happened harms everyone. I really am shocked how the hands of some people dare to explode a library that has thousands of books especially for children.”

Bishop Younan added that such events sound an alert that violence is increasing and the rule of law is decreasing. He called on the authorities to act quickly before all of us reap the bitter consequences. He said that recently such crimes have not been investigated well, such as some attacks on some institutions or the killing of the late Rami Eyyad, the Christian bookseller who was recently killed in Gaza. This has encouraged those who commit these crimes and act contrary to the national interest of the Palestinian people to continue, he said. For this reason, Bishop Younan demanded that the responsible authorities act urgently and not give in until those responsible are caught and brought to justice.

For the full documents, clickhere.