Bishop Younan’s Speech to the Fellowship of of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) On The Ecumenical Response to the Present Middle East Crisis

CAIRO, September 10th 


 

Your Beatitudes,
Your Eminences,
People of God,

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Jesus Christ says to us today, “Get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you.” (Acts 26.16–17)

Today, as I come before you to discuss the crisis facing the Middle East and especially the crisis facing Arab and Middle Eastern Christians, these words of the risen Christ to the Saul resonate for us and for the communities we represent. “Get up and stand on your feet!” “I will rescue you!” There is work to be done in my name.

I have been asked to speak on the ecumenical response to our present crisis. Therefore, my message today is both internal and external, speaking to Christians in the Middle East as well as to the global Body of Christ. An ecumenical response—a response by the entire household of Christian faith—is necessarily global. But the response must first begin with us. As Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3.25). In the presence of these pressing challenges, it is time to get our Arab Christian house in order.

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Bishop Younan Meets With The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

speaking-with-the-latin-and-syrian-patriarchs
Bishop Munib Younan speaks with Latin Patriarch Patriarch Fouad Twal and Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad. © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL

JERUSALEM – Bishop Munib Younan met with the heads of churches at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem today to give his Easter greetings. Ten of the thirteen heads of churches were present, as well as priests and Bishops from Jerusalem. The Lutheran delegation to the meeting included Bishop Younan, Propst Wolfgang Schmidt, representative of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland in Jerusalem, the pastors of the English Speaking Congregation and Special Assistants to the Bishop, Revs. Angela and Martin Zimmann, Rev. Saliba Rishmawi of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Beit Jala, Rev. Jari Honkakari of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM), and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Jerusalem representative Rev. Mark Brown.

heads-of-churches
The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem. © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL

At the meeting, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal welcomed the churches and spoke of accompanying the people, as in the story of Emmaus when Jesus walked with the disciples and “their hearts burned within them.” He then invited the other Bishops present to speak and offer prayers. Bishop Munib Younan discussed the inauguration of the Pontificate, as well as his hope that the heads of churches will continue to support the textbook study, Victim’s of Our Own Narratives, initiated by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL). Bishop Younan encouraged all those gathered to think of ways to encourage the use of the study in schools.

Heads of Churches in Jerusalem Release Statement Concerning Upcoming Palestinian UN Statehood Bid

Looking toward the upcoming Palestinian UN Statehood Bid, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem released a statement last week. We invite you to read the statement below:

Communiqué from the Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem

Looking ahead to the upcoming General Assembly of the United Nations in this September 2011 and the bid for Palestinian statehood, the Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem feel the need to intensify the prayers and diplomatic efforts for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, see this as the most appropriate time for such an opportunity, and thus wish to reiterate the following principles upon which we agree:

  1. A two-state solution serves the cause of peace and justice.
  2. Israelis and Palestinians must live each in their own independent states with peace, security and justice, respecting human rights, according to international law.
  3. Negotiations are the best way to resolve all outstanding problems between the two sides.
  4. Palestinians and Israelis should exercise restraint, whatever the outcome of the vote at the United Nations.
  5. Jerusalem is a Holy City to the followers of all three Abrahamic faiths, in which all people should be able to live in peace and tranquility, a city to be shared by the two peoples and the three faiths.

Thus, we call upon decision makers and people of good will, to do their utmost to achieve the long awaited justice, peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians so that the prophecy of Prophet David is lived again:

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.”(Ps. 85: 10)

12 September, 2011

Click here to download the full statement.

Heads of Churches of Jerusalem Call for Peace, Good Will Among All People!

JERUSALEM, December 20,2010 – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among all people!” (Luke 2.14). It is from this proclamation of peace and good will that the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Christian Churches in Jerusalem begin their Christmas Message 2010. And the threads of praising God and hope for peace and reconciliation continue throughout.

“We praise God for the witness of all the heavenly host in their joyous proclamation of God’s desire for peace on earth that good will among all people will prevail against the darkness of sin.”

But the Christmas Message of the Heads of Churches contains not only hope for peace and reconciliation, but also call to action: “We believe that hope for peace and reconciliation requires our active participation as people of faith.”

And in the active hope for peace and reconciliation, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem speak of their participation in the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) and the work of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders together.

Follow the link below to read the full Christmas Message of the Heads of Churches of Jerusalem.

Christmas Message from the Heads of Churches of Jerusalem

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.

In the Name of God, End the Siege over Gaza

One and a half million people imprisoned and without proper food or medicine. 800,000 without electricity supply; this is illegal collective punishment, an immoral act in violation of the basic human and natural laws as well as International Law. It cannot be tolerated anymore. The siege over Gaza should end now.

Voices from our people there say “We feel the threat of being exterminated by this siege”

In the Name of God, we, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem and the Holy Land urge the International Community, President Bush and the leaders of Israel, to put an end to this suffering and call upon Israel to activate Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s initiative for Palestinian responsibility control of the borders thus ensuring sufficient normal flow of medicine, food, fuel and goods to Gaza

We urge the International Community and the European Union to act according to their recent pleas. There is no time to waste when human life is endangered.

We urge the Palestinian Leadership to unite in ending their differences for the sake of their people in Gaza. Put the differences aside and deal with this crisis for the good of all human beings demonstrating that you care for your brothers and sisters who have suffered enough already. We would say to all concerned parties; while ever you persist in firing rockets into Israel you encourage public opinion outside this Land to feel there is a justification for this siege.

We urge Israel to act responsibly and to immediately end this inhuman siege. To deny children and civilians their necessary basic commodities are not the ways to security but rather throw the region into further and more dangerous deterioration. This siege will not guarantee the end to rocket firing, but will only increase the bitterness and suffering and invite more revenge, while the innocents keep dying. True Peace building is the only way to bring the desired security.

We pray for the day when the people of Gaza will be free from Occupation, from political differences, from violence and from despair. We pray for the Israelis and Palestinians to respect human life and God’s love for every human life, and to take all possible measures to end this suffering. Only bold steps towards just Peace and ending the violence will protect the Human life and dignity of both People.

With the prophet we keep praying and hoping;

” A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope”

Heads of Churches in Jerusalem and the Holy Land

Stop the Violence and Work Together for Justice/Peace

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL)
by Bishop Dr. Munib Younan
June 15, 2007

We have been warning for some time now that the situation here in the Occupied Palestinian territories – especially Gaza – is untenable and explosive. I fear that unless we take drastic action, we will sink into all-out, protracted civil war that will dramatically fuel the fires of extremism, violence and chaos in the Middle East. This could further radicalize the whole Middle East and perhaps tip us over a turning point toward religious fanaticism that would be hard to change. So I speak today to urge leaders, combatants, ordinary people and the international community: for God’s sake and the sake of all those suffering here from violence and oppression, stop the internal violence, end the international aid boycott and implement a serious plan to end the illegal, 40-year occupation of the Palestinian people.

The heads of local churches in Jerusalem issued a statement Wednesday, June 13, 2007, calling on all Palestinian brothers to put down their arms against one another and stop the violence immediately. There is no justification for this violence, and it only damages the legitimate cause of the Palestinian people for self-determination, our own state and an end to occupation.

Sisters and brothers of Palestine, accept your responsibility to end all violence and return to the higher ground and aim of non-violent struggle to this illegal occupation. People of the Arab League, please step in and help us regain our balance.

Although a resolution to this conflict seems so unreachable, we already know the solutions: follow international law, UN resolutions and basic human rights law. Implement the two-state solution, based on the 1948 armistice line (the Green Line), which would lead to two equal, viable, sovereign states, each with Jerusalem as its capital, just resolution to the refugee problem, shared resources and ending the policy of settlements.

So as I sit in Jerusalem trying to analyze what is happening and why, I can’t help but wonder. Why, instead of implementing the many relevant UN resolutions supporting these concepts (66 in all), has the international community ignored them all these years and continued to allow the confiscation of Palestinian land and building up almost 500,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Why, if the West wants to foster democracy, did they reject the outcome of democratic elections held under occupation with little violence and boycott the new government? Why has the international community sat by and watched the longest occupation in history – 40 years – and then placed an unprecedented boycott on them, which amounts to sanctions against a captive people. How is this possible? Maybe it is time for deep self-evaluation for Palestinians, Israelis and the international community.

For this reason, from Jerusalem I call on international leaders of the world to wake up and see that some of their policies have had devastating negative effects on this conflict and, in fact, the whole Middle East. Realistically, what can one expect in Gaza when you lock 1.5 million people into a tiny patch of land 20 miles long by 5-10 miles wide, virtually seal the borders except for a small fraction of trade and then completely stop the already meager salaries? A recent OxFam study of families in Gaza showed that the average family in Gaza has an average debt of $1750, in a land where a school principle only earns about $6000 per year. And in the West Bank, what can we expect when you herd people into tiny enclaves, take away freedom of movement and allow continued violations of human rights to go on behind walls of concrete and barbed wire fences?

Leaders of the world, your complicity in allowing and supporting the illegal occupation and your unprecedented action in boycotting this occupied people have created a humanitarian, political and economic crisis that now threatens not only the people of Palestine, but also Israel and the whole region. The Arab and Muslim world see this conflict as the litmus test for how the West treats them, and until some justice and improvement on the ground occurs for Palestinians, it will continue to fuel the fires of fanaticism in the whole Middle East.

If you want to bring an end to the horrific violence in the Middle East and if you are concerned as I am by the rampant growth of religious extremism: please, I urge your from Jerusalem, get serious about implementing the two-state solution, begin immediate serious talks about these issues with all sides and end the illegal and immoral boycott and occupation.

If we truly want to end this deadly stalemate and build a modern, democratic civil society in Palestine living side by side in a just peace with Israel, let us use our resources to educate our children and not to buy weapons to oppress them. We in the ELCJHL continue to be committed to a just solution based on international law and to see education as the key in preparing the future leaders who can lead us from occupation to freedom, from fear to mutual trust and from violence to peace/salaam/shalom.

For more information about the churches, schools and ministries of the ELCJHL, see www.holyland-lutherans.org

Heads of Local Churches Visit Haram al Sharif to Dialogue with Muslim Clerics and Leaders

2007 Al Aqsa Mosque

Local heads of churches paid a solidarity visit to Muslim clerics and leaders Saturday after Friday’s clashes on the Temple Mount after prayer. The Muslims said that Israeli soldiers stormed the Haram al Sharif, throwing sound grenades and using tear gas to force those gathered to leave.

Saturday’s discussion centered around what to do to keep holy sites protected, respected and accessible to all who wish to pray there. According to Muslim leaders, they have been in discussion for 3 years about this reconstruction of the Mugrabi gate area because it was was so sensitive. They believe there are tiles from the Umayyad Dynasty underneath, and they wanted to ensure that everything was preserved properly.

For Palestinians, Muslim and Christian, this is one more example of a unilateral action that disrespects them and their rights, and is unnecessarily provocative at a time fraught with tension over Palestinian infighting and possible new beginnings of the new unity government.

UN International Day of Prayer for Peace Celebrated in Holy Land

Christians packed the Church of the Dormition on Thursday to pray for peace in the world, but especially for peace with justice in the Holy Land. Christian and Muslim Palestinians in Bethlehem – most of whom cannot go to Jerusalem – gathered for a service of their own. About 70 people gathered around Rachel’s Tomb, which is being walled into Jerusalem and becoming home to a new settlement. They walked toward the main checkpoint and the wall, and stopped at a nearby chapel for a prayer service there. The sponsoring organizations released a statement. (Click here to get statement)

This traditional UN day for prayer for peace comes at a time when relations between Christians and Muslims have been strained by the Pope’s recent comments in which he quoted a Byzantine Emperor who said that Muhammed and Islam had brought nothing but evil and inhumanity. In response, some churches were attacked in Nablus, Tubas and Gaza. Bishop Younan has been working with both the Heads of Churches and Muslim leaders here to calm the situation, condemn any form of violence and encourage dialogue as the route to solve conflicts. The Bishop released a statement about the situation this week. (Click here to download statement.)