LWF president Bishop Younan visits member church in Kazakhstan – Lutheran World Federation

LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan with Bishop Yuri Novgorodov (very last row) and other pastors and church officials of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Kazakhstan, during the June visit to Astana. Photo: ELCRK
LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan with Bishop Yuri Novgorodov (very last row) and other pastors and church officials of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Kazakhstan, during the June visit to Astana. Photo: ELCRK
LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan with Bishop Yuri Novgorodov (very last row) and other pastors and church officials of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Kazakhstan, during the June visit to Astana. Photo: ELCRK

Accompanying each other in the Lutheran communion

JERUSALEM, 30 July 2015 – The President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan recently paid a pastoral visit to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Kazakhstan (ELCRK), during which he met a group of 20 pastors and Bishop Yuri Novgorodov in Astana.

“This was my first visit to Kazakhstan as LWF president. I learned a lot about the joys and challenges of the Kazakhstan Lutheran church. I explained our work together with the member churches: caring for refugees, advocacy for climate justice, women’s empowerment, theological reflections, ecumenical relations and inter-religious dialogue and so on,” Younan said.

“Being in the communion means we are in pulpit and altar fellowship,” Younan said. “This means when I visit your Church I am at home with my sisters and brothers in Christ as we celebrate the Holy Communion that sends us together to the world with a call to holistic mission.”

The conversations helped clarify the LWF’s role in the relationship with its member churches. “It was important to emphasize that the LWF as a communion of churches respects the autonomy of each church and that we accompany the churches upon invitation.”

However, being churches in communion “also means that we are accountable to each other,” Younan remarked.

Geographical isolation

The ELCRK’s core membership is made up of 2500 people in 50 congregations scattered across the country. The distance between congregations can be up to 3000kms. The president saw his visit as an opportunity to learn firsthand the challenges of being geographically isolated.

“I certainly felt how being far and in such a big country, and in another language context, can be a hindrance. I came to understand the difficulty of even gathering pastors to a national church meeting,” said Younan, who is bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

Education and formation of pastors are key priorities of the ELCRK, which belongs to the Federation of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Russia and Other States. “There is a hunger for Lutheran literature to be translated into Russian,” he noted.

The LWF president also heard the church’s excitement over plans to build a new church in Astana that will include a community center, youth services and guest house, and about its good relations with the government.

Spirituality

But it was the church’s spirituality and deep piety that most struck the LWF president. “You have a certain spirituality in Kazakhstan; and I invite you to come to the table with your spirituality. It is an added value,” he said, referring to conversations with the pastors, and his church attendance.

“I suggested that they should be more involved in the life of the communion, including the Global Young Reformers’ Network, the women’s networks and other aspects of LWF,” he said. “This for me was a pastoral visit, and I let them know how important they are as part of the Lutheran communion.”

Countering extremism

Younan was in Astana also to participate in the international Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. At the gathering, he challenged the religious and political leaders to enhance their own engagement in fighting extremism and in peace building efforts.

“Extremists exist in all religions. None has a monopoly on extremism. How do our speeches in the churches, mosques, temples reflect living together and co-existence? That is a challenge for us right now,” he noted.

Younan emphasized his call to faith groups to examine the curricula they teach and offer their countries by asking: “Do we promote extremism or acceptance of the other that is different? Do we promote the concept of seeing the image of God in the other?”

To read this in its original format, you can visit the Lutheran World Federation’s website.

Hope does not disappoint – LWF Council meeting 2015

LWF President Bishop Dr Munib Younan delivers his address at the 2014 Council meeting. Photo- M. Renaux
LWF President Bishop Dr Munib Younan delivers his address at the 2014 Council meeting. Photo- M. Renaux
LWF President Bishop Dr Munib Younan delivers his address at the 2014 Council meeting. Photo- M. Renaux

 

LWF Council to meet in Geneva

GENEVA, 10 June 2015 (LWI) – Communion self-understanding and the 2017 Assembly and Reformation anniversary are among key discussions that will feature at The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Council meeting in Geneva, 18-22 June.

LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan will deliver his address on this year’s thematic focus, “Hope does not disappoint.”

The report of the General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge will offer highlights of the work carried out by the Communion Office since last year’s Council meeting in Medan, Indonesia. He will introduce a study document, The Self-Understanding of the Lutheran Communion, and a comprehensive concept towards a sustainable LWF.

Christina Jackson-Skelton, chairperson of the Finance Committee, will provide an overview of the 2014 financial results and other matters related to the organization’s financial decisions and projections.

With just two years before the Twelfth Assembly, this year’s Council will receive the final report of the Assembly Planning Committee and its recommendations. These include a draft program for LWF’s highest decision-making body, which will meet 10-16 May 2017 in Windhoek, Namibia, coinciding with the Reformation anniversary commemorations.

This year’s Council will continue follow up discussions on a joint Lutheran-Catholic commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, building on the document From Conflict to Communion, by both partners.

Worship life is a central feature of LWF meetings, and this year’s Council opening service will be held at the Ecumenical Center chapel on 18 June. The remaining days will include morning prayers and Bible studies, evening devotions and Sunday worship at the St Pierre Cathedral in Geneva.

The 49-member LWF Council and advisers represent lay and ordained men, women and youth from the LWF member churches across the world. The LWF observes a quota representation of 40 percent women, 40 percent men and 20 percent youth.

As LWF President, Younan, who is bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, chairs the Council meeting. Staff from the respective LWF departments and invited guests also participate.

To read this in its original format, you can view it on the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) website.

 

Assurance of solidarity in the LWF communion of churches – LWF

LWF Council member Ms Titi Malik and LWF President Bishop Munib A. Younan plant a commemorative tree for the 60th anniversary of the first Lutheran conference in Marangu. Photo: LWF/Tsion Alemayehu
LWF Council member Ms Titi Malik and LWF President Bishop Munib A. Younan plant a commemorative tree for the 60th anniversary of the first Lutheran conference in Marangu. Photo: LWF/Tsion Alemayehu
LWF Council member Ms Titi Malik and LWF President Bishop Munib A. Younan plant a commemorative tree for the 60th anniversary of the first Lutheran conference in Marangu. Photo: LWF/Tsion Alemayehu

LWF’s President Younan encourages African member churches in their Lutheran journey

MOSHI, Tanzania/GENEVA, 24 May 2015 (LWI) – African church representatives meeting in Moshi, Tanzania, expressed appreciation for the critical role of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in nurturing unity and strengthening solidarity among the communion’s members.

“We have hope. We are ready to go forward,” said Malagasy theologian Dr Mariette Razivello. She was responding to the message of LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan to participants in the conference to mark the 60th anniversary of the Lutheran communion in Africa.

Razivello recalled that she was just six years old when delegates from the Malagasy Lutheran Church travelled to Marangu in then Tanganyika to attend the first gathering of all-Africa Lutherans in November 1955, envisioning a Lutheran communion on the continent. “You have rekindled our hope for the future, and encouraged us to draw closer to one another and to God,” she said.

In his message, the president thanked the African member churches for their contribution to the LWF, a communion in which all churches are interdependent. He encouraged them to “together reaffirm our confidence in our global communion, seeing it as a vital means for us to participate fully in God’s holistic mission.”

Younan noted that the series of church leadership conferences that grew out of the first Marangu gathering have strengthened the global commitment of unity in the LWF expressed since 1984 in pulpit and altar fellowship. “We learned from Marangu that without communion, we can have a tendency to be become individualistic. With the communion, we each grow in faith, independence, and inter-dependence.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) hosted the 20-24 May conference attended by over 200 participants including heads of the 31 LWF member churches in Africa, women and youth leaders, and representatives of theological networks and institutions. Global Lutheran leaders and mission partners also took part.

Indigenous Lutheran church

Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) paid tribute to prophetic Lutheran church leaders such as former LWF president Bishop Josiah Kibira of Bukoba, who advocated an indigenous African Lutheran church, relevant to the contexts in which people live.

Comparing the challenges in pre-independence Africa to today’s, the ELCJHL bishop reminded churches that God’s grace has liberated them from the bondage of colonization and domination to work together with other Christian churches to realize an abundant life for all people. Churches’ prophetic diakonia must seek to “transform hatred into love, violations of human rights into respect for all rights, poverty into equal opportunity, and injustice for women into gender justice,” he said.

In his response to Younan’s message, Bishop Dr Jensen Seyenkulo recounted how the Lutheran Church in Liberia experienced the global Lutheran communion solidarity during the Ebola crisis last year. “Many times we wondered why us, had God abandoned us for something we did? And then we learned that in this communion we are not alone,” he said.

He recalled a message from the Lutheran Church of Senegal, saying “they were praying for us and had raised some funds. They demonstrated to us that we were not abandoned.” Seyenkulo thanked the many other churches that made contributions, “giving us the energy to fight Ebola,” and Younan for “reminding us that we cannot care for ourselves alone.”

Ubuntu

Ms Blessing Shava, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe, expressed gratitude for the LWF president’s reminder that an abundant life for all is possible. She stressed that working together as churches and engaging with other stakeholders was essential in dealing with challenges such as HIV and AIDS, poverty and other economic injustices, trafficking of persons and armed conflict.

“A lot more can be achieved through cooperation, dialogue, mutual assistance and encouragement,” said Shava, a member of the LWF Global Young Reformers Network. She referred to the notion of Ubuntu (humanness) to underline the need for solidarity in tackling issues that “are central to the survival of our communities.”

She encouraged churches to remain prayerful and trust in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Allison Westerhoff, a member of the Africa Lutheran Information and Communication Network (ALCINET) contributed to this article. Westerhoff is the communications officer for the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa.

To see this article in its original format, you can visit the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) website.

Tribute to Dr Tawfiq Nasser – LWF

Photo: Dr Tawfiq Nasser, 2014. Photo: LWF Jerusalem

 

Photo: Dr Tawfiq Nasser, 2014. Photo: LWF Jerusalem
Photo: Dr Tawfiq Nasser, 2014. Photo: LWF Jerusalem

“Long and faithful service” to the Augusta Victoria Hospital

(LWI) – With great sadness The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has learned of the death of Dr Tawfiq A. Nasser, the Chief Executive Officer of the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem. Dr Nasser passed away on the morning of 16 May 2015. He had been the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer since 2001 and was instrumental in shaping its medical orientation.

“Dr Nasser was a man of compassion and service who cared deeply about others,” LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge wrote in a condolence letter to Dr Nasser’s family.  “In the LWF, we are particularly grateful for the long and faithful service Dr Nasser gave in the development of the Augusta Victoria Hospital.”

“He cherished and loved AVH”

Dr Nasser, who was born in the AVH in 1964 when the hospital still had a maternity ward, had been the hospital’s administrative director since 1997. He took over as Chief Executive Officer in 2001, at the age of 36. Dr Nasser shaped the hospital into the leading center for nephrology and oncology in the Palestinian territories.

He graduated in biomedicine and hospital administration at the Old Dominion University in Virginia, USA. Before taking a position at the AVH, Dr Nasser worked at Sentara Health System, USA, as well as at Bir Zeit University and with Arab Care Medical Services, both in Ramallah.

Colleagues and friends praised Dr Nasser’s commitment to the AVH and its patients. “Tawfiq worked at AVH on the Mount of Olives for 18 years,” Bishop Munib A Younan, Chairperson of the board of the AVH and President of the LWF, said. “He cherished and loved AVH. Tawfiq did not want it to be just a hospital. He wanted it to be a community of healing on the Mount of Olives.”

LWF General Secretary Junge said of Dr Nasser: “As a medical doctor, he learned the healing arts and applied them to relieve human suffering. As a gifted administrator, he organized the staff, the resources and the supporters to bring the Augusta Victoria Hospital to even higher levels of service. As a Palestinian, through his words and actions as a consummate professional, he was a powerful witness for justice, peace and an end to the occupation.”

Continue delivering services

Dr Nasser continued working until early May. He had been gradually handing over responsibilities to his deputy, Walid Nammour, who will continue to ensure  professional delivery of services.

Located on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, the AVH serves thousands of patients annually. It provides specialized medical services that are either unavailable elsewhere or not readily accessible to Palestinians, including facilities for dialysis, cancer and surgery, as well as special clinics, laboratories and medical equipment. One of Dr Nasser’s achievements was to have the hospital awarded the prestigious Joint Commission International accreditation for health care quality, patient care and organizational management in 2013. He also took the decision to send volunteer medical teams into Gaza to treat the wounded during the conflict of August 2014.

“We stand by his wife and his family,” Rev. Mark Brown, Country Representative of the LWF program in Jerusalem, said. “Please keep them in your prayers. Wholly in keeping with Tawfiq’s commitment to AVH, the family requested that friends wishing to honor Tawfiq send contributions to Augusta Victoria Hospital in support of its cancer work, in lieu of flowers.”

To see this article in its original format, you can visit the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) website.

Christian Love and Dialogue Can Influence Middle East Crisis – LWF

Students from the kindergarten of the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour take a break from learning their Arabic alphabet to pose for a photo. Photo: ELCJHL
Students from the kindergarten of the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour take a break from learning their Arabic alphabet to pose for a photo. Photo: ELCJHL
Students from the kindergarten of the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour take a break from learning their Arabic alphabet to pose for a photo. Photo: ELCJHL

LWF President Younan’s Public Lecture in Beirut

(LWI) – Rampant religious fanaticism in the Middle East calls Lutherans and other Christians to secure a shared future for all through love and dialogue, said Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

Younan made these remarks on 19 March, when he delivered a public lecture on “Reformation and Politics” at the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut, Lebanon. The bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) emphasized that Lutherans don’t seek to “Christianize” politics but to improve society through engagement.

“Although Christians are numerical minorities in the Middle East, we can have tremendous influence to utilize for the benefit of all persons and communities in our region,” Younan said in his paper focusing on “Lutheran Contributions to the Political Life of the Middle East.”

He was responding to a presentation by Rev. Dr Margot Kässmann, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) special envoy for the 2017 Reformation Jubilee.

“Constitutional development is a central concern for the rebuilding of the Middle East. In that process, Arab Christians emphasize commitment to equal citizenship with equal rights and equal responsibilities,” Younan said.

The LWF president said Lutherans should know that Martin Luther, who triggered the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, would find the suffering being endured by the people of Iraq and Syria reason to involve himself in such a crisis.

Luther would question the false distinction between religion and politics, promote interfaith engagement, address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a factor contributing to the current religiously-sanctioned fanaticism and promote moderation, the bishop noted.

“As a leader from a minority movement himself, Luther would no doubt understand us when we say that our danger is not in living with the ‘Other’ but when fanatics seek to persecute us,” Younan said in his address.

He pointed to the historic document From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017 to illustrate Lutheran ecumenical accountability, which emphasizes unity, transformation, the power of Jesus Christ and joint witness.

“Together, we show that the church of Jesus Christ is indeed always engaged in reform and renewal,” he said.

The waves of violence that have overtaken the Middle East have disproportionately affected the small Christian communities there, Younan said, adding that all communities are potential victims of the ongoing violence.

“Lutheran reflections on the proper authority of church and government can help shape how all communities in the Middle East move forward toward a shared future,” he concluded.

The ELCJHL bishop is on the board of NEST, an inter-confessional Protestant institution that trains pastors and other church workers in the Middle East for ministry in the churches and their related organizations.

To read the article in it’s original format, you can visit the website of the Lutheran World Federation.
To read Bishop Munib Younan’s entire speech, you can download it here. (Word)

Bishop Younan Assures Egyptian Copts of LWF Communion Prayer – LWF

JERUSALEM/GENEVA, 17 February 2015 (LWI) – Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) has assured the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt of prayers and solidarity from the Lutheran communion following the recent killings of Coptic Christians by extremists affiliated to the militant group IS.

In a letter to Pope Tawadros II, Younan, also LWF President, said the killing of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya was not only an attack on humanity and on followers of Jesus Christ, but also “against people of every religion who stand for peace justice and freedom.”

“Your struggle is our struggle; your grief is our grief,” the LWF president wrote to the Coptic church leader, assuring him of prayers from the LWF communion.

A video released on 15 February depicts the killings of the Christians in Libya, believed to be kidnapped Egyptians.

To read this article in its original form, you can visit the Lutheran World Federation’s website.
To view the letter Bishop Younan wrote to Pope Tawadros II, you can view it here. (PDF)

Younan Encourages Baltic Churches to Nurture Interdependence of Lutheran Communion – LWF

LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and other church leaders during the consecration of Estonian Lutheran Archbishop Urmas Viilma (kneeling) at St Mary’s Cathedral in Tallinn. Photo: Erik Peinar
TALLINN, Estonia/GENEVA | 6/2/2015
LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and other church leaders during the consecration of Estonian Lutheran Archbishop Urmas Viilma (kneeling) at St Mary’s Cathedral in Tallinn. Photo: Erik Peinar
LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and other church leaders during the consecration of Estonian Lutheran Archbishop Urmas Viilma (kneeling) at St Mary’s Cathedral in Tallinn. Photo: Erik Peinar

“Carrying the Cross Together”

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan concluded his first official visit to the Baltic churches with emphasis on the interdependence of all churches that make up the global LWF communion.

Highlights from his 26 January – 4 February visit to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia included the consecration of Archbishop Urmas Viilma of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELC), who has succeeded retiring Archbishop Andres Põder.

The LWF area secretary for Europe Rev. Dr Eva-Sibylle Vogel-Mfato accompanied the president during the visit to the three countries.

The LWF president told the new EELC archbishop his consecration provides an opportunity for Lutherans worldwide to reflect on the importance of communion for Christian churches. “As a communion of churches, we are interdependent,” Younan said.

Societies throughout the world, including Estonia, are changing rapidly therefore it is deeply important for churches to offer leadership, not only in their own interests, but for the whole of society, Younan said.

“The interdependence of our global communion and the broad web of ecumenical (and even interreligious) relationships we enjoy can be a source of great encouragement and strength,” Younan emphasized. Invited church leaders at the consecration included LWF regional Vice-Presidents Hungarian Bishop Dr Tamás Fabiny and Church of Norway Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien.

The LWF president also met with church and political leaders, preached and held discussions with diaconal workers at Lutheran social service agencies.

Lithuania: A Prophetic Church

Together with Bishop Mindaugas Sabutis, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania, Younan visited diaconal projects, including an orphanage, run by congregations in Sakiai and Jurbarka in the western part of the country. “It is important that the church is present at the grassroots of people’s lives, and serves their real needs. We are called to be a prophetic church, to be a church that sees the reality and acts,” he said, during discussions with staff serving the community, which is plagued by high unemployment.

Younan also met President Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, and both leaders discussed peace building and humanitarian work around the world, the role of religious leaders in peacekeeping and ecumenism in Lithuania.

His message during a service at the Vilnius Lutheran Church emphasized trust and faith in God during times of tribulation such as human rights violations.

“You have been half a century under oppression in Lithuania; churches were destroyed or used by others. But you kept faith in God the savior. You kept Lithuania on pilgrimage with the Lord,” the LWF president said, referring to church persecution in the former communist rule in the region.

Latvia: Carrying the Cross Together in Mission

In meetings with Archbishop Janis Vanags and other leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) in Riga, Younan noted that “diakonia is not to be separated from mission. It is part of what we call holistic mission. Love in practice is feeding the hungry.”

During a dialogue with pastors, Younan responded to a question about the LWF’s greatest joy over the past few years by declaring: “In my travels, I find deep roots of faithfulness to the mission of God in every church. There are many joys in the communion, I am proud to be serving it.”

In a meeting with the association of women theologians in the ELCL, Younan referred to the LWF Gender Justice Policy. He emphasized the document was adopted [in 2013] for the whole LWF communion and its member churches, and it serves as an invitation to discern together on issues such as women’s ordination.

The LWF president concluded his visit to Latvia with a Sunday worship sermon at Riga’s St John’s Church on 1 February. He referred to the ongoing task of articulating the confessional identity of Lutheran churches, which is a collaborative endeavor in the context of the LWF communion. “We are carrying the cross together. We are in mission and diakonia together. Although we may have differences, together we are faithful for the gospel,” Younan emphasized.

To read this article in its original format, you can visit the Lutheran World Federation’s website.

Bishop Younan Presides Over Installation, Baptism, and Commissioning

The Laying on of Hands for the Installation of Rev. Carrie Smith
The Laying on of Hands for the Installation of Rev. Carrie Smith
(L-R) Rev. Mark Brown, the Church Council Chairperson of the English Speaking congregation, Rev. Mari Parkkinen of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission, Rev. Ibrahim Azar of the Arabic Speaking congregation, Bishop Munib Younan, Propst Wolfgang Schmidt, Representative of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland in Jerusalem, and Rev. Robert Smith of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lay hands on Rev Carrie Smith during her installation. (© D. Hudson/ELCJHL)

JERUSALEM – On Sunday, the 23rd of September, Bishop Munib Younan installed Rev. Carrie Smith as the pastor of the English Speaking congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem and as Special Assistant to the Bishop.  Along with her blessing from Bishop Younan, Rev. Ibrahim Azar of the Arabic Speaking congregation, Rev. Mari Parkkinen of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission, Rev. Mark Brown, the Church Council Chairperson of the English Speaking congregation, Rev. Robert Smith, both a special advisor to Bishop Younan and Rev. Carrie’s husband, and Propst Wolfgang Schmidt, Representative of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland in Jerusalem, Rev. Carrie was also surrounded by members of the English and Arabic speaking congregations, as well as her husband and children. Bishop Younan presented the places of Word and Sacrament – the font, altar, and pulpit – after the blessing and the laying on of hands.

Continue reading “Bishop Younan Presides Over Installation, Baptism, and Commissioning”

„Politik und Religion zu trennen weder weise noch wünschenswert“

LWB-Präsident Bischof Dr. Munib A. Younan im Martin Luther Forum Ruhr. Foto: DNK
LWB-Präsident Bischof Dr. Munib A. Younan im Martin Luther Forum Ruhr. Foto: DNK

(LWI) – Zum Einsatz für Frieden und Gerechtigkeit im Nahen Osten und gegen eine künstliche Trennung von Politik und Theologie rief LWB-Präsident Bischof Dr. Munib A. Younan am 26. Juni 2014 in einem Vortrag im Martin Luther Forum Ruhr in Gladbeck (Deutschland) auf. Aus seiner Heimat, dem Nahen Osten, wisse der Bischof der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche in Jordanien und im Heiligen Land (ELKJHL), dass eine Trennung beider Bereiche weder möglich noch klug sei. Die Politik müsse Raum für Religionen lassen und die Kirchen die Regierungen kritisch begleiten.

Younan besuchte Deutschland auf Einladung des Martin Luther Forums Ruhr. Am Nachmittag des 26. Juni traf der Präsident des Lutherischen Weltbundes (LWB) mit dem Bürgermeister der Stadt Gladbeck, Ulrich Roland, zusammen. Nach einem Austausch zu Fragen der Integration und des friedlichen Zusammenlebens der Religionen trug sich Younan in das goldene Buch der Stadt ein. Im Anschluss nahm der Bischof an dem traditionellen Sommerfest des Martin Luther Forums teil, das von über 200 Teilnehmenden besucht wurde. Durch den Abend führte OKR Detlef Mucks-Büker, der Vorsitzende des Stiftungsrates der Martin Luther Stiftung Ruhr. Grußworte kamen von dem Regierungspräsidenten Prof. Dr. Reinhard Klenke und dem Geschäftsführer des Deutschen Nationalkomitees des Lutherischen Weltbundes, OKR Norbert Denecke.

Rolle von Religion im öffentlichen Raum

In seinem Hauptvortrag widmete sich Younan der Frage, inwieweit die Systeme Politik und Theologie miteinander im Einklang stehen können. Oft würde ihm als Bischof eine vollständige Trennung empfohlen. Diese könne er aber nicht akzeptieren. „Ich komme aus einem Kontext, wo Religion und Politik nicht getrennt werden können […] Politik und Religion zu trennen ist weder weise noch wünschenswert.“ Außerdem entspräche dies nicht seiner lutherischen theologischen Tradition, so Younan. Dies entfaltete er anhand der Zwei-Reiche-Lehre Luthers und deren Wiederaufnahme in den 1930er-Jahren u. a. durch Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Vor diesem Hintergrund gab der Bischof der ELKJHL eine Analyse der Verhältnisse von Religion und Politik im Nahen Osten. Multiples Versagen hätte zu der heutigen Krisensituation in der Region geführt, auch die Beschneidung religiöser Freiheit. „Die Unterdrückung religiöser Impulse führte zu beispiellosen Wellen von religiösem Fanatismus, sobald die diktatorische Gewalt fort war“, so Younan. Daher wies der Bischof auch alle Forderung zurück, Religion völlig aus der Gesellschaft auszuklammern. Dies führe gerade zu besagten desaströsen Ergebnissen.

Dies verband er mit dem politischen Engagement der Kirchen. Der Nahe Osten suche weiterhin nach Modellen guter Regierungsführung. Dazu könnten die Kirchen nicht schweigen: „Die Krise der Regierungen […] verlangt es, dass die örtlichen Kirchen ihre Herangehensweisen an politisches Engagement überdenken.“ Zur Spannung zwischen Religion und Politik betonte er: „Wir wollen nicht die Politik ‚christianisieren‘, wir streben danach, die Gesellschaft durch politisches Engagement zu verbessern.“ Gleichzeitig lehnte Younan Verfassungen ab, die die heiligen Texte einer Religion als Hauptquelle haben: „Vor dem Gesetz sind alle Religionen gleich; daher suchen wir Religionsfreiheit und Freiheit in religiösem Bekenntnis.“

Der LWB-Präsident unterstrich, dass die lutherischen Kirchen dieses Anliegen mit vielen Religionsgemeinschaften teilen. Zu der Frage, welche Rolle Religion im öffentlichen Raum einnehmen kann, hat der LWB im Januar 2014 ein Drei-Jahres-Programm gestartet. Vier Konferenzen weltweit, die gemeinsam mit Partnern anderer Religionen verantwortet werden, werden sich mit dieser Frage beschäftigen. Zwei der Konferenzen haben bereits stattgefunden: im Januar 2014 in Münster (Deutschland) gemeinsam mit dem Zentrum für Islamische Theologie sowie in Dar es Salaam (Tansania) mit 60 religiösen und zivilgesellschaftlichen Führungspersonen aus Afrika.

Zur Situation in Israel-Palästina bekräftigte der Präsident des LWB den Einsatz der LutheranerInnen in Palästina und weltweit für eine Zwei-Staaten-Lösung mit einer gemeinsam geteilten Stadt Jerusalem.

„Himmelskreuz“ für Luthergarten

Nach dem Festvortrag des LWB-Präsidenten hatten die Veranstalter noch eine Überraschung für Younan vorbereitet. Sie übergaben ihm ein Modell der Skulptur „Himmelskreuz“ vom Künstler Thomas Schönauer. Nach diesem Modell soll in den nächsten Jahren im Wittenberger Luthergarten das Kreuz der Lutherrose – dem zentralen Platz des Luthergartens – gestaltet werden. Der Initiator des Luthergartens, Landschaftsarchitekt Andreas Kipar, erinnerte daran, dass das Martin Luther Forum Ruhr bereits 2010 einen Trompetenbaum in Wittenberg gepflanzt hatte. Mit dem Partnerbaum im Martin Luther Forum sei Gladbeck mit dem Luthergarten in Wittenberg ebenso verbunden wie mit den vielen anderen Orten weltweit, an denen Partnerbäume des Luthergartens stünden.

To read the article on the website, you can visit the Lutheran World Federation.
To read Bishop Younan’s speech (English), you can download it here. (PDF)
To view photos from the event, you can view them on the ELCJHL’s photo gallery.

Global Religious Leaders Endorse “Welcoming the Stranger” Affirmations

LWF President Younan (third left) at the Religions for Peace Assembly. Photo: Religions for Peace
LWF President Younan (third left) at the Religions for Peace Assembly. Photo: Religions for Peace
LWF President Younan (third left) at the Religions for Peace Assembly. Photo: Religions for Peace

LWF President Younan: Apply Justice by Accepting “the Other”

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan joined global religious leaders in signing the historic “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders” that pledge support for refugees, internally displaced and stateless persons, and to work against xenophobia.

The signing took place on 21 November at the 9th Assembly of Religions for Peace held in Vienna, Austria, and attended by more than 600 delegates representing Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths. A representative from each religion read a part of the document before signing it.

The affirmations developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) following an LWF-led initiative, were launched in June this year, and endorsed by the LWF Council at its meeting the same month.

Younan said the signing of “Welcoming the Stranger” less than a year after its initiation was an emotional event, which illustrated what can happen when religious leaders and politicians work for the good of humanity.

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