EEC Announces Creation of Palestinian Environment Day

Bishop Munib Younan and the Palestinian Quality Authority announce Palestine Environmental Day.
Bishop Munib Younan and the Palestinian Quality Authority announce Palestine Environmental Day.
Bishop Munib Younan and the Palestinian Quality Authority announce Palestine Environmental Day. (© ELCJHL)

The Environmental Education Center (EEC), in collaboration with the Palestinian Quality Authority, announced on Thursday, March 13th, 2014, that the 5th of March will be dedicated as Palestinian Environment Day, an initiative launched by His Grace Bishop Munib A. Younan.

Palestinian Environment Day will be celebrated annually with a focus on raising awareness about the Palestinian environmental situation. This day aims to fight for environmental rights, for sustainability of the environment, and to show both locals and visitors the Palestinian landscape.

This day comes out of the longing of the people of Palestinian for freedom, the restoration of their land, and control over natural resources. Activities will be held in collaboration with other environmentally active organization to celebrate the day. Every year will have a specific slogan, starting with “The Occupation Crimes: An Enemy to All Forms of Life” to reaffirm the role of the occupation’s contribution to the state of our environment. Between the 15th of March and the 15th of April, 2014, the first annual event will be held with the announcement of a National Bird Watching and Ringing Week and the implementation of many green activities throughout the country.

Check back to learn about upcoming activities with the EEC!

ELCJHL Model United Nations Teams Prepare For Competitions

Students from the Model United Nations teams from Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Ramallah pose for a photo.
Students from the Model United Nations teams from Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Ramallah pose for a photo.
Students from the Model United Nations teams from Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Ramallah pose for a photo. (© ELCJHL)

The ELCJHL schools have been preparing a handful of students to participate in Model United Nations (MUN), in Jerusalem, Ramallah and, hopefully, around the world.

The Model United Nations, operating much like the formal version, gives student delegates the chance to develop their debating skills, as well as learning more about world politics and issues.  The ELCJHL is hoping that this will not just teach their students about global issues, but also be part of their peace education by learning about the other.

In 2014, the students are participating locally at the Rosary Sisters’ High School in Jerusalem and the Friends School in Ramallah.

The ELCJHL is hoping to send the MUN delegation to Malmö, Sweden for the Model United Nations of Sweden (MUNOS) conference on May 26-28, 2014. A Palestinian delegation to this Model United Nations would be a first and it would be especially advantageous since a topic of this conference is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Fundraising is ongoing for this trip.

Not only is the ELCJHL hoping to send students internationally for MUN conferences, but is also hoping to conduct their own MUN conferences. In April 2014, the ELCJHL is hoping to have an MUN conference for all ELCJHL schools and, if funding can be secured, an international LuthMUN in 2015.

We wish our students luck in their upcoming competitions!

French President Hollande Meets With Palestinian Christians

French President Hollande meets with Christian leaders in Jerusalem.
French President Hollande meets with Christian leaders in Jerusalem.
French President Hollande meets with Christian leaders in Jerusalem. (© French Embassy)

French President, François Hollande, met with Christian leaders in Jerusalem on Monday, November 18th, at St. Ann’s Church in the Old City of Jerusalem to discuss the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the issues surrounding Jerusalem.

Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos, Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal, and Archbishop Youssef Jules El Zereyi of the Greek Catholic Patriarchate, and ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan in speaking with President Hollande about Jerusalem as a shared capital for two states and three religions.

President Hollande told the gathered leaders that France has historically been a protector of Catholicism in the Holy Land and will continue to help Catholics and all Christians who live here.  Patriarch Twal asked President Hollande if France could request that funds be earmarked for Christian health and education out of the money that France currently provides to the Palestinian Authority.

Patriarch Theophilos conveyed to the President that the time is now for people and governments around the world to support a Christian presence in Jerusalem so that the legacy and care of Christian holy places could continue, uninterrupted for over 2,000 years.

Bishop Younan addressed the audience about the importance that President Hollande met with Christian leaders in St. Ann’s Church in Jerusalem.  Bishop Younan emphasized the necessity of speaking out for a shared Jerusalem, the importance of interfaith dialogue, including the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL), and interfaith dialogue’s role in building up trust between the three religions and their work in peace education.

CRIHL’s recent study of textbooks in Israel and Palestine found that many textbooks in Israeli and Palestinian schools do not support co-existence of peoples or a shared Jerusalem.  Bishop Younan and the other religious leaders hoped to convey to President Hollande, those gathered, and to leaders around the world that there will be no peace without justice in Jerusalem, a city that is open to all people, that will be without walls and without an army.

To read the textbook study completed by CRIHL, visit their website here.

EEC Hosts 2nd National Bird Ringing Week in Palestine

The Spanish Sparrow
The EEC discusses birds on the first day of National Bird Ringing Week
EEC volunteers discuss bird ringing with officials from the Environmental Quality Authority of Palestine (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)

BEIT JALA/JERICHO – The Environmental Education Center (EEC), along with the Environmental Quality Authority of Palestine, co-hosted the 2nd National Bird Ringing Week in Palestine. Groups from around the world, including from the United States, Germany, and Austria, visited the EEC’s ringing station in Beit Jala to watch a demonstration of the technique and to hear more about the birds that travel through Palestine. Schools from Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, and Bethlehem also participated in the visits and museum tours to teach children about the importance of Palestine’s natural resources.

Trips were arranged for those interested in the EEC’s temporary ringing station in Jericho. The ringing station in Jericho has been ongoing since mid-September in the hopes of documenting bird parasites in the area and how it effects the numerous species that migrate through and live in the Jordan Valley.

Talking with school children
An EEC volunteer speaks with school children about birds found in Palestine. (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)

The week ended with a discussion on the Palestinian Sunbird, the birds of Palestine, their importance, and the threats to their existence. The EEC encourages children and adults to learn about the biodiversity of their homeland and how they can protect it.

To see more photos from the 2nd National Bird Ringing Week, you can visit the ELCJHL’s photo galleries for both the bird ringing station in Beit Jala and the day trip to Jericho.

Invention of History conference explores intersection of theology, politics

Archeologists, historians, film-makers, theologians and others gathered in Bethlehem on Aug. 23-29 to discuss how their disciplines have contributed to the current situation in Israel-Palestine. Participants in the “Invention of History: A Century of Interplay between Theology and Politics in Palestine” conference hailed from around the world. Notably, a group of South Africans reflected on comparisons of the situation here with those in their country during apartheid.

Organized and hosted by the International Center of Bethlehem, a ministry of ELCJHL Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, the conference was third in a series of five designed to generate research, discussion and writings in support of a just resolution to the conflict. Conference convener Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb said there are already two publishers interested in publishing the papers presented at the conference.

Bishop Younan Urges Civil Leaders to Unite for Sake of Palestine

Bishop Younan joined religious and civil leaders at a gathering last Saturday to urge Palestinians to focus on the common goal of ending the Israeli occupation and achieving the two-state solution of two equal, viable states living side by side in peace and justice.

“What joins us should be greater than what divides us: our just and legitimate struggle for an end to the occupation and a Palestinian state,” he said.

He quoted Proverb 14:34, “righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people,” calling the recent infighting and violence “the shame of our people.”

Bishop Younan Tells National Unity Conference Palestinians Must Use Wisdom not Weapons

Feb. 10, 2007 – Bishop Munib Younan urged Palestinians to “use brains, sanity, dialogue and non-violence and not arms to deal with differences” at a national conference Monday. The conference, called by independent groups, non-governmental organizations and other agencies, encouraged democratic, non-violent strategies as the only way to achieve Palestinian goals of an end to the 40-year military occupation and the creation of an independent, viable state living side by side with Israel. Banners and stickers at the conference said that Palestine is big enough for all of us and our differences.

The conference started off with Islamic Chief Judge Sheikh Tamimi and Bishop Younan speaking to the 200 people gathered. Bishop Younan told the group that recent infighting between Palestinians “is a sin and a shame on our people” and urged politicians and other leaders to listen to both those who agree with them, to the silent majority and to the voice of the opposition because this is the only way to develop a peaceful, nonviolent strategy for justice and to build a common vision of a modern, civil, democratic society. He urged the victims of the fighting to forgive and not to allow hatred and vengeance to overcome them.

The Bishop has been talking on radio and television and working with Muslim and Christian leaders behind the scenes to try to unite Palestinians toward non-violence and mutual respect in this crucial time of recent infighting, a new unity government and increased tension over recent excavations near the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Bishop Younan Calls for Palestinian Christians and the International Community to Seek Just Peace

Bishop Younan told a conference of 400 people on Saturday, November 3, that it is the responsibility of all Christians world-wide and the entire international community to help the Palestinians achieve some justice that will lead to peace He said the situation is getting very difficult for all Palestinians.

The Bishop spoke at Sabeel’s 6th International Conference entitled “The Forgotten Faithful,” a 7-day look at the life of Palestinian Christians today. Central to the conference was a survey of 1400 families in the West Bank and Israel (they were denied access to Gaza), which showed that a high percentage of young families are seeking to emigrate because of lack of jobs and to find a better life. The conference traveled to Jerusalem, to Bethlehem, Jericho, Ramallah and several villages around there, then ended in Nazareth and villages around there.

The Bishop outlined 5 things churches should do in their role in peacemaking. In our context as Palestinian Christians, living prophetically means that we are to:

  1. Condemn all forms of violence and sin
  2. Uphold a prophetic vision of just peace
  3. Uphold a prophetic vision of a modern, civil, democratic society
  4. Seek common values of mutual respect and human dignity with other faiths
  5. Work ecumenically and globally for the sake of humanity and justice

He ended his speech with these words: “It is time to liberate our world from the extremism and hate that seeks to dominate and distract us from promoting common values of love, justice, peace and human dignity. It is time to help make religion a driving force for reconciliation and healing that it should be rather than a part of the problem. It is time for us to realize that there has been enough hate, enough violence, enough occupation! How many more deaths, shattered cities, walls of concrete will it take before we refuse to further destroy one another? If ever there was a time to transform our swords into ploughshares, our hatred into love, occupation into liberation, it is now.

Olive Festival in Bethlehem

Dark skies and rain didn’t stop the Sixth Annual Olive Harvest Festival in Bethlehem Saturday, October 28th, in Manger Square. The festival is sponsored by the ELCJHL’s Environmental Education Center, the Bethlehem Peace Center, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the East Jerusalem YMCA. Marking the harvest of the Palestinian traditional olive harvest, Palestinians near Bethlehem celebrate with this festival on Manger Square that draws organizations who do traditional practices with olives and olivewood carving, embroider and other traditional crafts. Throughout the day, debkha dancers, singers, puppet shows and other performers entertained the crowd. Many groups came for the festival and to see the traditional site of where Jesus was born, the Church of the Nativity.

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.