A Call From Jerusalem: Political Solution, Not Military Intervention

JERUSALEM – With many people around the world, I am deeply troubled by the apparent use of chemical weapons inside Syria.  Such weapons have no place in our world and their use by any party is unacceptable under any circumstance. While the use of chemical weapons is wrong, the forms of intervention being predicted thus far can do little to bring a positive outcome.

Even after the vote from the House of Commons in the United Kingdom, some Western powers continue to prepare plans for military intervention in Syria. Such military intervention threatens to bring even greater suffering and instability to communities throughout Syria and the region as a whole. We in the Middle East have witnessed several interventions from Western powers. We see that the countries that have been the targets for such intervention have neither democracy nor security. The recent history of Western interventions in the Middle East has brought only greater hatred and violence.

The only ones who will benefit from Western military intervention in Syria will be extremists on all sides. The violent ambitions of extremists within all traditions in the Middle East—Muslims, Christians, and Jews, among others—will be stoked by the fuel of even greater military destruction. As an Arab Christian, I am concerned for the effects this violence will have on every community in Syria, whether they are Sunni, Shiite, Alawite, Druze, or Christian.

Syria’s civil war threatens to tear the fabric of the country. Syrians have suffered from the presence of foreign fighters on all sides and the intransigent self-interests of both regional and global powers. The situation in Syria will be solved not with bombs but with diplomatic efforts and true dialogue among Syrians of goodwill. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in response to the conflict in Vietnam, “The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”

I call on all people to resist the threat of military intervention in Syria. Arab and Middle Eastern Christians and Christians throughout the world have a responsibility to raise a critical public voice, thus contributing to civil society. Our primary concern is not for abstract notions of national interest but for the flourishing of human communities. To choose the path of diplomacy brings the Middle East closer to the goal of peace. Such a choice is not weakness, but the sign of peace and security.

Rt. Rev. Munib A. Younan
Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

A Response to Violence Against Women in India from the Women’s Desk

JERUSALEM – On hearing the sad news of the brutal rape and subsequent death of the young woman in India on December 16th, the Women’s Desk of the ELCJHL wrote a response to the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India.  The full response is printed below:

Dear Rev. Dr. A. G. Augustine Jeyakumar,

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) received with sadness, condemnation and resentment the news of the brutal assault and rape of the young woman on the 16thof December in New Delhi, India, and is watching with concern the fallout of the events that followed this criminal and inhumane incident. The ELCJHL Bishop, pastors, women, and people of the congregations of the Lutheran Church and greater Christian community in Jordan and the Holy Land stand with the people of the world who are now learning of this growing situation and demand that the government of India take seriously the ramifications of this issue and are also concerned with the indifference everywhere prevailing when dealing with such acts, which is also experienced by many women around the world today and for which sometimes they have to pay with their very lives. We sympathize and support women in India and join our voices to wipe out this scourge. The (ELCJHL) as a whole and the ELCJHL Women’s Desk in particular are seriously concerned and severely condemn these acts of violence against women in India and all over the world.

A Christmas Message from Bishop Younan, ELCJHL

Peace graphic

As I sit down to write my Christmas message during this Advent season, there are no words that touch me more deeply than these words from Isaiah chapter 40, “Comfort, O Comfort my people, says your God.” During this time I have been moved by the emotions associated with the beginning of life and the end of life, of birth and death. And I am very much aware that life begins and ends with a need for comfort. And in between, there is enough pain and suffering to go around, for people to cry out, “We are all like grass that withers, and flowers that fade.”

We have once again experienced warfare and death with the eight-day war in southern Israel and Gaza. Though a ceasefire has now been announced, we still feel the burden of a war in which there are no winners, in which people on both sides suffer from physical and emotional wounds and are in need of comforting, a war in which the survivors themselves feel the pain of loss and need to be comforted. Even though we are at a distance in Jerusalem, we have all been shaken by the images of families running to bomb shelters afraid, images of the dead and wounded, images of the rubble. We are moved so much by such tragedy, that it would seem that the words of the Book of Lamentations prevail where there is “no one to comfort her” (Lamentations 1:9, 17, 21).

Continue reading “A Christmas Message from Bishop Younan, ELCJHL”

Prayer for Peace from Churches for Middle East Peace on Eve of Annapolis

O God, we come to you with open hands and open hearts.
We pray for peace and for all those that suffer violence and injustice in the midst of war and conflict.
We pray for the innocent, combatants, peacemakers, and religious and political leaders.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the holy city of God and spiritual home to all the children of Abraham.

O God of mercy and compassion,
Embrace our Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters.
They have endured profound loss and sorrow.
They are fatigued by fear and anger.
Mend their broken hearts and failing spirits.
Ignite in them sparks of hope.
Comfort them and guide them onto the road of peace.

O God of peace and reconciliation,
Lift up the international leaders who search for peace.
They have talked before without success.
They face a difficult road and many obstacles.
Inspire them to move from words to actions that fulfill a greater vision of peace.
Arouse in them a passion for righteousness.
Bless them and their work for peace.

O God of all creation,
Your people cry for peace.
May your promise of justice and enduring love
Breathe renewed Life
Into our commitment to a sustainable peace,
When two states – Israel and Palestine – are a reality,
Living side-by-side in security, harmony and peace. Amen

For more on Churches for Middle East Peace, see www.cmep.org

Palestinian and Israeli Women Protest at Qalandia Checkpoint

2007 Women March at Kalandia

More than a hundred Palestinian and Israeli women gathered to protest the ongoing occupation and human rights violations in the Palestinian territories. Palestinian women who have lost their sons or not seen them in prison for years combined with Israeli women peace-makers to focus attention on these injustices and the high rate of violence against women from all arenas. Four women from the new Jerusalem team of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel joined the group as one of their first experiences with the program, and are looking forward to continue the journey learning about the situation here.

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.)

World Council of Churches Meeting Produces Letter of Support for Palestinian/Israeli Peace

“Accompany Israeli and Palestinian leaders with courage and patience in a direction that will give their people cause for hope,” World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia says today in a letter to members of the UN Security Council’s “Middle East Quartet”.

letter comes at “a critical juncture in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” and calls on recipients to “work in new ways to meet the new situation emerging from last month’s Palestinian elections”. It identifies three features of the new situation that “present opportunities for genuine progress towards peace”:

  • As “an earnest exercise of democratic rights”, the Palestinian elections “send a democratic warning to those in the international community who hold responsibility for the long-delayed fulfilment of international obligations to the Palestinian people”.
  • The new Palestinian Authority “needs time to position and prove itself”, and Quartet members therefore need to exercise “constructive patience” with the newly-elected body.
  • In the interests of a genuine peace process, the Quartet is needed as an active, determined, objective and consistent “third party” in order to hold Israelis and Palestinians to equitable terms and conditions.

The WCC letter was sent to US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, the European Union’s representative for foreign and security polity Javier Solana, the Russian Federation’s minister of foreign affairs Sergey Lavrov,the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs Agboola Gambari, and to the special representative of the UN Security Council’s Middle East Quartet, James Wolfensohn.

Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches Hosts Women’s Conference in Amman, Jordan

Ten women from the ELCJHL attended the “Women in Leadership” Conference of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) in late October in Amman, Jordan. More than fifty women attended from different evangelical traditions such as Lutheran, Presbyterian and Evangelical Armenian, from Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait. A psychologist and a representative of the Permanent Peace Movement in Lebanon led sessions on effective communication, empowerment, conflict management and building teamwork. Lutheran women from Amman and

Palestinian Lutheran Bishop in Jerusalem Supports Catholic Call for a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace

Twenty-five Catholic bishops through-out the Middle East and Africa have called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Israel and Palestine on Dec. 22 and for urgent action by the Christian world to do more to make peace. Bishop Dr. Munib Younan of the ELCJ, serving in Palestine, Jordan and Israel, has written his colleague His Beatitude Patriarch Michael Sabbah of the Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem in gratitude and support, and is asking the Lutheran world and all partners to join in solidarity with them.

“The situation has dragged on many years now, and requires, today more than ever, action to put an end to the sufferings of all inhabitants of this land, Jews, Christians and Moslems, who have become equally incapable of ending the conflict, fettered as they are in a spiral of cruel and irrational violence. Both peoples, Palestinian and Israeli, are on the verge of perishing, the strong as well as the weak, those who use violence as well as those who wait patiently for a peaceful solution,” the statement says.

Bishop Younan states, “We believe that churches should stand together at this time for the sake of humanity and justice in Israel and Palestine and to save them from every kind of fear or oppression, in order that the two nations may live together in their own viable states, side by side in justice, peace and reconciliation.”

Bishop Younan also states that this call must also extend to all people of faith and courage who seek just peace in the Middle East for the sake of our children. He also strongly agrees with the Catholic bishop’s call for urgent action in the Christian churches because it represents the mind of the grassroots when it says:

“We believe that the churches can do still more. If all the Churches of the world recognize their duty towards the Holy Land, and if they all join together in common and concerted action to sensitive their governments, their people and the international community, their intervention will become a decisive factor in the attainment of justice, peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land”.

Both the Statement and Bishop Younan stress the need for relieving suffering on all sides of the conflict.

“We do not call you to take one side against the other. On the contrary, we want you to help both sides find the way to reconciliation. We are calling for an awakening in the Churches of the world, for a strong voice to be raised to promote peace in this Holy Land, where both peoples are in need of outside help in order to find peace and reconciliation,” the statement said.

Bishop Younan asks all the world to join the initiative of the Catholic bishops for a day of fasting, and prayer on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2004 because “we believe that the babe of the manger in Bethlehem will hear the yearnings of every suffering person and will transform the hearts and minds of peoples and politicians toward justice, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation for Christ is our only hope in our troubled Middle East.”