Bishop Munib Younan Responds to Bishop Eaton’s Letter to ELCJHL on Gaza Ceasefire

Dear Bishop Eaton,
Salaam and grace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I want to thank you for your letter of support and comfort. It comes at a time when we find ourselves in a terrible situation. I have always written that we in the Holy Land are in a continuous state of emergency and this violence proves that we cannot go two years without something that devastates our daily lives. However, despite all of the frustration, depression, bloodshed, and the growth of extremism – which this war will only increase – we in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) continue to be committed to a non-violent witness for justice, peace, and reconciliation.

I have worked towards peace my whole life and it disheartens me to see that in this country the power of hatred is still stronger than the power of love.  It hurts to see that the power of injustice is far more prevalent than the message of justice for each and every human being.  We are appalled to see that the logic of power is stronger than the power of logic.  But we in the ELCJHL will not allow this to frustrate our efforts or our message of peace for all humanity – the message of the cross.  Our power comes from the resurrection and although it seems dark now, the message of the resurrection – the resurrection that took place here in Jerusalem – will revive the power of hope within us.  We pray that this hatred will not be able to grow more even in the midst of occupation and extremism, but that peace based on justice will blossom in this desert of animosity and aggression.  I pray that I will see this in my lifetime.

The ELCJHL has always called for a strengthening of Christian witness in the Middle East. Christian witness is always an instrument of peace. Christians have always worked to be brokers of justice, initiators of dialogue, ministers of reconciliation, and bridge builders between all. This message needs to be strengthened not just in the Holy Land, but throughout the entire Middle East. The King of Jordan, King Abdullah II, said as much when giving the ELCJHL a small parcel of land at the historic Baptismal Site at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan when he stated that he wanted to strengthen the Arab Christian presence in the Middle East.

The ELCJHL has always worked to strengthen moderates from all religions, cultures, traditions, and nations in the Middle East. We strengthen those who see God’s image in the other and who will not promote extremism, violence, or human right’s violations.
The ELCJHL has always worked to make education a priority in the Middle East. All education, including peace education, must be the highest priority of a nation that seeks equity. We do not want or need an education of incitement or of provocation, but an education that will accept the other and to see the other as an ally in building up humanity and creating justice. Instead of using arms, weapons, rockets, or phosphorous bombs, we wish to educate our children towards peace where war and intifadas will be a thing of the past, no longer tools of the present.

The ELCJHL has always called for interfaith dialogue, a dialogue which seeks the common values of peace, justice, co-existence, and non-violence. Without dialogue between religions, extremism will grow and moderates, including Christians, will be sidelined and marginalized in their own societies. It is time not only for governments to assume their responsibilities, but also people of faith.

We would like to ask you that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) may use their power to apply pressure for a ceasefire that will end the siege of Gaza, end the occupation, and create a two-state solution, living side-by-side in peace, justice, and reconciliation, based on international law.

I thank the ELCA for their support of us as a church. I thank you on behalf of the entire ELCJHL for your prayers and comfort. Please greet your churches and congregations and thank them for their support during this difficult time. We pray that you will continue to support us and the Gospel of Love that invites us to build peace wherever we are called, as we pray for you. Let us together revive a spirit of accompaniment that will advance holistic mission, strengthen Christians, and work towards peace based on justice and reconciliation based on forgiveness.

Your Brother in Christ,
Bishop Munib Younan

ELCA presiding bishop joins call for peace in the Holy Land

CHICAGO (E​LCA) – As the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip further escalates, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, pre​siding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), expressed her profound concern for members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land in a July 17, 2014, letter to that denomination’s bishop, the Rev. Dr. Munib A. Younan.

            “Our hearts are heavy as we read about and see images of the violence being inflicted on both Israelis and Palestinians. This suffering and loss of life are inexcusable before God. As followers with you of the Prince of Peace, and as children of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, we long for peace and a just resolution to the escalating conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people,” Eaton wrote, adding that she is responding directly to Younan’s call to participate in interventions and actions “to create hope in a hopeless situation.”
In a July 16 public statement, Younan asked that Christians and “all people of good will intervene in the present situation of unacceptable violence and bloodshed.” He said, “If we cannot take steps towards 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.”
In her letter to Younan, Eaton shared that “we join you in your call for a cessation of all hostilities between Israel and Hamas and a return to direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace based upon a two-state solution and adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law.”
The ELCA presiding b​ishop wrote that she will encourage all ELCA congregations to continue their prayers for peace in the Holy Land, including participation in “a minute of silence” during Sunday worship.
Although her intended visit to Jordan and the Holy Land scheduled for later this month has been postponed, Eaton told Younan that she looks “forward to our time together.” In her letter, she noted the “steadfastness” of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land: “The church’s strong witness for coexistence grounded in peace with justice permeates every level of congregational, educational and diaconal service. Our faith is strengthened by knowing how, even in the midst of great difficulties, the Body of Christ is working in Palestine and Jordan for the good of all communities.
“Along with the witness of your pastors and lay leaders, your witness, Bishop Younan, has strengthened our confidence that peace can indeed be achieved among the two peoples and three religions that share the Holy Land. Your statements, speeches and sermons have been a model for promoting both political and interreligious coexistence, along with your strong support of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, which you helped found,” Eaton wrote.
The ELCA presiding bishop also expressed her gratitude for Younan’s capacity to uplift “the voices of moderation and against extremism.” She expressed her appreciation in particular for the long-standing work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land’s schools in demonstrating “the importance of education through a curriculum based on peace, nonviolence, peaceful co-existence and the strengthening of civil society for the benefit of all communities.”
Through an ELCA “Peace Not Walls” action alert issued July 17, ELCA members are being encouraged to contact members of U.S. Congress to ask for an end “to the latest round of violence.” The alert offers a sample letter which ELCA members can use to contact U.S. Senators and Representatives, featuring elements of Younan’s July 16 statement that calls for the “immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza.”
Younan also calls for the resumption of direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace; critical support for healthcare infrastructure; material support for interreligious cooperation and peacebuilding through the educational and diaconal ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land; and that the global Christian community, including 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 and to help the economic and development of the growth of the Palestinian people.
The ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land are member churches of The Lutheran World Federation – a global communion of 144 churches representing more than 70 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion’s only member church from the United States.

To read the full text of Bishop Eaton’s letter, practice advocacy with the ELCA’s Peace Not Walls Ministry, or read the ELCA’s “Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine,” visit the ELCA’s press release regarding Bishop Eaton’s letter.

Bishop Younan Denounces Threats Against Arab Christians

A threatening letter was sent to the General Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate in Nazareth, Boulos Marcuzzo, which stated that Arab Christians had until May 5th, 2014 to leave the country. If they did not leave, 100 Christians would be killed for each hour of delay.

A person of interest from Safed was arrested and questioned by police.

Bishop Younan denounces these threats. We stand in solidarity with Vicar Boulos Marcuzzo and we ask the authorities not only to denounce these threats, but to take serious measures to bring this person to justice.

These threats only add more fuel to the conflict. Christians have lived in this land for 2,000 years, acting always as instruments of peace; bridge builders; brokers of justice; ministers of reconciliation, defenders of human rights, including gender justice; defenders of freedom and of religion. We are an integral part of our people and to our society. It is very important that these threats do not take on a life of their own and derail us further.

We promise those who threaten us: we have been here for 2,000 years and we plan to be here for another 2,000 years.

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

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

CRIHL Shocked By the Unprecedented High Number of Attacks on Holy Sites in the Month of May

Dormition Abbey Vandalized
Dormition Abbey vandalized (© Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

JERUSALEM, 3rd June, 2013 – During the month of May an unprecedented number of sites holy to all three religions have been attacked, some repeatedly. Synagogues in Bat Yam and Haifa, a mosque in Umm Al-Qutuf, graves in As-Sawiya, and the Church of the Dormition on Mount Zion have all been desecrated with offensive graffiti. The Council views these attacks on Holy sites as despicable and believes they contribute to a divisive and hostile environment.

The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land calls on the police forces and respective municipalities to do their utmost to prevent such attacks and restore safety and respect for Holy Sites of all religions.

The press release in Arabic and links to follow for more information are after the jump.

Continue reading “CRIHL Shocked By the Unprecedented High Number of Attacks on Holy Sites in the Month of May”

ELCJHL Bishop Decries Sectarian Violence in Egypt

 

JERUSALEM, 8/4/2013 – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land condemns in no uncertain terms the violence perpetrated against Coptic Christians as they mourned the deaths of four Copts at a funeral service on Sunday, April 7, 2013 at St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo. The victims were killed on April 4 and 5 in al-Khosous, Qaliubiya.

“I am horrified at the reports of sectarian violence erupting at the close of the service and the injuries and death which resulted from young Muslims attacking the funeral procession from area rooftops,” stated Bishop Younan.

“This kind of violence is certainly not representative of Islam as a whole, nor does it reflect the teachings of the Qur’an. Anytime extremists use religion as a rationale for perpetrating crimes against others, God is deeply grieved,” Younan stated.

“I call on my church, the ELCJHL, and all Arab Christians to pray. I join my prayers with those of His Holiness, Pope Tawadros II, for the protection of the community under his care. These prayers extend to all Christians in Egypt and indeed for the preservation of Egypt itself for the good of all its citizens. A stronger, safer Egypt will be a benefit for all of its people and a sign of hope in our troubled region.”

Younan also stated “It is necessary to respect the existence of every religion. I agree with Khalif Omar Elkattab, who says, ‘Your freedom ends where the other’s freedom starts.’ We religious leaders should not allow our countries to become sectarian battlefields. This is not what God intends for creation.”

“I call on the President and the government, who are responsible to protect every Egyptian citizen. Further, it is the responsibility of the government to prevent attacks in any religious place. These are attacks on the human rights and religious freedoms of all. In addition, I call on the government to revisit the constitution so that every Egyptian has equal rights under the law.”

“I am encouraged to hear reports of a Muslim gathering outside the cathedral who sang ‘Christians and Muslims are from one hand.’ For citizens of the one Egypt, this statement of coexistence is the normal way of living in the Middle East. This is the kind of rhetoric that needs to be met with definitive actions by both Christians and Muslims so that peace and equality will be fully manifest in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.”

Visit elcjhl.org to learn more about the mission and ministry of the ELCJHL.

Bishop Younan Congratulates The Newly Created Egyptian Council of Churches

JERUSALEM – Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and current Lutheran World Federation President sent his congratulations to the newly formed Egyptian Council of Churches.  “Now as you begin a new chapter in your living martyria to the Gospel as a united Council of Churches, please know that the people of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land give thanks for your work and witness in Egypt and beyond,” said Bishop Younan in his letter addressed to the heads of the Coptic Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, and Anglican churches.

For the first time in the history of Egyptian Christianity, on Monday, February 18th, the heads of all Egyptian Churches have united to form the Egyptian Council of Churches.  Bishop Younan emphasized his and his church’s good wishes and support of the council: “Please know that the people of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land give thanks for your work and witness in Egypt and beyond.”

To read the full letter, click here (PDF).

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.

Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land Condemns Desecration of Baptist Church

JERUSALEM, 20 February 2012 (CRIHL) – Following the acts of desecration of the Baptist Church in West Jerusalem, the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) released the following statement:

The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land condemns the acts of desecration of the Baptist Church in west Jerusalem this morning. The Council calls upon people from all faiths – Christians, Jews and Muslims – to respect all Holy Places and sites for all three religions, and strongly discourages extremists’ behaviour that exploits or involves religion in a political/territorial dispute.

In the name of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, The Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs at the PA and The Heads of the Local Churches of the Holy Land,

The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land

Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land Release Statement

JERUSALEM, 7 December 2011 – The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land condemns the acts of desecration of the mosque in the village of Burkin in the northern West Bank yesterday. The Council calls upon people from all faiths – Christians, Jews and Muslims – to respect all Holy Places and sites for all three religions, and strongly discourages extremists’ behaviour that exploits or involves religion in a political/territorial dispute.

In the name of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs at the PA and The Heads of the Local Churches of the Holy Land,The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land