Bishop visits Sweden, strengthens partnership

ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan addressed representatives of the world’s largest Lutheran church body and signed a partnership agreement this week in Sweden.

Speaking before the church assembly of the more than 7 million member Church of Sweden, Younan told the 251 elected representatives he commended the church for its strong theology of accompaniment and hoped that it would inspire other churches. Citing a lack of charismatic leadership in the world, Younan called on the church to address the greed that contributed to the current global economic crisis.

Humanity must have “economics with ethics and politics with morals,” he said. “It’s not how much you can make but how much you are accountable in what you invest.”

His well received address came just days after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and the Diocese of Strängnäs signed a second five-year partnering agreement. The agreement calls for the Swedish diocese to stand in solidarity with the ELCJHL and remember the Palestinian church in its prayers.

Younan and a small delegation are visiting Sweden in order to renew and deepen its partnership with the Strängnäs diocese, with which it has had a relationship since 1981.

“For us in Palestine this twinning with the diocese of Strängnäs is a sign of hope which expresses itself both in word and action,” Younan said. “To be church here in Palestine is to care for people’s needs, their struggle, their sense of powerlessness and their education.”

Education is a particular focus of the delegation. School exchanges have always been a part of the formal agreement between the two churches. Plans are to continue exchanges between Palestinian schools and a school in Örebro, the main city in Strängnäs diocese.

In addition to Strängnäs, the Palestinian delegation visited the Swedish church’s main office in Uppsala, where they met with Archbishop Anders Wejryd, foreign director Margareta Grape and other officials at the church center.

In the Swedish capital of Stockholm, Bishop Younan went to the parliament and met opposition leader Mona Sahlin of the Social Democratic Party. The two discussed the important role of Christians in peace making. That day, a coalition of Swedish organizations revealed that Assa Abloy, a Swedish lock maker, has been operating a factory in an illegal Israeli settlement on the Palestinian West Bank, according to Swedish Radio News. Younan said the situation highlights the need for the church to speak out about ethical investing.

Earlier in the visit, Bishop Younan had the opportunity to preach during the first presentation of a unique mass. The mass, based on the music and liturgy of Palestinian churches, was performed in Swedish at an ecumenical service on Oct. 18 in Stockholm.

Sweden’s Social Democratic Leader Mrs. Mona Sahlin Visits Holy Land, ELCJHL

Swedish Social Democratic Party Leader Mrs. Mona Sahlin with ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan

Sweden’s Social Democratic Leader Mrs. Mona Sahlin is leading a delegation to Palestine/Israel this week to meet leaders, gather information and see the realities on the ground here.  Monday Bishop Younan led them through the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus is believed to have walked on the way to his crucifixion.   The Social Democratic Party in Sweden has been an active advocate for a just peace in the Middle East.

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Delegation from Strangnas Diocese Visits ELCJHL

Bishop Hans Erik Nordin and a delegation of pastors, staff and lay people from the Diocese of Straengnes in Sweden arrived in the Holy Land Friday, February 2, to visit the ELCJHL and others working for a just peace in Palestine. Saturday they toured Bethlehem and some ministries of the ELCJH, and Sunday they traveled to Ramallah to worship with the people of the ELCJHL’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hope. Bishop Nordin told the assembled congregation that they were there to learn what it is like to be a community of hope in the midst of struggle. Bishop Younan of the ELCJHL preached and con-celebrated Holy Communion with Bishop Nordin, then went on to visit Ramallah residents and listen to their stories of recent years. The group will depart on Wednesday, after a full schedule of visits and meetings to get a feel for life in the midst of conflict.

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Youth from the USA, Sweden and the ELCJHL Meet in the Holy Land

15 people, including 7 young adults from the USA and 3 from Sweden, are visiting the ELCJHL for over 2 weeks. The Southeast Michigan Synod of the ELCA, a companion synod of the ELCJHL, has been planning the trip for over a year. They wanted their young people and others from ELCJHL partners to meet the young people of the ELCJHL in their own churches and homes to learn about the church’s ministry and life here. They went to each congregation, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, where 6 of the ELCJHL youth there welcomed them, showed them their lives in Amman and then traveled with them to Petra.

The original plan to have a group of ELCJHL youth accompany the group the whole time was unworkable because they didn’t have permits to get from one city to the other. From permits to checkpoints, roadblocks to the Wall, the visiting group began to see that a normal life is virtually impossible under military occupation. So the group ebbed and flowed, depending on which Palestinian youth could attend each day. Nevertheless, they formed a strong bond through the stories and sharing of experiences.

At each congregation, group leader Scott Thams presented the churches with CDs of the Bible in Arabic and gave them bracelets they had made to raise funds for the trip that said “Bridges not Walls” in Arabic and English. He brought greetings from the synod, where they have been working hard to raise awareness of the harsh Palestinian reality and the need for a just peace.