World Council of Churches (WCC) Delegation Visits Holy Land

Participants in a meeting with church leaders hosted at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem by Patriarch Fouad Twal. (© WCC/Marianne Ejdersten)
Participants in a meeting with church leaders hosted at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem by Patriarch Fouad Twal. (© WCC/Marianne Ejdersten)
Participants in a meeting with church leaders hosted at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem by Patriarch Fouad Twal. (© WCC/Marianne Ejdersten)

JERUSALEM – Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), as well as Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Metropolitan Dr Gennadios of Sassima and Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, vice-moderators of the Central Committee, spent time with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land during their pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel on March 7th-12th, 2015.

The delegation held worship at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem with Propst Wolfgang Schmidt, Representative of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland (EKD) in Jerusalem and Rev. Carrie Smith, pastor of the English-Speaking Congregation in Jerusalem and Special Assistant to Bishop Munib Younan on Monday, March 9th, 2015.  At the conclusion of worship, the group went together to visit the Haram Esh-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque where they met with the director of the Islamic Waqf in charge of the holy site.

As well as visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the delegation, with Bishop Munib Younan, were invited with the Heads of Churches to an official lunch at the Latin Patriarchate by Patriarch Fuod Twal.

“Our role is to give Christian witness to the world and work for justice and peace,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in regards to his visit to the Holy Land.

The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, including Patriarch Theophilos III of the Greek Orthodox Church, Patriarch Fuod Twal of the Latin Church, and Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL, held a discussion with the WCC delegation on the significance of ecumenism in a time of growing extremism.  In regards to the talk and the visit, Bishop Munib Younan stated, “The more we feel united, the more we can combat any kind of extremism that is existing in the Middle East.”

To read more about the WCC visit, you can visit their website.

Bishop Younan Celebrates 1,000 Years of Christianity in Sweden

Bishop Younan Celebrates 1,000 years of Christianity in Skara, Sweden
Bishop Younan Celebrates 1,000 years of Christianity in Skara, Sweden
Bishop Younan Celebrates 1,000 years of Christianity in Skara, Sweden (© Church of Sweden)

Recently, a representative of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Swedish crown princess, Bishop Munib Younan, church leaders and thousands of others took part in the celebration of one thousand years of Christianity in Sweden held in the Diocese of Skara in southern Sweden.

The diocese, which is one of the oldest existing dioceses in Sweden, was once a diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. Since the Protestant reformation it has been part of the Church of Sweden, which is Lutheran.

The weeklong celebration included a pilgrimage of young people from five countries who walked seven days together, worship services with strong ecumenical representation from different countries, concerts, workshops and seminars. More than 12,000 participants took part in the celebrations.

During the official lunch held on Saturday, in which Crown Princess Victoria participated, Rev. Dr Hielke Wolters, WCC associate general secretary, expressed appreciation for the ecumenical attitude of the Church of Sweden:

“I was touched to see so many representatives of churches from different parts of the world. While celebrating 1000 years of Christianity in your country, you have included the concerns of churches in the Middle East that are much older and are under pressure right now,” Wolters said. “And you are willing to learn from African churches that are much younger. That is a strong sign of ecumenical solidarity and openness to ecumenical learning.”

One concrete example of ecumenical cooperation during the celebrations was a pilgrimage called “Walking to Emmaus”. It involved 45 youth between 17 and 22 years of age from Sweden, South Africa, Germany, England, and Palestine. They walked together for seven days and shared experiences of faith and life as well as a sense of the worldwide church.

The project runs from 2013-2015 and is led by the Diocese of Skara (Church of Sweden) in close cooperation with the Lutheran Church in Bavaria (ELKB), the South-East Diocese of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA), the Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and the Church of Sweden.

The purpose of the project is to make it possible for 60 young people to take part in pilgrimages in Sweden during 2014 and in Israel and Palestine in 2015 to gain a common understanding of each other, different traditions and the worldwide church.

Participants in the closing worship included church leaders from Sweden, Finland, UK, Germany, the Middle East, as well as Archbishop emeritus Anders Wejryd of the Church of Sweden, the WCC president for Europe.

To read this article on the World Council of Churches (WCC) webpage, you can visit here.

WCC Denounces Actions Against Yazidis, Christians, and Other Minorities in Iraq

Geneva, 7 August, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On behalf of the World Council of Churches, I am writing to solicit your prayers for the Christians, the church communities and all the suffering people on the Plain of Nineveh in northern Iraq, as well as the surrounding region. Reports in recent days have confirmed the forced displacement and indiscriminate killing of Christians, Yazidis, and members of other vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq as the result of military attacks by the “Islamic State”, a group formerly known as the “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham” (ISIS).

I have communicated with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon, urging him to deploy all efforts to bring a halt to the violence in Iraq and to ensure the physical protection of all people there and support for their human rights including the right to religious liberty. Now I ask for your support, in prayer and advocacy. Please contact your government officials requesting them to:

– Instruct their UN ambassadors to bring the plight of all vulnerable people and communities in Iraq to the Security Council for immediate protective actions.
– Obtain from the UN Security Council a binding resolution that ensures the immediate safe return of all those who were obliged to flee their homes and properties.
– Double their humanitarian efforts now, including urgent aid for the internally displaced and the refugees in neighbouring countries.

Please do also notify us of your action so that we can inform the churches in Iraq and follow-up on the issue at the United Nations.

In the region that is now Iraq, Christianity took root in the earliest decades of the Christian church, and it is there that some of the most faithful of our communities have flourished to this day. These are the brothers and sisters who are under threat now.

The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Louis Raphael Sako, wrote earlier today that ISIS militants conducted a mortar assault last night that has driven as many as 100,000 Christians from their homes and villages, most fleeing on foot towards Kurdish cities where they hope to take refuge. Those fleeing include the sick and wounded the elderly, infants and pregnant women. The patriarch tells us that there is an urgent need for water, food and shelter.

Churches and property belonging to religious communities are being desecrated and destroyed by ISIS, and ancient manuscripts have been burned as an assault on the people’s religious beliefs. According to the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, Joseph Thomas, whole towns in northern Iraq have been emptied of their populations.

Let us join in prayer and unite in action to restore these shattered communities, and to aid their people.

In the love and service of Jesus Christ,
Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri
Associate General Secretary for Public Witness and Diakonia and
Acting General Secretary

To read the letter in its original format, you can download it here.  (PDF)

World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel

World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel

World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel

The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF), an international, inter-church advocacy initiative for peace in Israel and Palestine, is sponsoring the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel from September 22nd to September 28th, 2013 for a week of advocacy and action in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. Congregations and individuals around the globe who share the hope of justice shall unite during the week to take peaceful actions, together, to create a common international public witness.

The theme of the week in 2013 is: “Jerusalem, the city of justice and peace.”

To learn more about what you can do, you can visit the World Council of Churches page or the PIEF page for suggestions.

WCC: Arab Christians Have Built Hope in Hopeless Situations

Bishop Munib Younan“We do not live in the mentality of the ghetto, nor in the mentality of a minority complex, nor do we live as dhimmi (dependent) people,” said Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan. “We have always been, as Arab Christians, building our societies, loyal to our countries and nationalities, bringing hope in hopeless situations.”

A Palestinian Christian from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Younan was speaking at the joint World Council of Churches and Middle East Council of Churches conference on the Christian presence and witness in the Middle East, on 22 May in Beirut, Lebanon.

In his speech, Younan said that the process of reform continues to be at the heart of every Arab and Middle Eastern Christian. Their hopes, he said, will not end until they see the Middle East transformed through the values that Arab Christians cherish.

He particularly stressed a stronger engagement between Christians and Muslims. “Dialogue is important in some contexts, but we need full engagement. We need engagement with all monotheistic faiths, especially Muslims,” he said.

Continue reading “WCC: Arab Christians Have Built Hope in Hopeless Situations”

World Council of Churches welcomes the ELCJHL into membership

The WCC exploratory delegation with Mr. Simon Awad at the Environmental Education Center, one of the Educational Programs of the ELCJHL

The WCC exploratory delegation visited the congregations, schools and educational ministries of the ELCJHL, as well as ecumenical and interfaith partners during their January visit. In the photo to the left, the delegation is pictured with with Mr. Simon Awad, director of the Environmental Education Center in Beit Jala, one of the Educational Programs of the ELCJHL. Photo © ELCJHL/Rev. Rolf Pearson.

JERUSALEM/GENEVA, February 23, 2011 – The World Council of Churches (WCC) announced today that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) has been accepted as a member of its ecumenical body—the largest body of its kind in the world.

The strong diaconal, ecumenical, and interfaith work of the ELCJHL was the basis for its consideration. The WCC Central Committee, now meeting in Geneva, voiced their decision unanimously. The decision was a rare measure, as it made use of the constitutional clause in dispensing with the usual membership requirements relating to small size of the church based on “exceptional reasons” of profound social and ecumenical involvement.

The announcement of the acceptance into membership was met with joy by Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL, who responded, saying:

“We are overjoyed at the unanimous acceptance of our church into the World Council of Churches. No church can be independent; all of us are interdependent. As a new member of the WCC, we are proud to be part of an Ecumenical Communion that demonstrates in its very being the interdependence and interconnectedness of our individual church bodies, working in conjunction both locally and throughout the world. Our church is excited to discuss with the WCC what witness we can continue to offer together for ecumenism, justice and reconciliation, and interfaith dialogue.”

The decision came following a WCC exploratory delegation visit to the ELCJHL January 26-30, 2011. During its visit, the delegation visited many of the ELCJHL congregations, schools and educational programs, as well as numerous ecumenical and interfaith partners.

Included in the program were visits to three of the four ELCJHL k-12 Schools, four of the six congregations, and five educational programs.

Students at the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour with ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission Trena.

Visits with students, teachers, administrators, principals, and pastors offered the delegates a portrait of these vibrant ministries and a deeper understanding of the effects of the current situation on young people. The ELCJHL lives out a holistic philosophy and outreach to diverse Christian and Muslim families, and the impact of Lutheran education in Palestine is indeed profound.

The ELCJHL was also eager to introduce the WCC delegation to the many ecumenical and interfaith organizations and programs in which it takes an active leadership role.

During the three-day program, the delegation met with representatives of the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem. In the delegation’s meeting with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus, they heard of the importance of the ELCJHL as one of the main pillars of the ecumenical fellowship. And, again, in their meeting with His Beatitude Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Twal spoke of the ELCJHL as being a “crucial witness of the Palestinian presence in the region.”

The delegation also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL), an interreligious council with representatives from the three Abrahamic faiths in which Bishop Younan is an active member.

And, in addition, the delegation met with local programs in which the ELCJHL plays an instrumental role, including the Jerusalem Interchurch Center (JIC), and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), both of which are programs of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

This strong diaconal, ecumenical and interfaith work of the ELCJHL was evident throughout the delegation’s visit, and was a strong recommendation for the small but vibrant church’s membership in the WCC.

The unanimous reception of the ELCJHL into membership in the World Council of Churches comes as one of many recent affirmations of the work and witness of the ELCJHL, including the election of Bishop Younan as President of the Lutheran World Federation this past July.

Click on the highlighted links for more information on the congregations, schools and educational programs of the ELCJHL, click here.

Click on the highlighted link to learn more about the World Council of Churches

Ecumenical service is part of World Week for Peace in Palestine-Israel

settlement east of the Mount of Olives

All are invited to attend an ecumenical service for the World Week for Peace in Palestine-Israel. The service will be 4 p.m., Sunday, June 7, 2009, at St. Stephen’s Basilica, 6 Nablus Road, Jerusalem.

Sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the World Week for Peace in Palestine-Israel is an opportunity for churches in different countries to send a clear signal about the urgent need for a peace settlement that secures the legitimate rights and future of both peoples. The local service is organized by the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem.

Settlements, like the one pictured here, are a special focus of this year’s campaign.


Week of Action for Peace in Palestine & Israel

June 4-10, 2008 – A common prayer and message for peace in Palestine and Israel is ready for use in about 100 countries. Churches in 17 countries, plus two international ecumenical organizations, are planning various education and advocacy activities. These and more are part of a global week of action led by the World Council of Churches (WCC), 4-10 June 2008. This year marks 60 years since the partition of Palestine and 41 years of occupation.

The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have issued a common prayer they are asking churches to use on Sunday, June 8, to pray for justice and peace in the Holy Land.

Click here for prayer.

“After 60 years of peace denied in the Middle East, churches on five continents are demonstrating their concern together,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia in announcing the week. “It is encouraging to see so many churches speaking out together for peace. The message for the action week says “It’s time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace.”

Click here for Action Week Message:  It’s time for Palestinians and Israelis to Share a Just Peace.


WCC General Secretary Kobia Leads Delegation to Holy Land

Heads of churches in Jerusalem have welcomed the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum launched in Jordan last week. They voiced satisfaction with the new advocacy initiative at meetings with World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia during his 21-26 June visit to the Holy Land.

In addition to heads of local churches, the WCC delegation visited the staff and some ecumenical accompaniers from the WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel, formed in 2002 as the result of a plea for help from Christians world wide. The accompaniers work side by side with Palestinians and Israelis working for a just peace. The delegation visited Hebron, where accompaniers walk children to school to protect them from violence by settlers, and a refugee camp in Bethlehem, where accompaniers work with children teaching English and other skills. They also visited holy sites, government and religious leaders and Yad Vashem.

Video: Rev. Dr. Kobia’s greeting to heads of churches

Video: Rev. Dr. Kobia on what it will take to bring just peace