RAMALLAH, West Bank (ELCA) — Israel is targeting the small Palestinian Christian community here, threatening a key connection to the West and worrying Christian leaders, said Dr. Rafiq Husseini, chief of staff to the president, Palestinian National Authority. He made the comment Jan. 13 in a meeting here with seven North American Lutheran bishops.
The bishops were part of a group of 44 bishops representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), who visited the West Bank and Israel Jan. 6-13. The bishops met with religious, political and community leaders, and visited sacred sites. Their visit focused on support and encouragement for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).
More than 1,000 Palestinians have died and nearly 5,000 have been injured in the war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. Many of the dead and injured are women, children and elderly people. “Civilians are paying the price,” Husseini said. Thirteen Israelis have died.
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop and president of the Lutheran World Federation, said the committee’s comments were disturbing and showed regression for Christians here. He said the war in Gaza fails to meet the test of Christian “just war” principles and the Israeli response to Hamas is disproportionate.
“As leaders we are called to obstruct injustices and (to) open doors,” he said. Hanson pledged that Lutherans in the United States will engage the Obama administration, which he hopes will exercise power in ways different than the Bush administration has.
“The war in Gaza has made it difficult for us as moderates. Extremists are winning the day,” Hanson said. He pledged to use his influence to help U.S. religious leaders speak with one voice on the Middle East.
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