Peace Not Walls

Articles, stories, photos and video about keeping faith in the Holy Land and creating a peaceful, just environment where all humans can flourish.

The ELCA joins faith organizations from Middle East and around the world in urging restraint in Syria

Posted on September 4, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe
kidnappedbishops

Please pray for all the people of Syria, including Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim from Aleppo,
whose whereabouts are still unknown since they were kidnapped earlier this year. May the spirit of peace, justice and reconciliation fill the hearts and minds of all those in that troubled region.

An ELCA action alert today urged constituents to contact President Obama and Members of Congress to condemn the use of chemical weapons and to urge restraint and encourage non-violent means to resolve the 2-year-old civil war in Syria that has claimed 100,000 lives.  The US has recently threatened the Assad regime with military strikes in retaliation for alleged chemical weapons attacks, the most recent of which killed over 1400 people.  Early this week, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson sent a letter to President Obama asking him to continue diplomatic efforts rather than pursuing military action in Syria.  According to the statement:

The use of chemical weapons in Syria is heinous and inexcusable. These atrocities are an assault on human dignity, and violate international standards and law. However, the people of Syria, along with many others in the Middle East who are living through this time of profound instability, deserve our concern, compassion and accompaniment, not the escalation of an already horrendous war.

Write to President Obama Write to Members of Congress

Middle East Christians Speak out Against Military Action Against Syria:

According to Middle East expert Professor Juan Cole:

…these Eastern Christians are solidly against an American missile strike on Syria. Many US congressional representatives discussing the possibility of military action against that country invoked God and prayer in their remarks, lending the discussion a Christian ambiance. But they didn’t refer to any statements on the crisis by actual Syrian or Lebanese Christians (the two are closely linked). 

Read full story which references statements by the Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, the Bishopric of Damascus and the Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Lebanon that warn military intervention will increase the suffering of the Syrian people.

Earlier this week, the General Secretary of the National Evangelical Synod in Syria and Lebanon sent an urgent letter to its partner church, the Presbyterian Church USA, advocating a non-violent response to chemical weapons attacks in Syria:

We urge the international powers to refrain from the use of power against Syria as any strike from the USA or any other power will only multiply the suffering and human destruction.  We appeal to all who are able, by the name of the God of love, to help bring violence to an end.  Stop financing, arming and sending foreign groups to fight in Syria – help the Syrians to come together to build a new Syria.
Rev. Fadi Dagher, General Secretary of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon

ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan, also President of the Lutheran World Federation, issued a similar call to the world community:

While the use of chemical weapons is wrong, the forms of intervention being predicted thus far can do little to bring a positive outcome…  Such military intervention threatens to bring even greater suffering and instability to communities throughout Syria and the region as a whole … The situation in Syria will be solved not with bombs but with diplomatic efforts and true dialogue among Syrians of goodwill … 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.

Kairos Palestine also released a statement:

The people of Syria deserve better, safer and more just lives based on more respect for their human rights – but these must be brought about, by Syrians themselves, within their own context. External intervention will cause further destruction and push the Syrian people further into relentless civil war.

Kairos Palestine condemns the calls for war, and we urge countries around the world – whether Western states or regional ones – to help Syria maintain itself, broker peace among all Syrian parties involved, and stop supporting any armed groups entering from outside the country.

Similar statements have come from:

The Lutheran World Federation
The World Council of Churches
The World Council of Reformed Churches
The National Council of Churches
The Presbyterian Church (USA)

Read religious leaders commenting on whether an attack on Syria would be considered a “just war.”

Please keep the people in Syria in your prayers, advocate for peace with justice with your faith, political and community leaders and ask that God strengthen and inspire the people who can bring justice, peace and reconciliation out of the chaos and brokenness.

A Call From Jerusalem: Political Solution, Not Military Intervention

Posted on September 3, 2013 by karin

Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, issued a statement against military intervention in Syria. See the full text below.

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

Text from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

LWF President, Bishop Munib Younan of ELCJHL, addresses ELCA Churchwide Assembly 2013

Posted on August 15, 2013 by karin

The Rt. Rev. Munib A. Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation and Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, addressed the ELCA Churchwide Assembly today, August 15, 2013.

“Please allow me to address the situation in the Middle East. My friends, the Middle East is boiling. While I am President of the LWF, I also serve as Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. I am grateful that the LWF Council supported the World Council of Churches’ call to support the presence and witness of Christians in the Middle East. Several churches in the Middle East Council of Churches feel that they are facing an existential crisis. In response, King Abdullah of Jordan has called for a regional conference to strengthen Arab Christian witness and presence so Christians can remain as instruments of peace, brokers of justice, promoters of human rights (including women’s rights), builders of human society, ministers of reconciliation, and apostles of love. In order to strengthen the witness of moderate Muslims, we need strong accompaniment from our sisters and brothers around the world.

bishop Younan

The LWF has a strong presence in the Middle East. Our communion’s legacy of service in East Jerusalem is grounded in the witness of the ELCJHL and in the diakonia of Augusta Victoria Hospital, led for several years now by a Palestinian Christian CEO. Recently, and with the ELCA’s assistance, this legacy has been extended into Jordan, where the LWF is helping establish and manage the Za’atari Refugee Camp for Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country.

I am grateful for the ELCA’s commitment to the entire Middle East, especially its support for Christian communities. The situations in Egypt and Syria demand our attention and concern. I was glad to learn of the ELCA’s strong accompaniment of Christian leaders within Syria as they address the needs of their own internally displaced persons. You are making a difference in the lives of people enduring the changes affecting the Middle East.

We cannot discuss the Middle East without mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am grateful for the strong accompaniment relationship between the ELCA and the ELCJHL as well as your church’s long-standing strategy for engagement in Israel and Palestine. The United States has again renewed negotiations between Palestinians and the State of Israel; it is my strong hope that these discussions result in a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including a shared Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the end of Israeli occupation, including settlements, according to international law.

I continue to believe that security for the State of Israel depends on justice for Palestinians, and that freedom and justice for Palestinians depend on Israel’s security. We are in a symbiotic relationship. It continues to be my vision that Palestinians will one day see the image of God in their Israeli neighbors and Israelis equally see the image of God in us, their Palestinian neighbors. For it is only when we recognize our common humanity and hold each other in dignity and respect and mutually recognize each other’s human, civil, religious, and political rights. Only then will the Holy Land become a promised land of milk and honey for Israelis and Palestinians alike. I pray for the fulfilment of this vision and that we can experience peace and justice in our days.

We are tired of wars and hatred. We continue to be committed to the vision that our children and grandchildren will experience peace based on justice and reconciliation based on forgiveness. I ask you to pray for the Middle East. Please pray for Syria, Egypt, Palestine and Israel. Pray that God may open the eyes of our leaders to say “no more hatred, no more weapons, no more bloodshed—only dignity for every person and justice for every nation.” Please pray for the LWF and the ministry of the ELCJHL.”

Click here to read the full greeting from LWF President, Bishop Munib Younan.

Bishop Younan Speaks at Conference on Christians in the Middle East

Posted on May 27, 2013 by karin

Beirut, Lebanon: On May 22 2013, Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President, Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), spoke during the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) conference on Christian Presence and Witness in the Middle East. “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 Younan. “We have always been, as Arab Christians, building our societies, loyal to our countries and nationalities, bringing hope in hopeless situations.”

Read the LWF news story here.

For the full speech click here.

Easter Message from Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

Posted on April 2, 2013 by karin

In their Easter message, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem “call upon all Christians from around the ecumenical world to come and visit with our churches and walk with the living stones of the Holy Land  in the footsteps of our risen Lord.” If you are interested in responding to this call take a look at Peace Not Wall’s resources for traveling to the Holy Land.

Below is the full text of the Easter message:

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:6

We, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, bless our faithful people in this region and the people of God everywhere in the name of the risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Each year the Church calls us to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through Divine Liturgies and Paschal ceremonies and gatherings. The Church in the Holy Land offers what no other church around the world can offer – Pilgrimage in the land where it all happened. Through many prayers, fasts, and holy journeys, this land we call Holy became a fifth gospel. Indeed, our Easter greetings come from the heart of the City of Hope, Resurrection and the Empty Tomb.

As Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, we call upon all Christians from around the ecumenical world to come and visit with our churches and walk with the living stones of the Holy Land in the footsteps of our risen Lord. And for those who are not able to make their pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we appeal to them to hold the peoples of this land in their prayers, particularly the Christian presence that keeps dwindling and faces existential challenges throughout the Middle East.

The holy fire on Holy Saturday and Easter Vigil remind us, and the entire world, of the ‘Light of the Risen Lord’, which illumines the whole world, even in the darkest places of the earth. Our world today is full of false idols that separate people from the light of Christ and the truth of his Gospel. The Christian presence here in the Mother City of our faith continues to serve as a beacon of light of the risen Christ, which the first disciples witnessed here at the empty sepulcher in Jerusalem.

As a continued witness of the resurrection, the Church in the Holy Land urges all people of faith and goodwill around the world, especially those in authority, to strive for justice and peace among the nations. In particular, pray with us for the situation in Syria; in Lebanon; in Palestine and Israel; in Egypt; in Iraq, and wherever there is political unrest. Pray for all victims of violence and oppression, for prisoners, for those who live with the lack of security, and those who are displaced and refugees, especially here in our land.

May the light of the risen Lord shine upon the whole world and in our region, and may we all be raised with Christ into life victorious. Alleluia, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed.

Alleluia!

Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarchate
Patriarch Norhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
Very Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
Aba Fissiha Tsion, Locum Tenens of the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
Archbishop Moussa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
Bishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
Bishop Pierre Melki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
Msgr. Joseph Antoine Kelekian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

Taken from Independent Catholic News website

New ELCA missionaries installed in Jerusalem

Posted on March 12, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe
(Left to Right) Rev. Ibrahim Azar, Pastor of the Arabic Speaking congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer; Rev. Mark Brown, Church Council Chairperson of the English Speaking congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer; Bishop Munib Younan, Bishop of the ELCJHL; Propst Wolfgang Schmidt, Representative of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland in Jerusalem bless Rev. Dr. Martin Zimmann and Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann. © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL

(Left to Right) Rev. Ibrahim Azar, Pastor of the Arabic Speaking congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer; Rev. Mark Brown, Church Council Chairperson of the English Speaking congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer; Bishop Munib Younan, Bishop of the ELCJHL; Propst Wolfgang Schmidt, Representative of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland in Jerusalem bless Rev. Dr. Martin Zimmann and Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann. © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL

On March 10th, 2013, ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan installed Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann and Rev. Dr. Martin Zimmann as pastors of the English Speaking Redeemer congregation and Special Assistants to the Bishop. Also installed were Danae Hudson, as Communications Assistant to the Bishop, and Steve Hudson, as volunteer accountant for the ELCJHL.  

Bishop Younan challenged them in his sermon: “You are called to accompany the people of Palestine in their struggle to realize the dream of a peaceful coexistence with their Israeli neighbors. You will hear the pains and insecurity of both peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, but you are called to give them a word of comfort, a word of peace, a word of love. The road is difficult, the work is challenging. I pray you will be up to the task. And we in the ELCJHL will be supporting you.”

Listen to Bishop Younan’s sermon for the installation service.  See more photos of the installation. 

 

ELCJHL becomes member church of the World Council of Churches

Posted on March 6, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe
From left: Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary; Rev. Dr Margaretha Hendriks-Ririmasse, vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee; Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, moderator of the WCC Central Committee; Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan; and Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima; vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee, after the WCC Executive Committee vote.

From left: Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary; Rev. Dr Margaretha Hendriks-Ririmasse, vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee; Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, moderator of the WCC Central Committee; Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan; and Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima; vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee, after the WCC Executive Committee vote.

The Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) meeting near Geneva at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey voted to approve the full membership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) in the WCC. The approval ended a two-year process in which both the Executive Committee and Central Committee of the WCC considered the application of the ELCJHL. During this period, visits to the churches in Jerusalem and discussions with other member churches in the area took place. The ELCA has a long relationship with the ELCJHL.

“The ELCJHL widely identifies with ministries of the World Council of Churches,” Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan of the ELCJHL said in a brief speech to the Executive Committee after the vote, pointing to their support of the Jerusalem Inter-church Centre, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel and the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum.

“We are honoured to serve God’s will through the essential ministries of the World Council of Churches,” Younan said. “The ELCJHL supports these ministries … because they show our people in Jerusalem, The Holy Land, and Jordan that their Christian sisters and brothers around the world stand with them, accompanying them in their sorrows and in their joys.”

Younan said, “in this age of globalization, we join with the churches in the world around us to be instruments of peace, harbingers of justice, initiators of dialogue.”

“The ELCJHL is richly blessed by the accompaniment we have received through this ecumenical body, and we hope that we have returned some of that goodness to you,” he said.

The ELCJHL, with its origins in 19th century missionary activity in the Holy Land, is made up of congregations in Amman, Jerusalem, Ramallah and the Bethlehem area. An updated count of WCC member churches will come after the WCC 10th Assembly being held in Busan, Republic of Korea, 30 October to 10 November, 2013.

See the ELCJHL’s story.       See World Council of Churches’ story.

President Obama to visit Israel and Palestine next month- take action to help shape his itinerary

Posted on February 19, 2013 by karin

Ask President Obama to meet with religious leaders when he visits the Middle East next month; call for a halt to settlement activity; ask his delegation to visit Augusta Victoria Hospital

President Obama is scheduled to visit Israel, Palestine and Jordan next month, his first such visit as president. The president has often sought out the views of U.S. religious leaders through his White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and other meetings. It will be important for the President to hear the voices of faith leaders during his visit to the region as well. The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land consists of leaders of the three Abrahamic faiths, including Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and President of The Lutheran World Federation.

As you may be aware, the Council’s long-awaited study of the “Portrayal of the Other” in Palestinian and Israeli school books was recently released and generated much discussion, some of it critical. However, the Council’s researchers utilized identical, standardized scientific methods for this work. Now, as much as ever, the Council needs support from us and U.S. leaders for this effort as well as its overall mission to advance the sacred values of each faith, “to prevent religion from being used as a source of conflict, and to promote mutual respect, a just and comprehensive peace and reconciliation between people of all faiths in the Holy Land and worldwide.”

Please contact the White House and ask President Obama to meet with the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land during his visit.

As noted in a report issued late last year by the United Nations (U.N.) on the humanitarian impact of the Israeli settlement policy on Palestinians, since 1967, Israel has established about 150 settlements (residential and others) in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; in addition to some 100 “outposts” erected by settlers without official authorization. Three new settlements were approved in 2012 by retroactively ‘authorizing’ such outposts. More than 500,000 people live in these settlements, which are against international law. Additionally, in 2012, one Palestinian was killed and approximately 1,300 injured by Israeli settlers or security forces in incidents directly or indirectly related to settlements, including demonstrations.

Furthermore, a recent U.N. report states that: “The establishment of the settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem is a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The settlements have been established and developed at the expense of violating international human rights laws and international humanitarian law, as applicable in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory] as notably recognized by the 2004 ICJ [International Court of Justice] Advisory Opinion.”

Repeated warnings by U.S. officials to stop the growth of settlements have fallen on deaf ears, as settlement expansion has advanced at an accelerated rate and could render a viable two-state solution virtually impossible.

Please contact the White House and ask President Obama to urge him to demand, during his visit, a halt to all settlement activity.

The Lutheran World Federation has operated the Augusta Victoria Hospital for the benefit of Palestinian refugees since 1950. The ELCA and other churches around the world have been strong supporters of this effort to meet human need and be a sign of hope over the years. In addition, the U.S. government has supported the hospital’s work, particularly in the field of oncology through significant grants for crucial equipment. In March 2010, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice-president, visited the hospital during her husband’s visit to Jerusalem.

Please contact the White House and ask President Obama to have one or more members of his delegation visit the Augusta Victoria Hospital.

Click here to write to President Obama now

Click here to share your concerns for the President’s upcoming trip with Secretary of State John Kerry

Click here to share those concerns with your members of Congress

Bishop Younan’s Video Christmas Greeting

Posted on December 20, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation, gives a Christmas video greeting from Jerusalem:

Don’t forget the simulcast Christmas service between Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and the National Cathedral in Washington, to be broadcast at 10 am EST here.

LWF President’s Christmas Message

Posted on December 18, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

Children hold hands in Za’atri Refugee Camp in northern Jordan, caring for thousands of Syrian refugees.

Lutheran World Federation President Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, released his Christmas message this week, urging people to think of Christmas as a time to remember the refugees among us, even as the Christ child was born to a refugee family.

We can see the faces of the Holy Family today in refugee families forced to flee from Syria into the Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, in Somali refugee families in the Dadaab complex in northeastern Kenya, and in other refugees throughout the world. In Europe today, we see the Holy Family in the experiences of Roma communities. An ancient nomadic culture, Roma are still exposed to marginalization simply because they do not conform to dominant culture.

Many refugees are uprooted with little hope for a solution. I am one of them, a Palestinian who carries a refugee card. I know what it means to be rejected, neglected and stateless. My heart breaks for every refugee, for every family forced from their home. In this Christmas season, we know that Christ finds his manger in every person who seeks asylum, in each of the nearly 44 million refugees and internally displaced people throughout the world. Forced to escape Herod’s persecution, Christ experienced abuses of power and the effects of armed struggle.

The child of the manger continues to understand the plight of every refugee wherever they are. The duty of the church is to be a safe haven for all refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. To them we say, “Do not be afraid. A Savior is born to you and the whole world.” They must find a place in our inn.

We in the Lutheran communion continue to commit ourselves to accompanying God’s people, especially those who are marginalized and displaced. Our call is to provide refuge from violence and poverty, shelter in the storms, and shade from the heat. Today, the LWF is directly serving nearly 1.5 million refugees throughout the world. That means that each of our 143 member churches is responding to the needs of 10,500 refugees. This generous spirit reflects the strength of our communion working together to respond to God’s call to welcome the stranger.

Read the full Christmas message | Read LWF press release