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.

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.

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

 

Pastor Ashraf Tannous on life in Palestine

Posted on December 7, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

Pastor Ashraf Tannous is the newest pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.  He is serving the Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour.  Here he discusses his life and feelings as a Palestinian Christian from a refugee family.

Advent: Reflections from Bethlehem and devotional materials

Posted on December 6, 2012 by karin

Pastor Mitri Raheb of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem shares an advent greeting from the Holy Land. Christmas Lutheran does a simulcast Christmas Service between Bethlehem and the National Cathedral in Washington DC each year.  Find out more about this year’s simulcast on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 10 am EST.   Check out the new website for Bright Stars of Bethlehem, a US organization that supports the work of DIYAR Consortium, begun by Pastor Raheb in cooperation with  the ELCJHL.

In another article, Pastor Raheb reflects on the Christmas story in his hometown of Bethlehem:

Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus was a besieged city. Today Bethlehem is again a besieged city surrounded from three sides by a 25 foot high concrete wall.  So what if Jesus were to be born today in Bethlehem? If Jesus were to be born this year, he would not be born in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph would not be allowed to enter from the Israeli checkpoint, and so too the Magi. The shepherds would be stuck inside the walls, unable to leave their little town. Jesus might have been born at the checkpoint like so many Palestinian children while having the Magi and shepherds on both sides of the wall.

Full article

On the way to celebrate what happened in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, let us not forget the people who yearn for peace with justice now in Bethlehem and all over the Holy Land. Here are some Advent reflections by various people and organizations to help us remember:

 

 

3rd Anniversary of the Palestinian Kairos Initiative produces new document

Posted on October 17, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

A recent gathering celebrated the 3rd anniversary of the original Moment of Truth document and released a new statement.

The Kairos movement began 3 years ago from Bethlehem when a group of Palestinian Christians released a document called A Moment of Truth: a Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering.   Recently, a gathering was held to celebrate the third anniversary of the movement and produced a document:

The Palestinian Kairos document was issued at a time when the political process was facing a stalemate. Amid a diminishing hope for peace, it came to present a ray of hope which contributed to its fast and widespread reception on both the local and international level.

At the conference commemorating the third anniversary of Kairos, the church, as a group of believers, agreed that we are all suffering and that we are all on board  of the same ship. The differences we have are in form rather than content and substance. Islamic and Christian unity is based on a solid sense of belonging to Arab nationalism, citizenship, tolerance, diversity and coexistence.

1. From Despair to Hope

We heard your voices:  

The people of Gaza are living witnesses of hope in their resistance, steadfastness and aspiration for a better future. Their steadfastness is reflected in their resolute insistence to remain on their homeland. At a time when the Israeli occupation is destroying everything in Gaza, the Christian institutions are building more schools and expanding their services.

From the Galilee, we heard the voices of Palestinian youth who feel a sense of the loss of identity and the need for handling this through more contact and  communication with their Palestinian sisters and brothers in Palestine in order to restore the Palestinian memory and their sense of belonging to the Arab nations.

From the Palestinians in Diaspora and based on testimonies of young returnees: there is a need for action to encourage the young people to return to their homeland. A national plan should be put forward in order to encourage emigrants to return home and to familiarize them with Palestine, the Arabic language and the Arab Palestinian culture.

2. Kairos: A choice between negotiations and resistance

Israel is heading towards extremism and is pulling the rest of the region into continued violence.

Human beings need to break out from their religious and doctrinal isolation in order to o truly know themselves, their humanity and that of others. Only then can they emerge from this circle of violence. 

Read full document.

The original Moment of Truth document was not intended to be a balanced paper on the situation between Palestinians and Israelis, but a word from Palestinian Christians about their faith, beliefs, hope, life and reality.  On its website, Kairos Palestine says this about the original document:

This document is the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine. It is written at this time when we wanted to see the Glory of the grace of God in this land and in the sufferings of its people. In this spirit the document requests the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades. The suffering continues while the international community silently looks on at the occupying State, Israel. Our word is a cry of hope, with love, prayer and faith in God. We address it first of all to ourselves and then to all the churches and Christians in the world, asking them to stand against injustice and apartheid, urging them to work for a just peace in our region, calling on them to revisit theologies that justify crimes perpetrated against our people and the dispossession of the land.

In this historic document, we Palestinian Christians declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity, and that any theology that legitimizes the occupation is far from Christian teachings because true Christian theology is a theology of love and solidarity with the oppressed, a call to justice and equality among peoples.

This document did not come about spontaneously, and it is not the result of a coincidence. It is not a theoretical theological study or a policy paper, but is rather a document of faith and work. Its importance stems from the sincere expression of the concerns of the people and their view of this moment in history we are living through. It seeks to be  prophetic in addressing things as they are without equivocation and with boldness, in addition it puts forward ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and all forms of discrimination as the solution that will lead to a just and lasting peace. The document also demands that all peoples, political leaders and decision-makers put pressure on Israel and take legal measures in order to oblige its government to put an end to its oppression and disregard for the international law. The document also holds a clear position that non-violent resistance to this injustice is a right and duty for all Palestinians including Christians.