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Bishop Younan’s Video Christmas Greeting

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

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


LWF President and General Secretary urge parties to honor Gaza ceasefire

The Lutheran World Federation urges all parties to honor the Gaza ceasefire and appeals for an immediate resumption of negotiations for a broader peace.

In a statement today by LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, the LWF said that the recent conflict has cost innocent human lives and injuries on both sides. The need for a broader peace is urgent, they said.

The LWF reiterated its call for an immediate lifting of the economic blockade against the Gaza Strip, urged international efforts to relieve the suffering there and appealed to all parties to refrain from violent or provocative actions.

“The humanitarian situation facing the 1.6 million people living in Gaza is dire. Children, the elderly, and other vulnerable people have been bearing the brunt of the conflict,” the LWF leaders said.

Read the full LWF Press Release

In addition, ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan issued this video message:



LWF’s Augusta Victoria Hospital among East Jerusalem hospitals suffering from PA financial crisis

Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem is the only facility available in the West Bank for pediatric dialysis and state-of-the-art radiation oncology treatment.

Six hospitals in East Jerusalem, including the Lutheran World Federation’s Augusta Victoria Hospital, face difficulties because of the Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis.   The PA is dependent upon foreign aid, which has been reduced from the Gulf States and Washington.  Washington withheld $192 million because President Abbas has said he would continue to strive for observer status at the UN.  The PA has built up debts of $18 million to the specialized healthcare centers this year.  The World Bank forecasts a $1.5 billion deficit in the 2012 PA budget due to the shortfall in foreign aid.

“The moment the PA faces any financial difficulty, it stops paying. But the hospital must still take in patients,” Tawfiq Nasser, head of the Augusta Victoria Hospital, told Reuters. “We can no longer offer the same services and that is putting patients at risk, endangering their lives.”

The East Jerusalem hospitals signed agreements with the PA in 1997 to admit patients from the West Bank and Gaza according to specialist referral. Costs were to be paid every month.  Ten months ago, the money stopped but patients kept coming.

Read full story at Haaretz

Former President Jimmy Carter leads “The Elders” to Jerusalem

A delegation from the group “The Elders” visited Palestine recently to see and hear about the situation on the ground and see the work of the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem.  The Elders is an independent group of respected leaders who work together for peace and human rights. Founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 and chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Elders work to find solutions to some of the world’s most challenging political issues.

Members from the group visited with LWF President Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL and a roundtable of others he had assembled to hear more about faith and life under occupation.  Read more about this visit.

President Jimmy Carter led the group to the LWF Jerusalem campus.  Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and Gro Harlem Brundland, former Prime Minister of Norway and former Director-General of the World Health Organization, were a part of the group.

Members of The Elders speak with Dr. Tawfiq Nasser on a tour of the Lutheran World Federation's campus in Jerusalem

Members of The Elders, led by former President Jimmy Carter, visit Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem. Photo by Anna Johnson.


Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, CEO of Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), and Rev. Mark Brown, the Regional Representative of the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem and the Middle East, received the guests and spoke about the work of the Lutheran World Federation in areas of education and health, as well as the issues of access to healthcare facing Palestinians.  Dr. Nasser and Rev. Brown emphasized the role of Augusta Victoria Hospital as a specialty care facility providing treatment for Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. In some cases, such as specialized cancer treatment and juvenile dialysis, AVH is the only place in the West Bank where such care is provided.

The delegation visited the $4.9 million medical linear accelerator provided by USAID and housed in a radiation-safe facility built with support from the Norwegian Government, as well as the hospital’s Specialized Center for Child Care, where they met young Palestinian children receiving dialysis or cancer treatment at AVH.

In a statement on The Elders website about their visit, Prime Minister Brundtland stated:

“As a medical doctor, I was particularly affected by our visit to Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian model of excellence for the entire region which faces enormous difficulties in treating those people nearest to it from the West Bank – never mind Palestinians from Gaza – due to Israeli travel restrictions. It tragically illustrates the direct human impact of the present deadlock.”

– From the LWF Jerusalem story – Read full LWF story


LWF delegation visits Jerusalem programs fortifying Palestinian health care and job training

Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem is the only facility available in the West Bank for pediatric dialysis and state-of-the-art radiation oncology treatment.

At Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) in Jerusalem, they are used to hearing appreciation from grateful parents and patients.  AVH is the only place in the West Bank that offers some services, such as pediatric kidney dialysis and state-of-the-art radiation oncology treatment.   They also enable  patients and staff coming from the West Bank to get there more easily through a unique bussing program that gets through the numerous and time-consuming checkpoints more efficiently.  

The Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) delegation, which included President Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, recently visited the LWF’s hospital and their Vocational Training programs in Jerusalem.  

Junge said “the Augusta Victoria Hospital is owned by the whole LWF communion. That means 143 member churches in 79 countries all over the world, representing more than 70 million Christians. The work of the hospital staff is a beacon of hope and what it represents for the entire communion cannot be overestimated,” he said.

Students work at one of the Vocational Training programs of the LWF near Jerusalem.

The unemployment rate among Palestinian young people aged 18 to 24 is almost 40 percent. Despite these disappointing figures, recent surveys by the LWF’s vocational training program show that 75 to 80 percent of those graduating from the LWF-run centers are employed in areas related to their training.

Junge noted that the vocational training program serves as a witness of the crucial role of churches as part of civil society. He encouraged governmental agencies to recognize the importance of education as a means of empowering young people as full citizens who help to build society.  Read more about the LWF Delegation visit   |   Visit the LWF’s Jerusalem program website

LWF works with Jordanian NGO to prepare Syrian refugees for winter

LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan (left) and LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge (right) meet Nabeel, one of the children who make up 52 percent of Za’atri’s population, during a visit to the camp in late September. © LWF/Thomas Ekelund

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a founding member of the ACT Alliance, has recently started offering emergency assistance in the Za’atri Refugee Camp in Northern Jordan, which is growing rapidly and now houses over 90,000 people, the largest number of Syrian refugees in all the neighboring countries.  The primary aim of the assistance is to provide shelter and clothing for children, as winter now hastily approaches.  In Za’atri, 52 percent of the refugees are below the age of eighteen.

The Jordanian government has given the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO), the largest non-governmental organization (NGO) in the country, the mandate to manage the camp. Under a memorandum of understanding with the JHCO, the LWF will provide the refugees with winterized tents, prefab containers and warm garments for 10,000 children. The focus will be broadened in the coming months to include assistance to refugees in organizing community-based groups at the camp.

An LWF delegation comprising LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge visited Za’atri camp on 27 September and witnessed firsthand the conditions there and the humanitarian response supported by the global Lutheran communion.

Junge said he was impressed by how the different NGOs are working together. But he noted, the needs are there and it takes great efforts to overcome the challenges.

“We are facing difficulties and hardship. I see traumatized people that have escaped violence, and how violence is shaping the way people relate to the situation. Fifty two percent of the population here are children, facing a winter soon to come with low temperatures and rain,” he said.

“We will have to scale up our efforts jointly so that people can live in basic dignity,” Junge added.

Others on the delegation are Rev. Eberhard Hitzler, director of the Department for World Service (DWS), the LWF’s humanitarian relief arm; and Rev. Mark Brown, who heads the Jerusalem-based DWS operations for the Middle East region.

The group’s itinerary until 30 September includes a visit to the LWF-run Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, and meetings with ecumenical leaders and with the Palestinian Prime Minister Dr Salam Fayyad.  Read more about the LWF response   |  Give now through ELCA disaster response