Wednesday, August 22, 2007

ELCA Assembly Hears from Bishop Younan

I wasn't able at first to find the ELCA's news release on Bishop Younan's speech. Here is the news report - - and the speech on video is at

August 15, 2007
ELCA Assembly Hears From Lutheran Bishop of the Holy Land

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- According to the Rev. Munib A. Younan, the road to peace in the Middle East is not through Baghdad but through Jerusalem. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, spoke Aug. 9 to the 2007 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, met here Aug. 6-11 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. About 2,000 people participated, including 1,069 ELCA voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly was "Living in God's Amazing Grace: Thanks be to God!"

In his message to the assembly, Younan said it "is time that the U.S. government recognized that it would be in its best interest to become an honest broker" in the Middle East conflict.

Some people say that the church "shouldn't meddle in politics" when it works for justice and peace "in our land," said Younan. But, "it is the Lord and Savior himself who taught us to speak out on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized, to care for humanity and speak for justice."

Working for justice is an integral part of the church's spiritual struggle to liberate humanity from any evil that violates human rights, said Younan. "Working for justice is not political to me, it is biblical and spiritual."

Younan thanked members of the ELCA who have traveled to the Middle East, their zeal for justice and support for educational and ecclesiastical work, support for the Lutheran World Federation's (LWF) work on behalf of Palestinians, and leadership in the Mount of Olives Housing Project -- a project to build 84 housing units for Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem on land LWF has owned since 1950. The homes will be located adjacent to Augusta Victoria Hospital, which the LWF administers. The LWF is a global communion of 140 Lutheran churches representing 66.7 million Christians.

"I call on all religious leaders -- Christians, Muslims and Jews -- to become our allies for justice and humanity," said Younan. "No religion has a monopoly on hate or extremism. It is time that religion become part of the solution rather than part of the problem."

Younan told the assembly that the separation wall, located in the West Bank, is "not a sign of justice and peace." The wall "does not provide security, it breeds despair and a culture of separation." Younan said he has "no doubt that the separation wall in the Holy Land will one day fall."

Many people have asked what they can do to help, said Younan. People can help through education, prophetic interfaith dialogue and continuity of Christianity in the Holy Land. "Christians are leaving because of the unstable political situation, the harsh restrictions of the occupation and the loss of hope in a just peace. We are now less than 2 percent of the population."

Younan said 2007 marks 40 years of occupation. "Forty years of wilderness is enough for both Palestinians and Israelis, indeed for the whole world." The Lutheran church "calls (for) the Palestinian state (to) be a modern, democratic, secular, civil society and live in peace with justice alongside Israel, so that both nations will become a light to the world."

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Information about the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly is at on the Web

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