Thursday, November 22, 2007

Letter to Annapolis leaders from Bishop Munib Younan

The Rev. Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL - issued this open letter to the leaders who will gather in Annapolis next week.

Bishop Younan spoke at the Carter Center on Nov. 12 -
More about Younan's speech in Atlanta follows his Open Letter.

Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem, City of Peace
November, 2007

An Open Letter to Annapolis Leaders: Half Empty or Half Full?

In the midst of all the skepticism and cynicism over Annapolis, I believe we are called to embody hope and act with courage. In a world where too many leaders see the cup as half empty, we are called to be a people of hope and choose not only to see the cup as half full but to commit ourselves to whatever it takes to make the cup overflow.

Our steady mantra has been that the security of Israel is dependent upon freedom and justice for Palestine, and freedom and justice for Palestine is dependent upon the security of Israel. Until we understand and act upon this symbiotic principal, we will fail to achieve what we want.

Both sides must be mutually accountable. This is where the international community must take leadership. Words and talk must be accompanied by tangible, visible changes on the ground that prove to people on the street that an end to the occupation, violence and oppression are actually possible through peaceful means. There must be a solid development plan to resurrect the beleaguered Palestinian economy, for without economic growth there is no future.

Leaders of Annapolis, I implore you to make this more than a glorified photo opportunity with smiles and handshakes. Time is not on our side. Every step toward just peace delayed is a step toward the entrenchment of extremism in the Middle East. This we cannot afford.

People in this land are living in fear and oppression and are fed up with war and rumors of war, of sending yet more arms to an already violence-ravaged Middle East. Let this be a time that sets in motion a new path of lasting peace with justice. Yes, it will be slow, but let it be the right path that finally takes seriously the basic problems that divide us here: boundaries, security, the future of Jerusalem, the illegal settlement enterprise, an equitable sharing of resources, prisoners, a just resolution of the refugee problem and the right of return. Only when we have the courage to confront these controversial issues will we start down the only path to lasting peace, which is the path of truth-telling and justice. This is the only way to end the hatred, division, occupation and violence that have plagued this land for so long.

I was among the members of a new interfaith initiative called the Council for Religious Institutions of the Holy Land who were invited to Washington recently to encourage united support for a just and lasting peace. For the first time, Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders signed a document that recognizes one another's deepest needs:

We, believers from three religions, have been placed in this land, Jews, Christians and Muslims. It is our responsibility to find the right way to live together in peace rather than to fight and kill one other. Palestinians yearn for the end to occupation and for what they see as their inalienable rights. Israelis long for the day when they can live in personal and national security. Together we must find ways of reaching these goals.

If we, faith leaders steeped in the religious sensitivities of the land, can take an unprecedented move toward reconciliation, then you can, too. This new council stands ready to be a reference group about religious issues, peace and justice in the Holy Land.

We urge the Americans, the European countries, the Quartet and the Arab countries to seize the momentum and help create the solution with a viable, sovereign, contiguous state of Palestine living peacefully side by side with Israel along the 67 Green Line, with Jerusalem a holy city shared among Christian, Muslim, Jew, Palestinian and Israeli. This must be done with a reasonable, clear timeframe.

To those whom God has given much, God expects much. I implore those with power and influence to use your strength to bring about justice, peace and reconciliation, for all the people of this land and for the sake of the whole world. May God Bless you and lead you to wise decisions for justice and peace, remembering the words of Jesus:

"I came so that you might have life, and have it abundantly." (St. John 10:11)

Bishop Munib A. Younan
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

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The communiqué presented by the Council for Religious Institutions of the Holy Land can be found at the ELCA advocacy web site:

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Here is the news release from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA - on Bishop Younan's speech at the Carter Center:

November 16, 2007

Lutheran Bishop in Holy Land Meets Former President Carter 07-194-JB

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), met in person with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in Atlanta Nov. 12 to discuss the situation in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians. Younan was also invited by Carter that evening to speak about peace and justice to an audience of about 250 people who had been invited to the Carter Center to view the new film about Carter's life, "Jimmy Carter Man from Plains."

Younan, who returned to Jerusalem Nov. 13, had been in the United States for several days with a group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders from Israel and the Palestinian territories. They came to the United States as the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, and met with several members of Congress and religious leaders in Washington, D.C. Younan continued on to Atlanta, where he preached and spoke to area Lutherans before meeting with Carter.

Carter plans to visit the Middle East in January and said he would visit the ELCJHL, Younan told the ELCA News Service in a phone interview. In the meeting with Carter, Younan said he told the former president of the plight of Palestinian Christians and the Council of Religious Institutions.

"President Carter brought peace to Egypt and Israel," Younan said. "We can cooperate with him in waging peace and human rights for all people in the region." The former president has good access to the media and the public and could be an important ally, Younan said, adding that "the message of peace and justice for all people (in the Middle East) must be heard in the United States."

Carter wrote "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," a book that drew criticism from some people for its assessment of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Carter's experiences in the Middle East are portrayed in the film, Younan said.

Reflecting on the U.S. visit to Washington by members of the Council of Religions Institutions, Younan said "Lutherans are seen as partners in peace and justice" in the Middle East. "They have seen how much the churches are working with each other for peace and justice." The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), met with the council Nov. 5 in Washington.

Council members released a communiqué with their priorities for peace. Members are meeting next week to discuss a plan to establish rapid communication procedures to address and advise government officials regarding protection of and access to Holy sites before conflicts arise, Younan said. Other priorities include promoting education for mutual respect and acceptance in schools and in the media, and matters related to the future of Jerusalem, he said.


Prayer resources for Middle East peace -- including prayer resources for the upcoming Annapolis peace conference -- are at the ELCA's Peace Not Walls web site: on the Web.

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