Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lutheran Bishops Learn About Christian Zionism

March 19, 2008

ELCA Bishops Learn About Christian Zionism

SAN MATEO, Calif. (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has something vital to say about Christian Zionism, said the Rev. Robert O. Smith, director, Europe/Middle East Continental Desk, ELCA Global Mission. Smith spoke March 8 to the ELCA Conference of Bishops.

The Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the church, consisting of the ELCA's 65 synod bishops, presiding bishop and secretary. The conference met here March 6-11.

Smith's presentation was part of the conference's preparation for a 2009 visit to Israel and the West Bank. The bishops' Middle East visit is part of the ELCA's "Strategy for Engagement of Israel and Palestine," which calls for learning about the situation there, building relationships and advocating for a just peace in the region.

Christian Zionism is a "politically mobilized strand of Christian fundamentalism" committed to preserving Jewish control over all of historic Palestine, Smith said. The movement places the State of Israel, and often the United States, "at the center of God's purposes for the end of the age," he told the bishops. Biblical references in the books of Joel and Genesis are used to justify the movement's claims, Smith said.

Christian Zionism "anticipates the destruction of all persons not adhering to its ideology," Smith said. "It is not a vision of hope. It is a vision of injustice."

Smith argued that Christian Zionism is dehumanizing to Palestinians and Jews. He also reminded the conference that a 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly action called for increased engagement with conservative Christians, and a clearer and more forceful expression of Lutheran theology in the public debate on such matters.

When the ELCA engages Jewish-Christian relations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Christian Zionism, "we must remember our call to a ministry of reconciliation -- one that fosters reconciliation between neighbors whom we are called to serve and love," Smith said.

"We are not called to be political pundits just to argue one point to win the point. That is not our call. Instead, we are called to be peace builders, and that means the task to which we are called is far more difficult. We are called to engage our friends on all sides of this conflict, and there are more than two sides to this conflict."

Lutherans must speak to Christian Zionism in an authentic, distinctive way but not in a "triumphalistic" way, Smith said.

In January 2009 conference members, accompanied by some staff, will visit the Middle East for their annual academy. A few synod bishops and the presiding bishop will begin Jan. 3-5 with a visit Jordan. They will be joined by other conference members Jan. 5-14 for visits to Israeli and Palestinian government officials, and Middle East church leaders, as well as support for the leaders and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

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For lots more about Christian Zionism, see this link on the Web: - Challenging Christian Zionism.

The ELCA' Journal of Lutheran Ethics dedicated its May 2007 issue to Christian Zionism:

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Holy Land trip - dates correction

Friends, an alert reader caught a typo in my last message. The dates for our Holy Land trip are June 9-18, 2008. I do want to encourage you to join us! "Listening in Love and Seeking Peace in the Holy Land" is our theme. Together with my husband, Pastor Franz Schemmel, I will be leading a group to Palestine and Israel, and we still have a few seats available. Our resource people, based at the International Center of Bethlehem, are top notch. The cost is $3455. For the full brochure, click to
For registration information, go to

Easter blessings of peace, Ann Hafften

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Our Holy Land Trip and Upcoming Conferences

Readers, I want to encourage you to join our alternative Holy Land tour in June. I'll also announce a number of upcoming Sabeel events in this bulletin.

Listening in Love and Seeking Peace in the Holy Land
Together with my husband, Pastor Franz Schemmel, I will be leading a group to Palestine and Israel June 9-11, 2008, and we still have a few seats available. I think this will be my 16th visit to the region, though it's hard to keep count anymore. Our resource people, based at the International Center of Bethlehem, are excellent. The cost is $3455. For the full brochure, click to

I firmly believe that a blessing of faith and challenge awaits those who make this pilgrimage. We will see the Separation Barrier and its effects on daily life. We will taste and experience the cultures of Palestine and Israel and explore the old city of Jerusalem. We will meet people who are passionately involved in the struggle for peace with justice and worship with the Lutheran congregation in Bethlehem. We will go to the sites associated with the Jesus’ life and ministry and meet the leaders of today’s Christian ministries in Palestine. This pilgrimage will engage us in faith as we witness ancient sites and modern problems.

Friends, in every setting where Middle East justice is discussed, an obvious bottom line is the need for more Americans to see and hear the people there and witness the conditions they experience every day. It is so very important. Please join us for this unforgettable journey.

Please do not hesitate to contact me directly:
To register online go to

Now for the Sabeel Conferences coming up.

The Carolina Peace Resource Center & Friends of Sabeel-South Carolina present "Peace in the Holy Land - Justice for Israelis & Palestinians," a Sabeel Conference, April 11-12, 2008, at Shandon Presbyterian Church, 607 Woodrow St., Columbia, S.C.

Featured speakers include Dr. Jeff Halper, Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, an Israeli-American peace activist, professor of anthropology and author, and Sami Awad, Executive Director of Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem and a leading Palestinian advocates for nonviolence. His organization emphasizes offers non-violence, democracy and trauma-reduction.

Additional speakers:
Dr. Don Wagner, professor and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University of Chicago, one of the top scholars on Christian Zionism;
Cedar Duaybis, founding member of Sabeel and a member of its executive committee, a retired teacher, active in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in Israel & the Palestinian territories;
Dr. Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, frequent commentator on US foreign policy in the Middle East and the author of a primer on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian orthodox Christian, author of Sharing the Land of Canaan and an activist with the Wheels of Justice tour.

Planned Workshops:
Ending the Cycle of Violence
Settlements & the Wall
Christians in the Holy Land
Christian Zionism
Effective Advocacy
Christian, Jewish & Muslim Voices for Peace
Palestinian Refugees
Gaza in Crisis
The Role of the Media & US Foreign Policy.

Cost: $55 ($35 Fridy only, $40 Saturday only). Scholarships available for students/low-income. Contact us early! Donations welcome and registration online. Phone: 803-215-3263. Email:
Web: or

In Seattle April 18-19, "Standing With the Living Stones Of Israel and Palestine," a Western Washington Christian Conference. For information/registration:

This event is sponsored by a broad consortium of Christians who are concerned with the plight and declining population of their fellow believers in the Holy Land. Friends of Sabeel - North America is a co-sponsors; others include the Catholic and Episcopal cathedrals in Seattle, a number of denominations, organizations such as Middle East Fellowship, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, and the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice. Another co-sponsor is the Episcopal Bishop's Committee for Israel/Palestine, which convened its organizing meeting with encouragement from Rev. Naim Ateek of Sabeel to seek a united voice among Christians.

For information/registration:

Dr. Bernard Z. Sabella, a Catholic layman and head of the department of Services to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches, will lead an trio of international keynote speakers. Sabella is on leave from Bethlehem University and is an elected member of the Palestinian Parliament.

The Rev. Jane Barron of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) and immediate past pastor of St. Andrew's Church in Jerusalem will be another keynoter, as will Mr. Sami Awad, a Baptist, who heads the Holy Land Trust based in Bethlehem.

Also to be featured is Dr. Steve Niva of The Evergreen State College in Olympia , whose PowerPoint presentation on events since 1948 has been popular with dozens of audiences, and the Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel, the first Palestinian-born person to head a major U.S. denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The conference will feature a variety of workshops, panels and screenings of new resources, concluding Saturday afternoon with a worship service.

The daytime program on Friday, April 18, will be at University Christian Church, including a Middle Eastern lunch. That evening the event will move to University Presbyterian Church a block away for a banquet with music and Sabella's keynote address. Saturday's program will also be at University Presbyterian and will include lunch. Both churches are hosting co-sponsors.

The full two-day registration is $50; discounts are available for pre-registration, groups or for just one day. Go to

The upcoming Philadelphia Sabeel Conference, "In Search of a Homeland: The Quest for Place and Peace in Israel and Palestine," will be April 25 & 26, 2008, at Villanova University's Connelly Center.

The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, founder and director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem, will give the keynote address. For more information go to

Links to all these events, plus much more information, are at the Friends of Sabeel North America web site:

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Message from Lutheran Bishop Younan in Jerusalem

Here is an Easter greeting from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL): a message from Bishop Munib Younan and a prayer by ELCA Pastor Julie Rowe. More is always at the web site -

Easter Message
March 2008

The Living God
John 14: 18-19

This is the holy week. This is the week that goes from hosannas to crucify him, from shouts of "messiah" to shouts of hatred. The week that starts with a procession of palms and ends with a cry from the cross: "Eli, Eli, lema sabach thani," – "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!"

It is the week that we meet the suffering of Jesus in the midst of our own suffering.

As I visited Bethlehem last week, I was asked very challenging questions. Where is the conscience of the world? Why can't you demand the world – especially the Christian world – to do more? Why doesn’t the world take it seriously when 150 people – half of them civilians and 25 of them children – are killed in just a few days in Gaza? Fear is the common thread.

As I go to my office in Jerusalem, things look normal in the streets. This year we are blessed with a good tourist season. Yet I hear about the many home demolitions happening. I hear cries of fear and suffering, as people in Silwan and other neighborhoods are afraid the settlers will take their houses. Again, fear and disappointment are rampant.

And as I go to West Jerusalem, it is the same. Israelis ask me, what do you think of the Yeshiva killing? Will the killing cycle ever end, they wonder? Fear is the common thread.

Last week I was shocked to go with our Environmental Center to villages where the majority of their land has been swallowed up in settlements. We planted trees and visited a man who was able to keep his home because of a decision of the Supreme Court, but it has been fenced in with only 5 feet of space between him and the settlement. Why can't we live on our own land, they wonder?

Now there is talk that the Israelis have imposed a closure on the West Bank because of the upcoming Jewish feast of Purim. Our people are asking me whether the permits that they had to get will be valid so they can come to Jerusalem for Holy Week.

What message can I give in the midst of these deep cries? O Lord, will the vicious circle of bloodshed continue? O Lord, will I ever get my land back? O Lord, when will we see justice? Is life with dignity possible? Can we ever live without fear?

Sometimes I feel that I am like Mary Magdalene, standing in the entrance of the empty tomb and feeling only death. "They have taken away my Lord out of the tomb and I don't know where they have laid him." (John 20:5) And this is part of our crisis in this country, the empty tomb creates empty faith and thus leads us to empty life.

As we stand with Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, we see bad news and that Jesus – and our faith – are dead and gone.

But, this is the time to bring Easter eyes into the empty tomb and see beyond the death. The empty tomb of Easter doesn't stop with hopelessness and death, but leads to the only true hope there is. This empty tomb revives us, creates within us the power of hope and tells us, "As I live, so also will you live."

It is our role as a Christian Church living in the land of resurrection to proclaim this call beyond fear and death into new life. The Church has survived for 2000 years, not because we wallowed in the absence of God. We survived because we honestly carried and embodied the suffering and the Biblical story yet still experienced the Risen Lord. We survived because we remember and believe in the Risen Lord and his words:

"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you."

It is our call here as Palestinian Christians, an integral part of the fear and suffering in a hopeless situation, to be witnesses to hope when we see no hope, an oasis of hope in a broken and battered land. We are to promote life, security and justice for all peoples. We are to tell our leaders that the old ways of violence, revenge and retaliation are bringing nothing but more of the same.

This year the State of Israel celebrates 60 years since its establishment. This year the Palestinians commemorate 60 years of the Nakba, when they remember their dismissal and dispossession from their home land. One celebrates with great joy, the other mourns a deep trauma. I believe it is time to look into the past 60 years and evaluate where it has brought us. I ask: can we, Palestinians and Israelis, learn to mutually understand the other's pain and suffering and create a common vision together? The only way forward is to create a reality in which both peoples can celebrate freedom, justice, security and development equally. We need visionary leaders who can come down from their virtual pulpits and out of their cush negotiating rooms to the real world and make some concrete changes on the ground so that the grassroots can see and believe that freedom with security, reconciliation with justice and healing and forgiveness are possible by granting legitimate rights to all.

People ask me if I am optimistic about peace. I tell them I am not optimistic about the political atmosphere. And really, whether I am optimistic, pessimistic, realistic or idealistic doesn't really matter.

What matters it that the church has not survived 2000 years since the First Pentecost because we were optimistic, pessimistic, realistic or idealistic but because we are witnesses to the resurrection. We have experienced the Light and we try to walk as people of the Light, understanding that God uses us to be witnesses for life in this blessed but often battered land. We say not, I am realistic or pessimistic or idealistic or optimistic but I have hope.

Hope is something you participate in, not because it makes sense or will make you a profit but because it is part of who we are and what we believe. Restoring right relations, building up the Body of Christ and of humanity, is the right thing to do, and, eventually, one day, it will tip the scales. Justice and peace will have the final word here, just as in South Africa and Ireland, however impossible and "unrealistic" it seemed at the time.

Everyday here – even in the midst of the fear and the suffering - small bursts of community, hope and reconciliation are happening through extraordinary people, Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians. In our schools, programs and churches, we try to plant hope and the resurrection through our children, our people and all those whom we serve – regardless of creed, belief or political belief. In all of our ministries, we seek to express the hope of the resurrection.

In a land that too often can only see the empty tomb, we are together – with our partners – helping to create sparks of resurrection of hope, community, joy and new life. We strive to have hope because the Risen Lord on the cross and by his death has overcome oppression and depression and even death itself and embodied new life for us all.

For 2000 years, we have witnessed to the living Lord from these fields and stones that are our home. We will continue to promote the inclusive vision of justice and peace for all, and encourage all toward mutual understanding of one another's sufferings, for that is the only way forward. Together, peace is possible, a better future is possible, justice is possible, so that, one day, we will stand in this land, without walls, fences, tanks and terror, violence and fear, and shout to the

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!
Al Masih Qam! He Haqan Qam!
المسيح قام حقاً قام

Bishop Dr. Munib Younan

God of the Resurrection,
Lead us all, we pray,
out of the tombs that entrap us,
the hate that embitters us,
the despair that paralyzes us
and the fear that holds us hostage.
Open our eyes and soften our hearts
to help us see your face in the eyes of the other.
Make us the church you meant us to be,
the people of faith and courage you call us to be,
Bridge-builders, healers, ministers of reconciliation.
Deliver us from Friday's darkness and Saturday's fear
into Sunday's light of hope
so we can walk as raised, risen and reborn
Easter people on the road.
Prayer by the Rev. Julie Rowe, Jerusalem

Friday, March 21, 2008

Katherine Jefferts Schori in Palestine

Lots of good news about the Holy Week visit of Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori to Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian lands. Several links are provided here.

The top story -

A series of links to other articles -

[An excerpt from Sunday's story]
Presiding Bishop preaches in Jerusalem, shares in Palm Sunday celebrations

Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani welcomes Jefferts Schori to the Holy Land
By Matthew Davies -
March 16, 2008 [Episcopal News Service]

Marking the annual Palm Sunday celebrations and the start of a week-long visit to the Holy Land, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori made Anglican history on March 16 becoming the first woman bishop ever to preach at St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem.

The Presiding Bishop's visit to the Holy Land comes at the invitation of the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, who was consecrated Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem in January 2006.

The morning Eucharist, celebrated in Arabic and English, was preceded by the blessing of palm branches and a procession from St. George’s College Square into the Cathedral, located on Nablus Road in East Jerusalem. "We joined in a remarkable multicultural worship experience today -- Arabic and English speaking Christians celebrating Palm Sunday in the midst of East Jerusalem, with palm and olive branches, singing old standard Holy Week hymns in both languages," said Jefferts Schori reflecting on the service.

The main objective of her visit, Jefferts Schori says, is to explore ways the U.S.-based Episcopal Church can be more supportive of and helpful to the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, and to strengthen relationships with the declining Christian population in the Holy Land. There are currently around 5,000 Anglicans throughout the diocese, which extends over five countries -- Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria -- within the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Throughout the week, the Presiding Bishop will meet with religious leaders, Israeli and Palestinian human rights advocates, and join Eastertide services, observances and celebrations, including the traditional Maundy Thursday Foot Washing, Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, and Holy Saturday's Easter Vigil. On Easter Sunday, she will offer greetings at the morning Eucharist at St. George's Cathedral.

Stir things up for peace

Addressing an overflow congregation at St. George's Cathedral, which some identify as the Anglican Communion's mother church, Jefferts Schori acknowledged that "in this land called holy, we still wait for that prince of peace.

"We still seek a Lord who will work a reconciled peace with justice, here and around the globe," she said, noting that it is no surprise that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole town was in turmoil. "Who is this prophet? He promises another kind of kingdom, another realm where there will be no longer be any hungry or sick or imprisoned ones, no unemployed, none who are segregated from their neighbors and treated with a different justice because of ethnicity or religion.

"The turmoil Jesus stirred up, she said, ended in his execution. "That is part of the invitation Jesus offers each of us, to pick up our cross, to die to self, to proclaim the word of God in Jesus and that divine dream of peace, and to be willing to die to everything else," she said. "Stir things up, for this world certainly hasn’t yet reached that divine dream of shalom. And, yes, recognize that death will be involved. There is no possibility of new life, of resurrection, without death. We will never know a healed world unless the systems that depend on violence or armed guards to maintain them die."

The Presiding Bishop's conclusion included an invitation to share in Jesus' journey of sacrifice, "of making-holy this yet unhealed world. His road into the eternal city of peace leads past the cross. It includes turmoil and threat, but it is meant to be answered by the methods of peace -- palm branches, donkeys, truth-telling, and the unexpected wind of the spirit."

On March 17, the Presiding Bishop and her delegation will visit B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization; Sabeel, an ecumenical liberation theology center; and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Video from Gaza:

Video featuring Naim Ateek:

Video update from ecumenical officer Christopher Epting:

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Heads of Churches in Jerusalem Easter 2008 Message

Heads of Churches in Jerusalem
Easter 2008 Message

"In the evening of the first day of the week, Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, `Peace be with you' and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord and again he said to them `Peace be with you.'"
St. John ch.20 vv 19-21

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Christ is risen.

Many people limit their thoughts on Easter to the empty tomb. How important then, for us to concentrate on the first manifestation which our Lord made to his disciples. There is considerable encouragement to be gained from the fact that the living Christ is greeting his living Church. We do not under estimate the burden of so many of our faithful today from the continuing violence and acts of terrorism that surround them, and of which we all are victims, in the West Bank, in Gaza and in the Israeli society. Nevertheless, the Risen Lord reminds us and tells us that we have a role and we have to change the present situation, through the power and strength which He gives us.

On that first Easter evening it seems obvious that the disciples were full of fear mingled no doubt with doubt and perplexity So much had happened to make them uncertain of the future and consequently they were afraid. However, in their moment of greatest need Jesus came and stood amongst them. At least they believed that he suddenly appeared to them. Because, since they saw him die on the Cross, they believed that everything had ended and the Master has abandoned them. But, fear, weakness and locked doors could not keep Jesus from his disciples... then or now ! He appeared to them glorious and renewed their faith.

In giving the disciples the conventional greeting "Peace be with you" Jesus is seeking to quieten the hearts of his anxious and troubled disciples. He shows them his hands and his side to convince them of his identity as the one recently crucified. So their fear and doubt are replaced by joy. Today we too, we live in fear and perplexity. We too need to see the Risen Lord, in order to take away perplexity and fear because of all that is happening around us and in us, so to replace our fear and anxiety with peace and joy.

However the message of Easter does not end there. The new joy is a mission which the apostles have to bring to the world. Jesus sent them to the troubled world as a whole in order to bring to every one its joy and peace.

So Jesus says: "As my Father has sent me, even so send I you."

In this way Jesus reveals that his Church is to be the instrument through which his saving power is to be made known to the world as the lives of men and women are challenged to submit to the claims of his Kingdom.

More is revealed as Jesus tells the disciples of the spiritual power which will be given them to enable them to fulfill their task which he has given them

"He breathed on them and said Receive the Holy Spirit"

In that instance he is preparing them for the forthcoming Pentecost. He also shows them the intimate relationship between himself and the Holy Spirit, sometimes described in the Early Church as "the Spirit of Christ".

Having told the disciples of the spiritual power He is giving them Jesus then makes it clear that the Church has a specific function in the world to explain and convince people that men and women have a respons­ibility to confess their sins. If they truly repent and relieve then their sins are forgiven.

It is very normal that we bring the same message to our Land. Similarly we have to take away the many burdens on people's lives caused by Occupation, bloodshed, violence and killings and mutual hatred, as well as the wrong ways followed so far to reach security. In all these situations of death we demonstrate that we are the apostles of the resurrection, with its joy and hope. We have to tell the people that the present situation in which we are living is part of the world's sin, but it must also be part of the new power given to us by the Risen Lord. Hence we invite them to make penitence, to admit their involvement in the sin of the world, to be forgiven and to become able to see the right ways that lead to security and peace. We say this to our Leaders in Palestine and Israel. The ways used until today to reach security must be changed. If not, we will remain in the same positions in a permanent cycle of violence. For you, Leaders of this Land, we ask that God give you light and strength to take away from it death and fear so as to restore in it peace with security.

So, as we greet all of you this Eastertide we urge all concerned to demonstrate their faith in more positive terms not least showing their personal belief in a Risen and Glorified Jesus. Moreover, our Jesus is no figure of history but rather the One to teach us and guide us along the path of peace and new life.

To our friends across the world we wish the peace and joy of the Risen Lord. Thank you for your prayerful support but please we would ask that you recall that your faith in Christ has its origin in this Holy Land. You have to assume your responsibilities here. You too are responsible with us for restoring in it the joy of the Resurrection so as to lift the burdens of death, hatred, Occupation, Security Walls and the fear of taking the risk of peace. Do whatever you can and please involve your Governments too to assume their responsibilities for the peace of this Land.

Pray for us as well as for a just and comprehensive peace in this Land ; pray that fear, the main obstacle for peace, will disappear. Pray that people recognize and accept each other, so that the right ways be open before the glory of the Resurrection so that this Land of the resurrection may enjoy the new life to which God has called it.

Christ is risen.

Happy and Holy Easter.

Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem
Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox
Patriarch Michel Sabbah, R.C. Latin
Patriarch Torkom I Manoogian, Armenian Orthodox
Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox
Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian-Orthodox
Archbishop Abouna Matthias, Ethiopian Orthodox
Archbishop Paul Sayyah, Maronite
Bishop Suhail Dawani, Anglican
Bishop Mounib Younan, Lutheran
Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian- Catholic
Archimandrite Joseph Saghbini, Greek Catholic
Fr. Rafael Minassian, Armenian Catholic

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Breaking the Silence" and "Wheels of Justice" speaking tours are underway

Two important speakers' tours are underway, and I have neglected to publicize them. There is still time to make a connection with these witnesses. Brit Tzedek has organized the "Breaking the Silence" tour. "Wheels of Justice" with Mazin Qumsiyeh and other speakers is making its way through western US cities.

Information about the Wheels of Justice Tour is at this web link:

The volunteer team asks for our assistance: "Would you consider helping arrange bookings in your area? With your help, we will continue to speak and mobilize at more high schools, more colleges, more churches, and more community centers and to a wider audience. If you live in the areas along the ... route or know people there, then please facilitate venues/hosting. We can accommodate speaking to audiences of varied background and adapting to circumstances. We speak to faith groups, to classes dealing with a variety of issues, to activist groups, to community organizations, and basically to any gathering of people who will hear us (we even spoke at a naval academy).

"So spread the word: call and email people you know along the present route or people/organizations you think might be interested. Also hold fundraising events and raise needed funds. To help along the route contact our booking agent: Abbie Coburn"

Click this link for the tour schedule:

Wheels for Justice is in Boise, Idaho, today and heading to Idaho Falls, then Salt Lake City and on into Wyoming.

Mazin Qumsiyeh writes: "It was energizing to be in Portland, Oregon and meet with so many good people. The most poignant and yet inspiring was spending time with Saed Bannoureh and Waddah Sofan, Palestinians paralyzed by the Israeli army bullets paid forby our taxes. See Saed's story here: `A moment that changed my life' -

"But we also had really uplifting times like speaking to bright students at colleges and universities, like services and networking done today at Central Lutheran Church - - and at the Catholic Workers' House in Portland -

"Wherever we go, we meet people already mobilized or people who will mobilize to act for peace and justice. That is after all love of humanity materializes into. We are touched and we are grateful for those who helped along the way (too many to mention). Rev. Brandt of (Central Lutheran Church) reminded us of our responsibilities as human beings towards those who are suffering. He reminded us that love is precisely about giving and living as God intended for us to live. He said that those of us who accept our responsibilities and choose to go down that path of peace-making are usually not the people you expect. And indeed those in power (Presidents, rulers, pharisees) will not get their way for the meek shall inherit the earth.

"Let us work so that this vision of justice and peace comes sooner than later so that fewer people suffer in the interim."

Wheels of Justice bus tour -

Jennifer Grosvenor of Central Lutheran Church writes: "We had the Wheels of Justice speakers on Sunday and had 100 attend, 50 during the adult ed and 50 during the afternoon (50 total were members from the community, including college kids in dreads on bikes!). The Oregonian's advance coverage (used) the press release I'd sent ... "

See the Wheels of Justice web page for more reports and schedule:

The Breaking the Silence tour - - is Brit Tzedek v'Shalom's 10-City tour with Gershon Baskin & Hanna Siniora, co-directors of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Development - - (IPCRI).

Founded in January 1988, at the beginning of the first Intifada, IPCRI serves as a joint Israeli-Palestinian think-tank and "do-tank," aiming to create and develop new concepts and ideas that enrich the political and public discourse in order to influence decision makers and to challenge the current political reality. IPCRI recognizes the rights of the Jewish people and the Palestinian people to fulfill their national interests within the framework of achieving national self-determination within their own states and by establishing peaceful relations between two democratic states living side-by-side.

Gershon Baskin, the Israeli Co-Director, co-founded IPCRI following years of experience facilitating Jewish-Arab relations within Israel, during which he worked for Interns for Peace, the Ministry of Education and the Institute for Education for Jewish-Arab Coexistence. Dr. Baskin has published books and articles ... on a range of topics related to the conflict. During the Premiership of the late Yitzhak Rabin, he served as an outside policy advisor of the peace process. Dr. Baskin was a member of the Jerusalem Experts Committee established by the Israeli Prime Minister's Office during the Final Status Negotiations in 2000-2001.

Hanna Siniora, a member of the Palestinian National Council since 1990, has a long and distinguished history of public service. He was the first Palestinian to officially meet Secretary of State George Schultz as a representative of the occupied territories, facilitating President Reagan's official recognition of the PLO. He served as a member of the Palestinian Jordanian delegation and advised the Palestinian delegation to Madrid in the early 90s. He is the founder and publisher of the Jerusalem Times, a weekly English-language Palestinian paper, and founder and co-chair of the Israeli-Palestinian radio station "All forPeace."

What's left of the tour schedule:

March 12, 7 pm, Kehilla Synagogue, 1300 Grand Avenue, Piedmont. Sponsor: San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. Co-sponsor: Kehilla Synagogue. For more information, contact the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom by email:

LOS ANGELES - March 15 - 16
March 15, 7:30 pm, Leo Baeck Temple, 1300 North Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles
Sponsor: Los Angeles Area Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. Co-sponsor: Leo Baeck Temple, The Progressive Jewish Alliance, and Americans for Peace Now. For more information, contact Claire Gorfinkel by email
March 16, 2:30 - 4:30 pm, Event with Los Angeles Brit Tzedek at the home of Arthur and Edith Stern. RSVP required by email:

DENVER - March 17
March 17, Time TBA, Political Science Department of Metro State College, Tivoly Center. Sponsor: Colorado Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. For more information, contact Mark Belkin by email:

7:00 pm, B' nai Havurah, 6445 E Ohio Ave, Denver. Sponsor: Colorado Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. For more information, contact Mark Belkin:

NEW YORK CITY AREA - March 23 - 25
Events with New York City Brit Tzedek v'Shalom Sponsors: New York City Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'ShalomFor more information, contact Sherry Alpern

March 26, 7:00 pm, Temple Beth El, 70 Orchard Avenue, Providence. Sponsor: Rhode Island Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. Co-sponsor: Temple Beth-El. For more information, contact Judith Kaye:

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Munib Younan speaks out from Jerusalem against all recent violence

Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) issued this important statement today.

Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem, City of Peace!

March 7, 2008

We are profoundly and deeply saddened by the recent escalation of violence that killed 8 in the Yeshiva last night and 120 in Gaza in the last week. We express our sincere condolences to all who are mourning the loss of loved ones.

We in the church have been steady and strong voices for non-violence. As it says in one of our Lutheran schools, "Violence is the tool of the incompetent." I believe it is also the tool of the desperate and the hopeless. This is not to excuse any violence on any side but to face the hard reality that unless people have something to live for they have nothing to lose. A human rights report this week reports that the 1.4 million people in Gaza are suffering the worst conditions in 40 years, with 80% dependent on food aid, 40% unemployment, hospitals with great basic shortages of materials and electricity and sewage and water systems that are under collapse. We in the church are afraid that this situation will only spawn more retaliation and revenge that benefits no one.

We must not allow the deterioration of the situation to accelerate the vicious cycle of violence. Lasting peace and security will never come at the point of a gun or in the rubble of the shelling, but only through hard and tough dialogue and the upholding of equal human rights and international law. Leaders and people in the Holy Land - Muslim, Christian and Jew - it is our duty to our children to show them that there are other ways to solve our problems. It is our duty to work for the sanctity of all human life and to raise the voices of the moderates who comprise a vast majority of the people on both sides. We cannot allow the extremists and the cycle of revenge and counter-revenge to hold the prospects of justice and peace hostage.

We urge our sisters and brothers in this Land, Israeli and Palestinian, to stop the violence: the missiles, shelling, shooting, rockets and incursions, and to restore basic human rights to the people of Gaza. Only through dialogue that represents all parties, including those we deem enemies, will bring a lasting and durable peace based on justice.

May God bless all the families of those who have been killed, and may God help us together, to reach a more just and dignified future for us all. With the writer of Revelation, we yearn for the day when "death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more." (Rev. 21:4)

We ask all our partner churches in the world and all people of good conscience to make time in their services for prayers of mercy for all people in the Holy Land.

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

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Join Church Leaders in Urging Intensified Action on the Gaza Crisis

ACTION ALERT from the ELCA Advocacy Network

Join Church Leaders in Urging Intensified Action on the Gaza Crisis

March 5 , 2008

As the Gaza crisis escalated and Secretary Rice began her visit to the Middle East, the heads of churches and agencies which are members of the Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) sent a letter last week, asking her to "work with the international community to achieve a ceasefire, end the blockade, and establish real security at Gaza’s borders." The letter expresses concern for all civilians caught in the conflict and raises particular distress about the situation of Gaza’s small Christian community. It concludes by urging Sec. Rice to take action that can "enable substantive progress forward on peace negotiations". The letter was faxed to key contacts at the State Department, White House and foreign embassies. The press release, full text and list of signers can be viewed here

This letter from church leaders is a follow-up to a January 23rd letter signed by CMEP's Director and Chair of the Board sent the day of the breach of the Gaza-Egypt border wall. Since that time, the economic closure of Gaza has continued with increasing humanitarian hardship and the violence has further escalated, with a flurry this week of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants and Israeli military responses that have caused grave human consequences on both sides. The risk of even greater military conflict now looms. Secretary Rice must use her trip to address the Gaza crisis and restore hope that real progress can be made toward a peace agreement in 2008.

CMEP Resource:
For an update on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank, you can listen to CMEP’s Feb 27th conference call with Andrew Whitley from UNRWA by clicking here

What’s At Stake

ELCA Policy and Background on Seeking Israeli-Palestinian Peace

This alert follows an alert sent in late January on the same theme.

ELCA Policy

The ELCA has consistently supported an end to all acts of violence by all parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of the people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It has also supported all efforts to reinvigorate the peace process (direct negotiations), including the Road Map for Peace, that would lead to a final status agreement that brings about a viable, contiguous, independent Palestinian state and a secure Israel at peace with its Arab neighbors.


On February 26, in a briefing to the UN Security Council, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, Robert H. Serry, called the current situation in Gaza, "unacceptable and also unsustainable in humanitarian, human rights, security and political terms."

He criticized Hamas saying that "Despite statements of intent, Hamas has not acted with sufficient determination to bring about an end to rocket attacks by militant groups [into Israel]. Hamas itself also carries out periodic rocket firing and regular mortar fire, to say nothing of the recent suicide bombing [in Dimona]?. We continue to call on Hamas to live up to the responsibilities it has taken on itself and to choose the olive branch over the gun."

He also criticized Israel saying that their "measures [Israel Defense Force incursions and the isolation of Gaza] amounting to collective punishment are also not acceptable. We call on Israel to meet its obligations towards the civilian population of Gaza under international law."

Serry noted further that envoys of the Quartet agree among other things, that they "should now work towards resumption of normal economic life for the people of Gaza, pursue arrangements that ensure the security of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians, and support the legitimate Palestinian Authority. Rocket fire and suicide attacks should cease, as should all acts of violence, so that an atmosphere of calm is created. The humanitarian needs of the civilian population must be met, including the uninterrupted provision of essential goods and services, including fuel and power supplies."

Take Action

Send a message to Secretary Rice: End Gaza Crisis Now and Restore Hope for Peace Email Web Form

Your Message

Key Points:

  • As an American Christian, I am greatly concerned about the escalating Gaza crisis. I join with the leaders of U.S. Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant church organizations in asking Secretary Rice to use her Mideast trip to help achieve a ceasefire, end the blockade and establish real security at Gaza’s borders.

  • The blockade has created a humanitarian crisis felt by all Gazans while rocket attacks on Israel have targeted civilians indiscriminately and made normal life impossible in the areas affected.

  • The continuing violence and suffering experienced by both peoples hinder progress on the peace process and also create conditions that pose a particular threat to the small Christian community in Gaza.

  • Secretary Rice’s urgent and intensified diplomatic effort is needed now to prevent a greater military confrontation and to ensure that real progress can be made on peace negotiations.

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Recent Messages from Evangelical Lutheran Church in America e-Advocacy Network:

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report Feb. 27 - March 3, 2008

Here is a link to the most up to date Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report from United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

27 FEB - 3 MARCH 2008


  • Israeli air strikes on Gaza and rocket attacks on Israeli towns from Palestinian militants in Gaza continued during the reporting period.

  • Between 27 February and 2 March, 107 Palestinians were killed by the IDF and 250 were injured. During the same period two Israeli soldiers and one Israeli civilian were killed and 25 injured, mainly by Qassam rockets and Grad missiles fired by Palestinian militants towards Israel. (See a chart at the web link above.)

  • The IDF operation exacerbated an already deteriorating humanitarian situation emanating from the near total blockade on Gaza since June 2007. Essential services, including water and sanitation, are close to breakdown. Because of the combined lack of electricity, fuel, spare parts and inability to upgrade networks, the Gaza Coastal Municipality Water Utility is forced to continue dumping daily 20 million litres of raw sewage and 40 million litres of partially treated water into the sea.

  • The IDF operation has worsened conditions for an already stretched medical system.
For more information please contact Khulood Badawi

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Mac House
P.O.Box 38712

Tel:++ 972-2-5829962/5853


ELCA Presiding Bishop Urges Secretary Rice to Resolve Gaza Crisis

So much news is circulating about the tragedy in Gaza, it is hard to know what I can add. For starters, I'll post a news release from my own Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


ELCA Presiding Bishop, Others Urge Secretary Rice to Resolve Gaza Crisis

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In a Feb. 29 letter to U.S. Secretary ofState Condoleezza Rice, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishopof the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), along with18 other religious leaders, urged Rice to take immediate diplomatic action to resolve the crisis in Gaza. The letter anticipated Rice's trip to the Middle East this month amid escalating violence and risk of greater military confrontationt here.

"The continuing violence and suffering experienced byPalestinians and Israelis is hindering progress on the peace process and also creates conditions that pose a particular threat to the small Christian community in Gaza," the church leaders wrote as part of Churches for Middle East Peace -- a coalition of 22 Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches and organizations. The ELCA participates in the coalition.

In the letter church leaders expressed their concern for civilians caught in the Gaza conflict. The leaders wrote that the blockade of Gaza and frequent rocket attacks against southern Israel cannot be tolerated. The blockade, they wrote, results in power outages, water and food shortages and a lack of adequateaccess to medical supplies, creating a "humanitarian crisis felt by all Gazans."

The religious leaders wrote that rocket attacks against Israel have targeted civilians indiscriminately and made normallife impossible in the areas affected. The religious leaders asked Rice to "work with the international community to achieve a ceasefire, end the blockade and establish real security at Gaza'sborders."

The church leaders raised concern about the recent bombing of the YMCA library in Gaza. They said that although"authorities in Gaza have denounced this action, it follows the killing of a Christian bookseller last fall and is symptomatic ofthe deteriorating social conditions and instability that threaten the safety of all the residents of Gaza."

"A reduction of tensions in Gaza and the easing of daily life will strengthen the tiny Christian community, just as progress on the peace process will help sustain Christian communities elsewhere in the region. Such steps are vital to preserving the cultural and religious pluralism that has long enriched the Middle East," they wrote.

The church leaders concluded their letter by urging Rice to use her visit to resolve the Gaza crisis. "We believe that all the children of Abraham should be able to live in the 'land of milk and honey' free of violence and insecurity and with theability to provide a positive future for their families," theywrote.

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The text of the letter is at on the Churches for Middle East Peace Web site -

Information about ELCA ministries in the Middle East is available at on the Internet.

For information contact: John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org
ELCA News Blog: