Monday, April 7, 2008

Swedish Lutherans boost Mount of Olives Housing Project

Swedish Lutherans Give Mount of Olives Housing Project $4.6 Million Boost

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CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In Jerusalem there's a shortage of affordable housing for Christian Palestinians. At the same time Christians in that city are now less than a third of their number in the 1940s, when about 31,000 Christians lived in Jerusalem, said the Rev. Mark M. Brown, regional representative, Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Jerusalem.

To help stem the loss of Christians, the LWF and partners that include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) began the LWF Mount of Olives Housing Project -- a plan to build 84 low-rent apartments and a community center on LWF property on the Mount of Olives.

The $8.3 million project recently reported a gift of $4.6 million from the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden. That "gracious gift ... takes us more than half-way in our fundraising," said Brown, an ELCA pastor. Something that may have given "the Church of Sweden the confidence to make this gift" is the project's "quick start" with fundraising and publicity in the ELCA, he said.

The ELCA has made a $2 million commitment for the project, and $600,000 has been raised so far. Other partners include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Germany-based Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Foundation, and churches in Norway, Finland and Germany.

The LWF is "moving ahead as fast as we can with lawyers and architects and engineers to get the master site plan and permits approved as soon as possible," Brown said. "If we had the permits to begin building, we could move forward with the first two stages of construction," he said, "but we can't break ground until we have the master site plan and then 17 permits approved by the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem."

To help smooth the approval process, Brown said the LWF began submitting a detailed master site plan to the municipality in 2007. Groundbreaking is still expected to occur in late 2008 or the first half of 2009, he said.

"A project like this gives people hope to stay," Brown said. "The situation is so desperate economically and politically (that) anything the churches can do to reduce the level of frustration, to help people build up their own lives, to strengthen their families and to build a nation that fulfills their needs as a people, I think, helps the overall peace process."

The Mount of Olives is "an important location because of the future of Jerusalem as a shared city between Jews, Christians, Muslims and between Palestinians and Israelis," Brown added.


More information about the Mount of Olives housing project is under "Support Mission throughout the World" at on the ELCA Web site.

Report provided by ELCA news -

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