Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lutheran Bishop Younan was Allowed to Enter Gaza Strip

Several news items from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL):
+ Lutheran Bishop Allowed to Enter Gaza Strip on Third Attempt
+ ELCJHL calendar resources and prayer
+ ELCJHL newsletter, "ELCJHL E-pistle"

March 20, 2009
Lutheran Bishop Allowed to Enter Gaza Strip on Third Attempt

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- After three attempts in five weeks, three bishops from Jerusalem were allowed to enter the Gaza Strip March 10 to visit churches and humanitarian projects. The three were the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, and Greek Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour, according to an ELCJHL news release.

On Feb. 4 Dawani and Younan -- part of a delegation of five bishops -- were denied entry at the Erez Crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The ELCJHL said Younan and Dawani were the only Palestinians in the delegation. Both said they had obtained permits from Israeli officials to enter the region.

Younan, Dawani and Chacour later applied for permission to enter the Gaza Strip on Feb. 24 but were denied for undisclosed reasons.

On the March 10 trip the bishops visited the Anglican Al Ahli Hospital, which served more than 400 patients and causalities during the war between Israel and Hamas. They were briefed by hospital director Suheila Tarazi and Dr. Maher Ayad. The bishops visited staff and patients. In the hospital chapel they prayed for the war dead and wounded, and for peace and justice, the ELCJHL report said.

Constantine Dabbagh, director, Near East Council of Churches Refugee Works, updated the bishops about its outreach. The clinic was bombed during the conflict in the Gaza Strip, forcing the organization to resume its work in a small provisional center, the release said. Other personnel are working in one of the most impoverished areas of Gaza City to restart programs for women and children, as well as a program for malnourished children.

"We urge our partners to continue to support our diakonia and relief work in Gaza," Younan said. He called for the implementation of international law and human rights in Gaza "so the border points will be opened and all the necessary building material will be allowed in for rebuilding," the ELCJHL release said.

Younan, Dawani and Chacour also asked all parties to abstain from acts of violence and to work for a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict based on justice and international law.

After Younan and Dawani were denied entry into the Gaza Strip, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, sent a letter Feb. 5 to Israel's ambassador to the United States. They expressed "grave concern" and requested help to determine why Younan and Dawani were denied entry. They asked that the bishops be allowed into the area for a pastoral visit.

A March 10 news release from the Embassy of Israel said the bishops were denied entry into the Gaza Strip "because both bishops are legal residents of the State of Israel."

"Israeli citizens and legal residents are prohibited from entering the Gaza Strip for security reasons and out of concern for their safety," the Israeli news release said.

The March 10 visit by Younan, Dawani and Chacour was facilitated by Israel, the embassy's release added.

Information about the ELCJHL is at on theWeb.

* Allison Schmitt is communication assistant with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

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The ELCJHL provides a monthly calendar with pictures, info about a particular ministry of the church and prayer:

March 2009
“The Tent” community center offers something for everyone

No matter your age, gender, religion or interest, you’ll probably find something to enjoy at Al Khei-me-h. Al Khei-me-h (The Tent) is the ecumenical community center that is a ministry of the ELCJHL Church of the Good Shepherd in Amman, Jordan. Opened in 2007, Al Khei-me-h offers cultural events such as music and drama performances and art exhibitions, for example. Earlier this year there was a forum on Gaza.

A women’s aerobics class, which attracts both Christians and Muslims, meets three times a week. In cooperation with the Jordan Academy for Music, the center offers music lessons. The center serves as a meeting place for youth. Work is under way to provide activities for senior citizens in the morning. There are also plans to provide internet access and a library.

All these activities help fulfill the center’s mission, which is a broad one. In addition to promoting coexistence and ecumenism, the center hopes to meet the community’s cultural, recreational, social, spiritual and sport needs while helping participants develop their God-given talents.

Rev. Samer Azar, pastor of Good Shepherd, asks for your prayers for this ministry.

The calendar includes a photo of a performance by the Lebanese drama group called “Just for Kids” at “The Tent”. The Jordan Bible Society co-sponsored the event.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your khei-me-h is large enough to shelter all who are made in your image, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or other distinction. Bless all who participate in this ministry, either as provider or participant. Teach all your children to welcome others and share the blessings of your creation together. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

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The newsletter of the ELCJHL is called "ELCJHL E-pistle." Here's the link to newsletters:

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To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, go to "A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Middle East Peace" -

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