Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ELCA Middle East Network Newsletter - August 2009

Middle East Network Newsletter
August 26, 2009

In this issue:

+ Churchwide Assembly reaffirms commitments in ELCA Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine
+ Talking with Jews and Muslims about Israel-Palestine in our local communities
+ Update on Holy Land youth mission
+ Churches for Middle East Peace: Church leaders send letter to Secretary Clinton on East Jerusalem home evictions
+ Latest reports from United Nations OCHA-OPT


Churchwide Assembly reaffirms commitments in ELCA Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine

On August 22 by a vote of 690-125, the 11th ELCA Churchwide Assembly reaffirmed the ELCA's commitment to eight tasks relative to the Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine. Specifically, the assembly voted "to reaffirm the commitment of this church to:

1. Continue its awareness-building, accompaniment, andadvocacy on behalf of a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine;
2. Evaluate and refine its peace-making efforts to demonstrate as fully as possible the "balanced ... care for all parties" expressed in the Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine (2005; Sect. II.A), while continuing our unique relationship with and accompaniment of Palestinian Christians and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL);
3. Learn more about the experiences of both Israelis and Palestinians and their mutual fears, aspirations, and hopes;
4. Work to convey the concerns and perspectives of Palestinians and Israelis that dispel stereotypes and caricatures and promote better understanding;
5. Lift up the voices within both communities, especially those of victims of violence, that seek peace with justice through nonviolent responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
6. Continue to help alleviate the humanitarian needs of all of those affected by the conflict, especially in Gaza;
7. Support U.S. funding that promotes peace and cooperation for all parties to the conflict; and
8. Continue to pray for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples."

The second task above was added by the Assembly to the report of the Memorials Committee which included the other seven tasks. The new task was moved by voting member Pr. Richard B. Geib of Lower Susquehanna Synod.

The second task quotes from Section II A of the Strategy, from a list of "assumptions" which "undergird the ELCA's commitment to intensify its work for peace with justice in Israel and Palestine." The sentence from the Strategy reads in full:
2. Balance. Effective ELCA action will be balanced in terms of its care for all parties in the conflict, but must address forthrightly imbalances of power as they play out in the lives of people in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Peace Not Walls staff welcome comments about how the ELCA can best fulfill these tasks.

Earlier at the Churchwide Assembly, on Tuesday, August 18, a hearing was held on the Strategy. The meeting place was"standing room only," and initial comments were made by Bishops Bruce Burnside, Dean Nelson, Duane Pedersen and Margaret Payne.

Peace Not Walls staff responded to questions such as how we can interact with our Jewish neighbors when discussing theIsrael-Palestine conflict, what we can do if we can't travel to the Holy Land, how the church can speak more clearly than governments which are often constrained in what they can and cannot say, what the ELCA is doing to promote economic progressin the West Bank, and what resources are available to teach about peace in our congregations. Voting members also described personal experiences and offered opinions, such as having been a medical staff volunteer at Augusta Victoria Hospital, the value in meeting with the "Living Stones" in all three faith communities when visiting the area, the importance of being aware of the conflicting narratives and concerns of Israelis andPalestinians and the need to build trust and come to discussions and encounters with humility, the benefit of doing critical biblical and theological work about the conflict, and the dire need for the Mount of Olives Housing Project to provide shelter and a way for the Christian community to remain a significant part of the Palestinian population.


Talking with Jews and Muslims about Israel-Palestine in ourlocal communities

Voting members at the August 18 Churchwide Assembly hearing on the Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine raised this iss ue and were referred to the following existing resources:

a. Jewish-Lutheran Talking Points -

b. Windows for Understanding: Jewish-Muslim-Lutheran Relations -

c. Covenantal Conversations book, exploring the shared theological framework, special historical relationship, andpost-Holocaust developments and current trouble spots that situate the Jewish-Christian relationship today (accompanying video in production) -

d. ELCA Christian-Muslim resources -

e. National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace inthe Middle East (NILI) statements that can be used in local relationships -


Update on Holy Land youth mission

Apply now for the Holy Land Youth mission trip scheduled for July 8-22, 2010, sponsored by ELCA Global Mission, theEvangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and the Southeast Michigan Synod. The trip will be a mix of a leadership, peace-building camp with Palestinian youth from theELCJHL and an opportunity to see ancient holy sites and meet people of all faiths who are working together to advocate for peace with justice.

Complete and return the application available online at
Cost is expected to be $2000 in addition to airfare. Although the deadline is in December, spaces are filling and limited. It is expected the trip will include about 25 youth (from sophomore year in high school to age 22) and about 7 adults. Fundraising suggestions will soon be available online. Email or call Julie Rowe at 1-800 638 3522 Ext. 2720 with questions.


Churches for Middle East Peace: Church leaders send letter to Secretary Clinton on East Jerusalem home evictions

Church leaders including ELCA presiding bishop, the Rev. Mark S.Hanson, sent a letter from Churches for Middle East Peace to Secretary of State Clinton this month in response to the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem. The letter thanks Clinton for her August 3 statement that "'eviction of East Jerusalem is not in keeping with Israeli obligations.'" The letter notes that "this action took place in the sensitive Sheikh Jarrah section of East Jerusalem close to the 1949 Armistice Line or Green Line," and that the action "undercuts U.S. efforts to create an environment for starting talks for a comprehensive peace agreement and is therefore harmful to both the Palestinians and Israelis hopes for peace." It concludes by calling for "the immediate reversal of this ill-considered eviction" and "the restoration of these houses to their former residents."

Read the full text of the letter at

Read the ELCA August 12 news release on the letter -

For more, see the August 2009, Fact Sheet: "Sheikh Jarrah" at


Latest reports from United Nations OCHA-OPT

August 2009 Special Focus: The humanitarian impact of two years of blockade on the Gaza Strip -

West Bank and Gaza Closure Maps June 2009 - at )


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