Monday, November 30, 2009

Nine ELCA synod bishops are visiting the Middle East

Forty-five Lutheran (ELCA) bishops visited the Holy Land earlier this year; now nine more will travel to the region as part of the bishops' initiative to support the ELCA's churchwide strategy, "Peace Not Walls - Stand for Justice in the Holy Land."

November 24, 2009

Nine ELCA Synod Bishops Preparing for Middle East Visit

Here's a link to the story on the ELCA website:

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Nine synod bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are preparing to visit Israel and the West Bank Nov. 28-Dec. 8, as part of the ELCA Conference of Bishops' initiative to support a churchwide strategy for engagement in the region.

The trip, Bishops' Academy II, includes bishops who were unable or opted not to join colleagues whotraveled to the region in January of this year. At that time Israelis and Palestinians were fighting in Gaza, and the conflict's effect on the bishops' visit was unknown as the bishops were preparing to begin their trip.

Forty-four bishops attended Bishops' Academy I, representing the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). They visited the West Bank and Israel, and met with religious, political and community leaders. The bishops also visited religious sites. Their visit focused on support and encouragement for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).

On this trip the itinerary will be similar. The bishops will meet with United Nations representatives; visit and worship with ELCJHL congregations; meet with groups of Christians, Jews and Muslims; visit the holocaust memorial Yad Vashem; hold discussions at a synagogue and participate in a Shabbat service; meet students in Lutheran schools; visit a refugee camp; plant trees and worship near the Israeli separation barrier; visit the Lutheran World Federation's Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem; and visit Hebron, a West Bank city where Palestinians and Israeli settlers reside.

The trip's purposes are to deepen awareness of the situation in the region; to demonstrate accompaniment by building relationships with religious groups to promote peace; and to strengthen the church's advocacy for a just peace, said the Rev. Peter C. Johnson, ELCA Global Mission regional representative, Cairo, Egypt, in a telephone interview. Johnson will lead the bishops on their visit.

The itinerary will be as balanced as possible, acknowledging that the ELCA is in an accompaniment relationship with the people of the ELCJHL, Johnson said. Also coordinating the visit is Martin Shoffner, ELCA Global Mission, Jerusalem.

"I hope they will have a deep understanding of the complexities on the ground," Johnson said of his hopes for the bishops' visit. "This is another opportunity for the ELCA to enter deeply into an area of the world in crisis for many years. I hope this will help the church engage in this area more publicly."

"They (ELCA bishops) are welcome to visit us," said the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the ELCJHL. "We are happy they can finally come. I want to assure them that even though there is no war now, things are not better because there is (still) an impasse in the region." He said people in the region are concerned about the U.S. government's role in the Middle East.

"We are very worried about the situation. But this is the reason for accompaniment -- that you come and visit in a time of need," Younan said.

ELCA synod bishops planning to be part of Bishops' Academy II are the Rev. Michael L. Burk, Southeastern Iowa Synod, Iowa City; the Rev. Warren D. Freiheit, Central-Southern Illinois Synod, Springfield; the Rev. Robert D. Hofstad, Southwestern Washington Synod, Tacoma; the Rev. B. Penrose Hoover, Lower Susquehanna Synod, Harrisburg, Pa.; the Rev. Michael A. Last, Western Iowa Synod, Storm Lake; the Rev. Mark E. Narum, Western North Dakota Synod, Bismarck; the Rev. Robert A. Rimbo, Metropolitan New York Synod; the Rev. Thomas A. Skrenes, Northern Great Lakes Synod, Marquette, Mich.; and the Rev. Steven S. Talmage, Grand Canyon Synod, Phoenix.

In most cases, the bishops are taking spouses on the trip. Bishops and spouses provided synodical and personal funds for the visit.


Information about Bishops' Academy I is at on the ELCA Web site.

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

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Monday, November 23, 2009

ELCA Middle East Network News, the Thanksgiving edition

Middle East Network Newsletter
November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Action on Goldstone Resolution

Take a moment this week to thank your representative for voting"no" or "present" on H. Res. 867 which called on the administration to shelve the "Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict," commonly known as the'Goldstone Report.' The 58 representatives who stood up for transparency, accountability, and respect for international law and human rights need to hear from their supporters. Call today with the message: "Happy Thanksgiving! I'm thankful that you didnot support H. Res. 867. Keep up the good work." Go to to find out how your representative voted.

Find your Representative here

For more information see previous ELCA action alerts at


Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land calls for respect for religious sites

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) reports, "The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, comprised of leaders of Jerusalem's Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities, has released a statement calling for respect for the holy sites of all three religions," and goes on to note, "The Nov. 13 statement came in response to recent clashes on the al-Aqsa Mosque compound ..." To read the ELCJHLreport, go to


Augusta Victoria Hospital featured in the Jerusalem Post

In a November 13 article titled, "At Augusta Victoria Hospital, medicine transcends politics," Abe Selig of the Jerusalem Post writes, "Every morning, a big Mercedes bus pulls up outside the Augusta Victoria Hospital and its passengers make their way through the old steel gates ... All are Palestinians from the West Bank, and in many ways their lives depend on this east Jerusalem hospital near Mt. Scopus - either for medical treatments that their local hospitals cannot provide, or for a paycheck." To read the article, go to


Bethlehem University student deported to Gaza by Israeli military

Two months short of completing her bachelor's degree at Bethlehem University, 21 year-old student Berlanty Azzam was forcibly deported to Gaza by the Israeli military who accused her of being in the West Bank illegally. The Israeli human rights organization, Gisha, which has taken up Azzam's case, notes that the military "makes no claim that she poses any security threat," and bases the deportation order on "the fact that her address in the Israeli-controlled Population Registry is listed in Gaza." The case has received the attention of many advocates, including Churches for Middle East Peace found here -, which sent a letter to Secretary Clinton and asked Members of Congress to contact the State Department. As the case works its way through the Israeli court system, Azzam expressed hope and appreciation in a phone call reported by Brother Jack Curran of Bethlehem University: "I'm just waiting to come back to Bethlehem. I'm really praying for a positive answer - really, I am ... God bless you and all of the people who are working so hard to help me - and others like me here in Gaza. Thank you so much!" For more, go to


Plans move forward to expand Gilo settlement

A plan to construct 844 new housing units in the Israeli settlement of Gilo, located in East Jerusalem, received a green light from the Jerusalem Regional Planning Board on November 17. Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now writes, "This does not mean implementation is inevitable - by no means - but it does mean that it now requires the investment of serious political capital to stop." To learn more, go to

The White House issued a statement found here, saying, "We are dismayed at the Jerusalem Planning Committee's decision to move forward on the approval process for the expansion of Gilo in Jerusalem..." and went on to state, "The U.S. also objects to other Israeli practices in Jerusalem related to housing, including the continuing pattern of evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes ..." Churches for Middle East Peace reports on the plans for Gilo in a November 20 Bulletin. Visit for more.


3rd Annual Bethlehem Prayer Service

The 3rd Annual Bethlehem Prayer Service will take place Saturday, December 19, 2009 at 10:00 AM Eastern Time/5:00 PM Bethlehem Time. This joint simulcast service will bring together worshipers at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., with those at the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, Palestine. The service will be broadcast live at - plan now to join in person or from wherever you are on the globe. For more information and updates, go to


Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this.

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America e-Advocacy Network at:

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Israel is denying Palestinians access to basic minimum of clean, safe water

Israel is denying Palestinians access to even the basic minimum of clean, safe water

Janet Lewis wrote recently about water issues in the West Bank, about the same time an important Amnesty International report was released.

Janet Lahr Lewis is a missionary with the Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church serving in the Middle East as liason between ecumenical groups, Israel and Palestine.

Here is a link to news about the Amnesty report:

And the report itself:

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Janet's report:

"During the past two weeks a Volunteer in Mission team was here from the W. Pennsylvania Conference. The team spent the first week visiting the holy sites and our partner projects where they heard about several issues of concern, one of which is the lack of water. The second week was spent in the village of Taybeh where they spent the mornings in the fields with host families in order to assist in the olive harvest…or rather what there is of it this year. After five years of not enough rain, there was not much to pick.

"There is a Western misconception about this `Land of Milk and Honey.' We have understood that to mean that things are easy here. God’s bounty is plentiful here. But this is not the case. For those who do not live here, it is easy to misinterpret this biblical reference. Moses led `his people' out of Egypt, a place where there was an abundance of water supplied by the Nile river and the surrounding land was fertile and food plentiful. Later from Mt Nebo Moses looked down over the Jordan Valley and instead of seeing a land of plenty he saw the Judean desert, not exactly what he may have expected. Moses surely understood that they would no longer be able to rely on water being plentifully supplied by a fast flowing river like the Nile. They would have to rely on the rain to water the earth; the rain that would enable the crops to grow and the animals and people to survive. This could only be accomplished if they obeyed their covenant with God so that God would supply the rain to sustain their lives here. As scripture reveals, they did not, so God denied them the rain and the land vomited them out. This is much different than our Western perception of Moses looking down onto a place where life would be easy and food plentiful.

`As the VIM team easily noticed, water is a precious commodity here, and life is anything but easy. What was denied by God to the people of Moses, is now being forcibly denied to the Palestinians by the Israeli government. The number one rule in warfare strategy is to control the water supply. Nothing can survive without water. Deny them water and the people will die. It’s that simple." Janet

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Here is an account from the BBC: Israel 'cuts Palestinian water' -

Israel 'cuts Palestinian water'

Israel is denying Palestinians access to even the basic minimum of clean, safe water, Amnesty International says.

In a report, the human rights group says Israeli water restrictions discriminate against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

It says that in Gaza, Israel's blockade has brought the water and sewage system to "crisis point".
Israel says the report is flawed and the Palestinians get more water than was agreed under the 1990s peace deal.

'Basic need'

In the 112-page report, Amnesty says that on average Palestinian daily water consumption reaches 70 litres a day, compared with 300 litres for the Israelis.

It says that some Palestinians barely get 20 litres a day - the minimum recommended even in humanitarian emergencies.

Amnesty says that Israel denies West Bank Palestinians to dig wells, and has even destroyed cisterns and impounded water tankers.

At the same time, the report claims, Israeli settlers are enjoying swimming pools and green gardens.

In Gaza, Israel refuses access to many of the building materials needed to renovate the ailing water system, the document says.

It adds that Israel uses more than 80% of the water from the Mountain Aquifer - the main source of underground water in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

"Water is a basic need and a right, but for many Palestinians obtaining even poor-quality, subsistence-level quantities of water has become a luxury that they can barely afford," Amnesty's Donatella Rovera said.

"Israel must end its discriminatory policies, immediately lift all the restrictions it imposes on Palestinians' access to water."

Ms Rovera also urged Israel to "take responsibility for addressing the problems it created by allowing Palestinians a fair share of the shared water resources".

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the report was factually inaccurate, accusing the Palestinians of mismanaging water resources.

He also rejected the claim that Israel was preventing Palestinians from drilling for water.

The spokesman said Israel had approved 82 such projects but the Palestinians had only implemented 26 of them.

Story from BBC NEWS

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To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, go the the blog: A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Especially now, join in prayer with Sabeel's Waves of Prayer

Join in prayer with the community of Sabeel, the ecumenical liberation theology center in Jerusalem -

Each Thursday at noon Sabeel holds a Communion service that is open to the community. It is a time to join together to celebrate the Eucharist, to discuss how the scriptures apply to our lives today, and to pray for the specific needs of this region. Wherever you are, join the Friends of Sabeel in prayer for peace with justice, focusing on specific issues each week.

This week's petitions are particularly stirring:

+ On Tuesday morning, settlers and armed guards entered the Rivka al-Kurd home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem and removed the family and their belongings by force. Israeli police stood by and did not take action to stop the crime. This is the third family to be evicted by settlers in Sheikh Jarrah since August. Almighty God, in our pain we plead for mercy and justice.

+ Rev. Naim Ateek addressed a gathering of Muslim leaders from Nablus and Bethlehem on Sunday on the topic of Christian Zionism. Rev. Ateek's comments were intended to clear up confusion between the theology of Christian Zionism and the beliefs of Palestinian Christians about the state of Israel. The sheikhs and imams who attended expressed much appreciation for the conference and have already begun planning future dialogues with the local Christian community. We give thanks for this and other opportunities to address misunderstandings and to grow closer ties between different communities.

+ Early Sunday morning, an armed Israeli man was caught attempting to enter al-Aqsa Mosque. Guards fear he intended to commit a massacre during morning prayers. We give thanks that this disaster was averted and pray that Jerusalem will not descend into violence at the hands of extremists.

+ November 5 marks the end of Sabeel's Witness Visit. We pray that the participants will return to their communities as informed and inspired advocates of a just peace in Palestine and Israel. May the words and actions of these ambassadors fall upon the minds and hearts of those who can guide decision-makers into ending injustice and the suffering of the oppressed.

Find out more about the ministry of Sabeel -

And Friends of Sabeel - North America -

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To receive regular bulletins from Ann Hafften, go the the blog: A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace,

Monday, November 2, 2009

CMEP: Support Transparency & Accountability!

I pay attention to directives from Churches for Middle East Peace. They know what they're doing and guide me in strategic advocacy.

Support Transparency & Accountability!

Tell your Member of Congress to Oppose H.Res 867!

Just last week, the Department of State affirmed that they had "serious concerns about what happened in Gaza" and that these allegations "which are very serious" should be "thoroughly investigated." Yet, H. Res. 867 directly challenges this clearly articulated U.S. position.

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced a resolution last week "Calling on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the 'Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict…'" Credible allegations of misconduct cannot be investigated if Congress deliberately sweeps this report under the rug.

Contact your Member of Congress today and tell them to oppose H. Res. 867 because it irresponsibly recommends a lack of accountability and transparency.

You can TAKE ACTION by visiting -

H. Res. 867 highlights what the State Department has called concerns about the "one sided" nature of the Goldstone report. Yet, the resolution itself is unbalanced. It ignores and fails to address the claims of the civilian population in Gaza and important questions raised by Israelis about their country's conduct in Gaza.

Tell your representative to oppose H. Res. 867 because Israelis and Palestinians have a right to answers!

You can TAKE ACTION by visiting -

H. Res. 867 is out of touch with the Administration's calls for a comprehensive investigation of "all credible allegations of misconduct" and with many organizations that are calling for impartial, independent and credible Israeli and Palestinian investigations. The Administration has repeatedly asked Israel and the Palestinians to address these very serious allegations, but H. Res. 867 defies this executive mandate head on.

H. Res. 867 is expected on the House floor next week and time is running out! Contact your representative today! Oppose H. Res. 867!

We need your help! ACT NOW!

Sincerely, Amanda Rios
Deputy Director
Churches for Middle East Peace

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