Thursday, September 16, 2010

School graduations, women's ministries of the ELCJHL

News from the ELCJHL

Allison Schmitt sent out the summer newsletter of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), and I'm including an article in this post. I wish the whole newsletter was on the church's website, but that takes time. To find out more about the ELCJHL, go to this link:

I want to take this opportunity to thank Allison for two years of outstanding service as communication assistant to the ELJHL bishop, the Rev. Munib Younan. She sent some words of closing as she turned over her responsibilities to Elizabeth “Elly” McHan, a recent graduate of Wartburg Seminary.

Allison writes:
"It is difficult for me to put into words what this last two years has meant for me. I think it will be only after I have some distance in time and space that I will fully realize the impact of this experience. What I do know is that I am immensely grateful for the opportunity I have had to live and work among the courageous Palestinian Christians for these 24 months. Their resilience, flexibility, persistence and faith will inspire me for the rest of my life. Somehow they manage to hope for a better day, in spite of conditions that most of us in the West would find hopeless.

"There have been highs and lows for me here. But whatever my mood, I have always been keenly aware of what an honor it has been to learn from, live with and work for justice alongside the Palestinians. It is my prayer that this two years is just the beginning of a lifetime of speaking and acting in support of their liberation."

Thank you, Allison! Now for a news story about high school graduation, and I want to point out that the students of the Lutheran schools in Palestine are not all Christian; almost half of these young graduates are Muslim. Please pray for these young people and for the Lutheran women of the ELCJHL. An article about women's ministries follows.

ELCJHL schools celebrated tawjihi graduations in May,
Graduates performed poems, rap songs, give speeches to celebrate

Large crowds and local dignitaries were on hand to celebrate graduation at the Lutheran high schools. A total of 127 students, including 59 girls and 68 boys, received certificates at the four ceremonies.

Graduate Majdi Habash called the Ramallah School of Hope a candle to light the graduates’ paths as they set out to contribute to society. They are armed not with guns or stones but with education, he said, quoting Palestinian-American academician Edward Said. He encouraged his 39 classmates to imitate a child learning to walk – to laugh when they fall down and get up to try again, he said at the May 27 ceremony at the Ramallah Cultural Palace in Beitunya.

ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan encouraged the graduates to dream, even if it seems impossible, of a bright future for themselves and the Palestinian people. Improbable things – like having an African-American president in the U.S. White House – do happen, he said.

Amidst Palestinian and German flags at the TalithaKumi School in Beit Jala, school principal Dr. Georg Dürr encouraged graduates to use the kairos (opportune) time wisely. Although they have hoped since childhood for their own state, “now is the time for resolution,” he said at the May 28 event.

In his English speech, Jameel Sarras said that parents and teachers were the “wind beneath our wings” for him and his 41 classmates. He encouraged them to work to ‘bring freedom and peace back to our beloved Palestine.” He offered special thanks to Dr. Dürr, who was completing his last year at the school.

At their May 29 graduation ceremony, Nataly and Tania Hannoneh thanked their teachers for “putting up with us for 15 years” at the Lutheran school in Beit Sahour. Their school years are like a harbor closing behind them, with the world an ocean before them, they said to the audience and their 37 classmates.

ELCJHL Director of Schools Dr. Charlie Haddad referenced Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela in encouraging the students to be the kind of leaders Palestine needs.

Gandhi’s name was invoked at the Dar al-Kalima graduation as well. Delivering the English speech at the May 31 ceremony, Yousef Al- Ramahi, quoted the Indian leader: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” He thanked instructors for teaching them to be “good, sensible people” and exhorted his seven classmates to contribute to Palestine’s development.

Al-Ramahi joined his fellow graduate Mohammed Teilakh in performing a rap song, to the delight of the audience gathered in the auditorium of the International Center of Bethlehem.

After graduation, the students were scheduled to join their Palestinian peers in taking the tawjihi exams – a set of exams administered over three weeks in as many as 10 subjects to determine college eligibility.

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ELCJHL women focus on family at workshop

The fast pace of societal change has led to a crisis of the family, said Bishop Munib A. Younan at a recent ELCJHL women’s conference on the family from a Palestinian Christian perspective.

About 48 women from ELCJHL congregations in Israel-Palestine attended the June 17-18, 2010, conference, according to ELCJHL Women’s desk facilitator Bassima Jaraiseh. Women from the Church of the Good Shepherd in Amman, Jordan, planned to attend the conference, which was held in Jericho, but they were unable to do so.

In his opening lecture, Younan said Palestinian society must find ways to cope with changes to the family, which have more to do with cultural pressures than with the Israeli occupation or difficult economic conditions. Once “family” meant father, mother and children, but societal changes make it a difficult word to define.

In the face of societal pressures, Christians must maintain traditional values of mutual commitment, compromise, planning for the future, equality and firm parental guidance of children, he said. The church can help by giving its youth a healthy, positive view of married life and offering pre-marital counseling.

Also addressing the group was Dr. Yahya Hijazi, professor at Naqab University and educational counselor and lecturer for the Palestinian Counseling Center.

Hijazi told the group that 40 percent of Palestinian children are subject to harassment – much of which occurs inside the family. What makes this verbal, physical and sexual violence worse is that it is seen as a family secret, he said, which prevents victims from seeking help.

Families should focus on building good communication skills and providing for good psychological health for its members, he said. Parents need to exercise their authority appropriately, provide clear rules and spend time with their children.

Conference participants broke into groups to discuss the roles of families and schools in this work. They said families should help members develop skills in communicating, accepting constructive criticism and bearing life’s frustrations. They said schools should communicate with families, provide an accepting atmosphere and offer sex education.

Jaraiseh said she felt participants gained new skills at the workshop, including strategies for raising children “in a more positive way.” She said participants commented positively on the program organized by Minerva Khayyat and asked that more effort be made in the future to encourage ELCJHL women ages 18-25 to attend. They also suggested that the ELCJHL have a marriage counselor on staff.

Jaraiseh is at work on the next women’s event, a two-part workshop, “The psychological differences between the two sexes and the challenges of marital life,” scheduled to begin in September.

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