Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter brings rejoicing amid struggle

Bishop Munib Younan's Easter message is in circulation. He serves the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. An excerpt is below; click here to read the full text of the message.

Bishop Younan writes, "Do we give in to despair? Do we give up? Do we emigrate to lands abroad? The narrative of Easter, the power of the cross and resurrection is the only source of our hope. On the Via Dolorosa, Jesus encountered all the dark forces that we experience in the Middle East today. He sacrificed himself so that we might hope and we can trust his power. We will not allow extremism, oppression, violence, bloodshed, hatred, walls or confiscated lands to diminish our hope, to make us give in to despair. The hope of living with dignity, justice, and reconciliation will triumph over the dark forces we face. This is the power of the cross today. This is the hope of Christians in Jerusalem and the whole Holy Land. This is the task of the Church universal, to work with love and tenderness to protect life and the human rights of every nation. As long as the church of Christ in every land, especially in the Holy Land, claims this responsibility within the spirit of Easter, I will be filled with hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Click here to learn more about the ELCJHL.

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Churches for Middle East Peace has provided a series of Lenten devotions. Now with Easter at hand, they sent a summary of Holy Week in Jerusalem.

"Thousands of Christians from around the world are gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate Holy Week, joining many Palestinian Christians, the “living stones” of the Holy Land. On Palm Sunday they climbed the Mount of Olives to re-enact Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, a powerful scene punctuated with activism as many Palestinian worshipers took the opportunity to raise awareness of the approximately 50,000 Christian Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza."

CMEP's Good Friday bulletin features a photo from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

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Pastor Mitri Raheb's Holy Week greeting is in the Bright Stars of Bethlehem news.

"I bring you greetings during this sacred Holy Week. We are all reminded of the gift of forgiveness and newness in Christ as we together journey to the cross.

"While there are dark days ahead, I look forward with anticipation to the hope of Easter morning. For many of my fellow Palestinians, we live in this Easter hope daily. We are able to do that, in part, because of shared ministry through Bright Stars of Bethlehem."

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Looking back at President Obama's visit, I was impressed with Sandy Tolan's analysis in Obama is missing the real Israel. Readers may know Sandy Tolan from his book, The Lemon Tree.

Here's an excerpt: "Occupation and freedom: These concepts are just as legitimate for consideration and action as is any Israeli’s right to feel secure. For a just and comprehensive peace, these ideas need to share equal status. Yet the notion of occupation is increasingly ignored by the American press as some quaint remnant of a revolutionary past. More important, the corrosive nature of the occupation, and the struggle of a people to free itself from it, has been essentially dropped as policy issues by successive American administrations eager to speak, as President Obama did Wednesday, of the “eternal” American bond with Israel. The irony is that by refusing to publicly confront the occupation, and meaningfully back the Palestinian quest for freedom – instead of blocking it at the United Nations – the Obama administration is undermining the Israeli security goal at the center of its policy. Permanent occupation in reservation-style enclaves is not a long term answer for Israel and Palestine, and in the end it will not make Israelis feel secure."

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