ELCA NEWS SERVICE
September 23, 2011
ELCA Bishop extends support for Lutherans in Jordan, Holy Land
CHICAGO (ELCA) - The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Mark S. Hanson, sent a letter on Sept. 22 to Bishop Munib Younan and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), expressing the support of this church for a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Hanson drafted the letter in response to growing tensions in the Middle East as Palestine submitted a formal proposal for full membership in the United Nations. The United Nations Security Council is expected to consider the request next week.
“As leaders of government debate Palestinian membership in the United Nations, we want you to know of our continued commitment to accompany you on the road to a just two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Hanson wrote. He noted the ELCA’s commitment runs deeper than national interest and reflects “active engagement in Palestine and Israel as it is articulated in the ELCA Peace Not Walls Campaign.”
Earlier in the week Hanson wrote to President Barack Obama, asking the United States not to block an initiative to admit Palestine as a member state of the United Nations. Such a move, the bishop observed, would be acting not only in the best interests of the United States, but of all people in the region.
Outbreaks of violence have been escalating in the region, especially around security checkpoints, which have raised concerns about the 14 ELCA church workers currently supporting the work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Robert O. Smith, area program director for the Middle East and North Africa, and coordinator of the Peace Not Walls campaign, reported that the ELCA has been involved in security and contingency planning for several weeks.
“We are concerned not only for the safety and security of our ELCA church workers, but for the well-being of our companions in the ELCJHL and all persons who may be caught in potentially dangerous situations,” Smith said. “Our Young Adults in Global Mission are especially concerned for the safety and security of the Muslim and Christian children they accompany every day in the schools.”
Of the 14 ELCA church workers serving in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, five have long-term assignments, six are Young Adults in Global Mission and three are with The Lutheran World Federation program in Jerusalem.
The ELCJHL and the ELCA are members of The Lutheran World Federation, a global communion with 145 member churches in 79 countries representing over 70 million Lutherans.
“At such a time it is important to reach out to sisters and brothers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land,” said Hanson. “For the unity we share in Christ is stronger than all the forces that might divide us. That unity calls for our public witness as we join with other Christians, Jews and Muslims advocating for a lasting and just two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. It compels us to reject violence by any party to the conflict.”
The presiding bishop said, “It is my hope that ELCA members are praying for peace even as they deepen their awareness of the issues and advocate for a peaceful and just resolution. We join with Muslims, Jews and other Christians trusting it is God's will to hold heaven and earth in a single peace.”
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with approximately 4.5 million members in more than 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God's work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
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