LOS ANGELES (ELCA) — The United States and European Union countries should act “to put pressure on Israel and take further tangible measures” to protect Palestinians and find sustainable solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine).
November 6, 2000
LOS ANGELES (ELCA) — The United States and European Union countries should act “to put pressure on Israel and take further tangible measures” to protect Palestinians and find sustainable solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine). Younan, who spoke to a conference here on multicultural concerns in the church, called for American Christians to support the Christian church in the Middle East, and he outlined a vision for a “just” peace in the region.
Younan was a keynote presenter at the Multicultural Mission Institute, Nov. 5-7. The annual conference is sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) through its Commission for Multicultural Ministries.
Younan represents a 2,000-member church that consists of Lutheran congregations in Amman, Jordan, as well as in East Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Ramallah. He is a Palestinian who has been an outspoken supporter for the concept of a “shared” Jerusalem, involving Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Younan said he is “happy” the United States is trying to promote peace in the Middle East, however, he said the U.S. government must become an “honest broker” and help the parties find a “win-win solution.”
“We need immediate actions to put an end to the atrocities and confrontation,” Younan said of the present hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. “We need your (U.S.) government’s intervention with the other European Union governments and mediators, so that dialogue and only dialogue will succeed to implement a comprehensive lasting, just peace in the Middle East.”
The present Israeli government is becoming more “rightist and radical” and is addressing the current conflict with “a military security perspective rather than a political security perspective,” Younan said. Israeli security forces have used rubber-coated steel bullets, rockets, tanks, helicopters and other weapons against the Palestinian people, resulting in the deaths of at least 144 Palestinians, he said. Some 5,000 Palestinians have been injured since the current fighting began Sept. 28, Younan said.
“The reality is that the Israeli army is attacking unarmed Palestinian civilians with deadly accuracy,” he added.
Younan thanked partners of Palestinians who have spoken against the violence, including the ELCA Conference of Bishops. On Oct. 12, the Rev. H. George Anderson, ELCA presiding bishop, wrote to President Clinton on behalf of the bishops, encouraging Clinton to continue his efforts to halt the violence in Israel and “forge a just and comprehensive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.”
The ELCA bishops also said the excessive use of lethal force by the Israeli military and their use of tanks and helicopters has helped escalate the conflict.
Younan focused much of his 75-minute speech on the biblical concept of “Jubilee” as the basis for churches — including his own — to focus on peace and reconciliation for the region. According to the Bible, a Jubilee year occurs every 50 years. It calls for release from bondage, redistribution of land and wealth, and renewal of the earth. 2000 is a Jubilee year, in which Christians worldwide are called “to offer the Christianity of the cross, which is sacrificial, imbued with love, forgiveness, freedom and reconciliation,” he said.
Jubilee’s theology can guide Arab countries and Israel to an equitable solution, he said. Younan also argued that Israeli- Palestinian conflict is not a religious conflict, but a conflict over land. “The principle of ‘land for peace’ is a noble one and can justly settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Younan said.
There cannot be a peaceful solution for the Middle East without a just peace in Jerusalem and for Jerusalem, he added, emphasizing it must be a place for Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Younan outlined many concerns of the Palestinian Christian church. Peace education is high on the church’s agenda, he said. The Jerusalem church is called to be a catalyst of peace education, and now is the “kairos” of reconciliation, Younan said. Peace education and reconciliation must begin now, not when “politicians sign peace treaties,” he added.
“Peace education will liberate the Israeli child from the fear of thinking that their security is in arms, to an understanding that Israeli security is in a liberated Palestinian neighbor. The Palestinian child must be liberated from fear, oppression and occupation to discover that Palestinian security is in a liberated Israeli neighbor. This peace education helps both to see God in the other, to accept the ‘otherness’ of the other and to recognize each other’s human, civil, political and religious rights,” he said.
“When we arrive in heaven, God will not ask the Israeli or Palestinian, the Jew, the Christian or the Muslim, ‘How much did you consolidate your own community?’ ‘How much were you extremist and fanatic?’ Rather, God will ask, ‘How much did you promote justice and peace toward the other who was or is the enemy?'”
Younan said other concerns of the Palestinian church are the emigration of Christians from the Middle East; education for Palestinian children; ecumenical relationships among all Christian churches in the Middle East; Christian-Muslim relations, which are “quite healthy,” he said; and Christian-Jewish relations, which need “a lot of intensive work and investment.”
“You are our ambassadors and our partners,” Younan told the audience. “Be our support in every good deed of love and witness for the sake of Christ. Do not leave us alone. Help us continue our ministry of love where God has called us to be in His land of the resurrection. Pray for us and be interested in our mission.”
“You belong to us, and we belong to you,” he said. “Our mission is yours, and yours is ours.”
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG