Salaam and grace from our Lord Jesus Christ from the non-salaam Jerusalem.

22 November, 2001

Dear Friends,

Salaam and grace from our Lord Jesus Christ from the non-salaam Jerusalem.

Many of you might have been wondering why I have not been writing a newsletter for some time. The reason why I have been quiet is that I was (and still is) in a state shock from what is going on in our country and in the whole world.

I am asking myself, what shall I write?  Shall I write that pastor Jadallah Shihadeh (the President of our Synod) had his home in Beit Jala hit by bullets, and was miraculously was saved? Shall I write that pastor Mitri Raheb of Bethlehem could not get back home after arriving from a trip abroad? Shall I write that while worshipping in Beit Jala some weeks ago with representatives from EKD, shooting was going on just nearby? Shall I write that the Israeli Army now has ended almost all incursions into Palestinian administered areas, only to continue to keep strict closures around them? Shall I write that normal meetings of pastors or our Church Council have not been easy to hold?  Shall I write that I cannot easily enter to pay a pastoral visit to our congregation in Ramallah due to the closures? Shall I write that we spend hours and hours at the checkpoints? Shall I write that parents cannot pay tuition fees because they are included in the 70% unemployment rate?  What shall I write…?  I do not know?

Some may say that this is a symptom of frustration. This might very well be the case. Because for how long can a human being – be he a bishop or not – stand the sight of the suffering of his own people?  Realizing that the selfish world is mainly interested in numbers, and forgets the faces of these numbers. The grassroots of both nations want just peace, for this is the only way to bring an end to occupation, insecurity and frustration, the root causes of the many problems in the Middle East.  Is the world community ready to adhere to the internationally legitimate resolutions concerning the Middle East?


We are happy to observe that the Christian Churches in the world, are seriously concerned about the future of this country and the future of Christianity in the land of salvation. The WCC is now trying to set up a program of ecumenical monitors in response to the requests of the local Churches. These monitors are welcome to be among their sisters and brothers in Christ and closely follow the situation in order to report to their respective Churches and to advocate for just peace. We are certain that they will soon find out that ending the occupation is an imperative prerequisite for a just, common future.

We still say that the security of Israel is dependant on the freedom of the Palestinians. For this reason, we welcome the continuous calls of the U.S. Administration and the EU for the establishing of an independent Palestinian state, side by side with the state of Israel. However, we are also concerned that this state must be coherent with clear boundaries according to U.N. resolutions 242 and 338. A two-state solution is fair for both sides.

We have also recently noticed a proactive move of the EU. This initiative is to be welcomed. Our position has always been that EU must assume its responsibility with the U.S. Administration. The September 11, attack on America was indeed a horrendous act. But as bad as it was it has opened the eyes of the world for the need to join forces to promote moderation and justice in our world.  U.S.A. and EU have a great responsibility at this stage in history, to allow justice and moderation to rule the world.  This will have direct impact in the quest for just peace in the Middle East. We are interdependent. When there is just peace in Jerusalem, then the world peace can also be secured.


As our Moslem brothers and sisters are celebrating the month of Ramadan, we are called to review our understanding and perception of Islam. I was very honored to be asked by the Palestinian satellite TV-station, to give a forty-five minutes exclusive interview on Christian – Moslem relations.  My fear at the moment is that Islam phobia is growing in our world. There are many signs that fear of Islam is on the increase. Reports from Moslem communities in the U.S. and in Europe are a matter of concern.  Also Moslems in some Moslem countries are now developing fear for the Christian West. We must warn the world that Islam phobia is similar to Anti-Semitism. It is a kind of racism that all people of good conscience and of moderation in the world must fight.

We Palestinian Christians have lived with the Moslems for 1.400 years. We can humbly say that we are ready to offer the Palestinian – Christian and Moslem – paradigm of coexistence to the world. We urge the leaders of Christianity, wherever they are, to initiate contacts and dialogue with the Moslems. We also call upon the Imams to take initiatives to increase contact and understanding between people of the two faiths.

President Khatemi of Iran is calling for a dialogue between civilizations. Maybe he is right in this call.  It seems to many of us that there is a gap between East and West, between the different mentalities. It seems there are antagonistic feelings full of fears, prejudices, xenophobia and rage. If we want a secure world, we need to listen to this call in order to together build a culture of peace, mutual understanding and tolerance.


As we approach Advent and Christmas, we feel uncertain of our future. Maybe the words of prophet Isaiah – “Comfort, comfort my people” – is the only promise that we still hold.  However, we need not only comfort with words but with commitment. God did not comfort the world with words only, but “the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.” This is the comfort that we want. Our prayers and dreams are all about this, that the fact that God is with us will be seen and felt among all people. For this reason, we plea to you:

* To continue your vigil prayers for just peace in the Middle East. Pray until just peace and reconciliation will be implemented.

* To advocate for the realization of the two state solution to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.

* To support the educational and ecclesiastical work of our Church.

* To pray for the safety of our Bishop, our pastors, deacons, school’s director, administrative staff and our congregations, as well as for the staff and students in our schools and institutions.

* To support and advocate our line of thinking:

Demanding an end to the occupation and the adherence to international legitimacy as expressed in the relevant U.N. resolutions.

Promoting the building of a democratic, pluralistic, civil state in Palestine.

Encouraging the religious leaders to involve themselves in reconciliation work among the grassroots of all peoples.

The many signs of your support in prayers and in making resources available are a great encouragement to us all in these difficult times.

May this Advent be a time of spiritual renewal, and for preparation for the birth of peace, justice and reconciliation.

May God bless you all.

Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan
The Lutheran Bishop in Jerusalem