Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Churchin America (ELCA) and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada(ELCIC) released “Report and Reflections from the Bishops’Academy Visit to the Holy Land,” an account of their recent visitto the Middle East.

The Jan. 22 report was signed by the Rev.Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, and the Rev. Susan C.Johnson, ELCIC national bishop, on behalf of academyparticipants.Bishops from both churches visited Israel and the West BankJan. 6-13, and a few visited Jordan Jan. 3-6.

The 44 bishops metwith religious, political and community leaders in the region,and visited sacred sites. The visit focused on supporting themission and ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordanand the Holy Land (ELCJHL), learning about what life is like forIsraelis and Palestinians, and advocating for peace and justicefor all people there.In their report, the Lutheran leaders noted that the war inGaza between Hamas and Israel started shortly before the tripbegan, but the group decided to continue with their visit asplanned.

“Throughout our time in the Holy Land, the situation in Gazawas a dramatic backdrop to our travels and for our conversationswith people from different faiths and viewpoints who endure fearand bear oppression in ways that we have never known,” Hanson andJohnson wrote.The report recounts much of what the bishops experiencedduring their Holy Land visit. They concluded the report bypledging to continue to “accompany” the ELCJHL, to learn moreabout the situation in the Middle East and how to change it, “andto advocate in every way possible for the justice that will leadto the security and shared homeland that is the only foundationfor lasting peace.””We will be faithful in ongoing visitation to ourPalestinian brothers and sisters, determined in our call to be apublic church, and communicate with our governments for theirintervention in the Middle East,” the Lutheran bishops wrote.They added they will be “persistent in our efforts to buildbridges with inter-religious partners, and courageous in tellingthe truth of the ‘facts on the ground’ in the Holy Land.”