altOn Monday, February 17th, Bishop Munib Younan presented a lecture at The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, sponsored by both the institute itself and The Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, entitled “The Approach of the Lutheran Church to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.”

Greetings were given by Professor Gabriel Motzkin, Director of The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and the event was moderated by Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, Director of The Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI).

Speaking to a packed audience, Bishop Younan spoke on three points: the approach of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan to peace-building through education; interfaith dialogue and building peace through measures such as the textbook analysis by the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land (CRIHL); and peace and justice in the Holy Land and the status of Jerusalem.

Bishop Younan spoke about the Lutheran church, both locally and internationally, speaks out against all hate, whether it be anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, or Christophobia.  He told the audience: “I am proud to be part of our global Lutheran communion, the Lutheran World Federation, which in 1984 clearly repudiated Martin Luther’s anti-Jewish diatribes. We respect the good theology of Martin Luther, but we distance ourselves from any remarks or statements he negatively spoke against Jews, Muslims or Roman Catholics, including the Pope…If you read statements from the Lutheran churches from all over the world, they consistently promote non-violent solutions and deplore violence or terrorism as a means of making political statements, regardless of who the perpetrator may be. We continue to advocate for non-violent resolution and open dialogue.”

The textbook analysis project, known as “Victims of Our Own Narratives,” completed by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) was discussed. Bishop Younan pointed out that both sides ignore the other, but that must change.  The only way to peace is to know and learn about the other in our midst.

Bishop Younan challenged the audience with a question: “Are we willing to have peace based on justice?  Are we willing to ask for a peace that is based on justice as outlined in UN resolutions 242 and 338?”

Bishop Younan gives his lecture at The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

Bishop Younan gives his lecture at The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)

Bishop ended his message with a call for all people to pursue peace, especially in the holy city of Jerusalem: “I call on you to speak out for what you know is right, to know that peace and reconciliation are possible when ordinary people unite to make extraordinary change. Peace starts in Jerusalem, it is true, but the fire of peace is kindled in the hearts of her inhabitants—a fire that burns brightly as a beacon to the world. As the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’.”

Dr. Deborah Weissman, a Jewish educator, both in Israel and around the world, gave the response to Bishop Younan’s lecture.  Dr. Deborah Weissman, who also participated with the ELCJHL in the Exodus Conference in April 2013, began by letting the audience know that she, fundamentally, agreed with almost everything Bishop Younan said.

While Bishop Younan’s message had spoken to the hope that he had about peace, Dr. Weissman spoke with a less optimistic tone: “I don’t know if there’s the political will on both sides to make peace and therefore then have to confront the very serious, internal problems on each side.  Because we will no longer have the Palestinians, or indeed as you said, the Arab world as the enemy and we’ll have to turn inward and deal with some of the very challenging social, political, cultural, economic, spiritual problems of our society and I think that the Palestinians will have to do the same… I think it’s going to require a very major shift in our consciences and I hope that we’re ready for that.”

Three questions were asked during the question and answer session, two for Bishop Younan and one for Dr. Deborah Weissman.  Bishop Younan was given a chance to answer points raised by Dr. Weissman.  Bishop Younan told Dr. Weissman and all those gathered, that the Lutheran World Federation speaks out constantly against actions taken by governments or majorities that take away religious freedoms, no matter the religion or the state.

Thank you to The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Professor Gabriel Motzkin, Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, Dr. Deborah Weissman, and to all who attended the lecture.  To listen to Bishop Younan’s lecture, as well as to part of the greeting by Prof. Gabriel Motzkin, the introduction by Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, the response by Dr. Deborah Weissman, and the question and answer section of the lecture, you can visit the ELCJHL’s Audio Gallery.  Bishop Younan’s lecture begins at 6:54.