Church statements on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Letter from Bishop Munib A. Younan, Lutheran Bishop in Jerusalem,
to Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, General Secretary, Lutheran World Federation (LWF)

Jerusalem, October 11, 2000

click to: letter from Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko
General Secretary, Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
to LWF member churches
October 13, 2000

"Dear Ishmael,

Salaam and grace to you from a troubled Jerusalem/Palestine in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I would like to thank you for your call in which you expressed your deep concern about the current deteriorated situation in our country. We are also very much concerned about the recent developments, especially that things became out of control. My concern, however, became deeper due to the following facts:

1. Until today, October 11th, 2000. About 79 persons were killed and more than 3000 injured, 52% of them are children.

2. The recent burning of mosques and synagogues became on the agenda. I fear that the problem is transformed to be religious rather and political. I want to assure you that territorial disagreement must not have religious dimension. We should not become victims of a religious war whoever is trying to introduce that. Yet, it became obvious and everybody could watch it on television that Jewish masses burned mosques in Tiberias and Jaffa while the Israeli police was looking at them without interfering.

There were shouting "death to the Arabs", "we do not want Arabs in Tiberias". These are dangerous ways. On the other hand, it is correct that angered Palestinian protesters attacked and set on fire the Joseph's tomb in Nablus. However President Arafat ordered the mayor of Nablus to restore the place to be then guarded by Palestinian police and continue to be a synagogue. He also ordered to take measures against those policemen who did not try to hinder that incident.

3. Jewish settlers are becoming very active. This occurred in several places in Palestinian areas. They blocked the streets, attacked villages and damaged property. Their perpetrated attacks and atrocities against Palestinians are being supported by soldiers. One of my elderly church member told me that this method was practiced in 1948 with the aim to force Palestinians to leave their homes and emigrate: a real "transfer". Certainly, fear fills our hearts. Where is the international community?

4. The Israeli Arabs of 1948 who in any case suffer of inequality, are becoming a target by the Israeli government and radical groups. Twelve people were shot dead during the last week by the Israeli police. Their properties were damaged during various attacks without any intervention by the police. They tried to set in fire the apartment of the Arab Kenesset member Azmi Bishara in Upper Nazareth. People are also attacked on the streets. Unfortunately, there had been no condemnation of those atrocities by Israeli officials, nor had been any steps taken to protect them. Israeli Arabs are now demanding an international protection.

5. Churches and Palestinian Christians are also becoming victims of this existing situation. For instance, we in the ELCJ, could not recently hold our congregational elections, nor could we hold our Synod meeting due to the situation of clashes, closures and arbitrary measures taken by the Israeli government. Movement of Palestinians had been restricted. Schools were closed for more than a week. People are loosing income as a result of this situation and of the clamped closure of the Palestinian territories. We therefore expect that income of the schools through the tuition fees will be drastically reduced. This will surely effect our already struck budget, and may cause closure of some of our institutions, and will encourage further Christian emigrations.

6. We know that on both sides, there are people of good will and living conscience who call for just peace. Their voices are unfortunately not heard. The voice of accumulated hatred and aggression is only heard. The vicious cycle is rolling. For this reason, we believe that Christian, Moslem, and Jewish leaders, locally and internationally should raise up their voices. Use reason and continue to dialogue in order to find a sustainable solution.

In accordance with all this, I do appeal to you to all member churches of the LWF to take quick measures to assist us. Now we are in need of tangible measures that are to be translated on the ground:

Thank you for your prayers.

Your brother in Christ,
Bishop Munib A. Younan
The Lutheran Bishop in Jerusalem

To LWF member churches
13 October 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

You have all, no doubt, been receiving the news reports of the current tragic events in Israel/Palestine and even amidst the holy places of Jerusalem itself. The renewed violence and the resulting deaths, injuries and destruction have shocked us all into recognition of both the fragility of the peace process, and of its critical importance. They have also reminded us of the fundamental elements of justice and reconciliation which must form the foundation of any sustainable peace in the unquiet land of Christ's birth.

I know that all of you are praying for an end to the violence, and for all those who have lost loved ones, who have been injured, whose security has been shattered, and whose hope and goodwill dimmed as a result of these events. As member churches of the Lutheran World Federation, our thoughts and prayers turn particularly to our brothers and sisters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan - 'living stones' in the midst of a storm of hurled stones and deadly bullets.

I am enclosing with this letter a message from our brother, Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJ, describing the extent of the crisis and the critical needs of the peoples of the region. His is a call for solidarity and support, for prayer and partnership, for amplifying the voices of the voiceless, and for inter-faith cooperation against the 'instrumentalization' of religious diversity for political or other ends. And, written just before the latest tragic escalation of the violence in Ramallah, we may be in no doubt that the urgency of this call has increased enormously.

I commend Bishop Younan's letter to all of you, for your prayerful consideration and response. I urge you to pray for our brothers and sisters in the region, for all victims of the violence, and for all those working for peace. I urge you to write to or otherwise communicate with Bishop Younan and the ELCJ, to assure them of your prayers and support in this time of fear and hardship. I encourage you to mobilize your government and your society for the pursuit of peace in Israel/Palestine.

Finally, I ask you to hold fast to the vision of a just peace in Israel/Palestine, and to the vision of Jerusalem as a city of two nations and three faiths, and to continue to pray for a time in which Israeli and Palestinian children will no longer inherit the burden of injustice, hate, violence, insecurity and separation which is today being carried by everyone in the region.

If human intransigence, ambition, pride, intolerance, discrimination and injustice have led to the apparent blighting of hopes for peace in Israel/Palestine, God's justice will yet prevail and his Spirit lead the hardest of hearts to reconciliation, and the deepest of sorrows to comfort.

I thank you in advance for your ceaseless prayers and efforts for peace. Yours sincerely,

Ishmael Noko
General Secretary

Cc: LWF President, National Committees, Council members, Cabinet

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