From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Mideast Violence Leads Nowhere, Says Lutheran Bishop in

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Tue, 4 Dec 2001 16:07:03 -0600


December 4, 2001


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Saying he is "very sorry" for the killing of
Israeli and Palestinian civilians, the Lutheran bishop in Jerusalem
he is deeply concerned about where current hostilities in the Middle
East will lead.
     "Where will this take us?" asked the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine), in a
telephone interview Dec. 4.  "This will not take us anywhere.  There
will be more hate, more retaliation, more revenge."
     Younan leads a 2,000-member Lutheran church consisting of six
congregations --  five in the West Bank, one in Jordan.  He said most
Palestinian people are unable to travel to work because the Israeli
military has blocked or severely limited access through key
In Ramallah, the Lutheran School of Hope, part of the Lutheran Church
Hope, has been closed because of shelling, Younan said.
     People can get to Bethlehem, an area under Palestinian control,
but getting out is "a nightmare," Younan said.  Evangelical Lutheran
Christmas Church is in Bethlehem.
     Younan made the comments amid recent bombings and heightened
military action.  Two suicide bombings in Jerusalem, plus two bus
bombings in Haifa in recent days left 25 Israelis dead and scores of
people injured.
     The Israeli government blamed Yasser Arafat, leader of the
Palestinian Authority, for not stopping suicide bombings, and the Bush
Administration said Israel has the right to defend itself against such
      In response to the bombings,  Israeli Defense Forces destroyed
helicopters used by Arafat, and damaged his compound in Gaza City.  At
least three Palestinians were killed.  On Dec. 4 Israeli war planes
helicopters struck five targets in Gaza and the West Bank, including a
building next to where Arafat was meeting with aides.
     Many Palestinian people are angry with the U.S. government for
giving Israel "the green light" to respond with military action,
said.  The U.S. government should be an "honest broker" in seeking
in the region, he said.
     "Don't punish us as a nation because of what a handful of people
did," Younan said.  "Retaliation and counter-retaliation takes us
nowhere.  We expected Mr. Bush to tell both sides to stop it
     Younan also disagreed with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's
contention that Israel is defending itself in the same way the United
States is acting in Afghanistan.  "This is something different," he
     The real issue is Israel's occupation of Palestinian areas within
the country, Younan said.  The occupation is the source of Palestinian

anger and must end, he added.
     Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
concerned about the situation should contact government officials and
continue to participate in an ecumenical prayer vigil the ELCA started
one year ago, Younan said.
     Younan said the ultimate goal must be to get all parties to the
negotiating table, where they can "build confidence in each other," he
       In Washington, D.C., the Lutheran Office for Governmental
Affairs (LOGA), on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
(ELCA), condemned suicide bombings in Israel Dec. 1-2, and called for
halt in the cycle of violence.  LOGA is the ELCA's federal public
office in Washington, D.C.  Churches for Middle East Peace, a
Washington-based coalition of churches which includes the ELCA, also
condemned the suicide bombings.
     "LOGA joins its partners in Churches for Middle East Peace in
mourning the loss of life in these horrendous attacks, and stresses
need for international observers in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel,"
said the Rev. Mark B. Brown, LOGA's assistant director for
public policy ministry.
     The 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly called for an end to suicide
bombings, urged international protection for Palestinian people in
Israeli-occupied territories and acknowledged the "pain and suffering"
of all involved in Middle East tensions.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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