From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
ELCA Presiding Bishop Meets with Abbas, Arafat
News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Wed, 28 May 2003 12:40:54 -0500
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
May 28, 2003
ELCA PRESIDING BISHOP MEETS WITH ABBAS, ARAFAT
RAMALLAH, West Bank (ELCA) -- The Palestinian people have a chance
for peace -- perhaps the last chance -- in the new "road map" proposed
by the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations,
said the prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in
an extraordinary May 27 meeting here with the presiding bishop of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Rev. Mark S. Hanson.
Mahmoud Abbas, commonly known here by the nickname Abu Mazan, met
with Hanson and seven other ELCA representatives at his offices. The
presiding bishop's visit to Jerusalem and the West Bank was intended to
show ELCA support for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and
Palestine) (ELCJ) and its bishop, the Rev. Munib A. Younan. It also
gave Hanson a chance to meet with church leaders here and meet directly
with leaders and representatives of the State of Israel and the PNA.
Ironically, the ELCA visit to the Holy Land came at a critical
point in efforts to find peace for Israelis and Palestinians. While
the delegation was here, the Israeli Cabinet endorsed the road map
opening the door for further peace talks.
Hanson and the ELCA have repeatedly called for nonviolent
solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before he began this
trip, Hanson joined other U.S. religious leaders in urging Abbas and
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to follow the road map.
Abbas told the ELCA delegation that he planned to meet with Sharon
May 28. Abbas has had "severe talks" with Hamas, an extremist faction,
urging them to stop suicide bombings against Israelis.
"We will do our job with very good intentions," Abbas said. "We
are sincere to do it. We don't want this violence to continue. It
harms our people. It harms the Israeli people."
Abbas said he was grateful for U.S. President George W. Bush's
vision for a two-state solution in the road map. The plan also calls
for Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian land it has occupied since 1967
and for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.
Along with stopping suicide bombings, Abbas said he will seek
Israeli help to stop "incursions, assassinations and demolitions." The
PNA will also seek the release of political prisoners and the release of
PNA President Yasser Arafat, who is under house arrest at his offices
here, Abbas said.
Saying Israelis and Palestinians are experiencing "human suffering
in violence," Hanson told Abbas he knows that the prime minister has a
lot on his shoulders.
"You are a symbol of hope for the world," Hanson said. "You have
a heavy burden. We pray for your leadership." Religious leaders have a
special responsibility to "exercise efforts for peace," he said.
Younan asked Abbas how the upcoming international assembly of the
Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 21-31, could
help peace efforts here. The LWF is a global communion of 136 Lutherans
churches, including the ELCA and ELCJ. Hanson is an LWF vice president.
"Push both sides to implement the road map in a good way, and, of
course, [push] the American governments," Abbas answered. "We want to
maintain this momentum with the Israeli and U.S. government." He also
said the current peace efforts are supported by Arab countries,
Should a lasting peace be achieved, Abbas said the Palestinians
will need help from Europeans and Americans "to reestablish our
institutions, our life," because so much has been destroyed.
"It is very clear that without President Bush's leadership and the
leadership of the United States, the road map could not be the way to
peace," Hanson said after the meeting. Hanson said he was grateful for
Bush's leadership on the issue and would express that to the White
ELCA DELEGATION MEETS PRESIDENT ARAFAT
Before the meeting with Abbas, Hanson and the ELCA delegation met
with President Yasser Arafat at offices located on his destroyed
compound. Because he is under house arrest, Arafat rarely goes outside,
and then only for short periods on the front steps to his offices.
Hanson began by telling Arafat that he and others in the ELCA pray
daily for an end to suffering for Palestinians and Israelis, and an end
Arafat began by saying the Israelis have made it difficult for
Palestinians to pass through West Bank checkpoints, with lines up to
three hours long in some instances. He showed the ELCA delegation
photographs of a destroyed religious statue and complained of damage to
the Church of the Nativity, both in Bethlehem, during last year's
military incursions. The Israelis have also prevented Palestinians from
praying at a mosque in Hebron, he added.
The end of violence and the occupation of Palestinian territory,
the right of return by Palestinians to homes and land in Israel, and the
removal of settlements seem like complex issues to implement
simultaneously, Hanson said to Arafat.
"If there is a will, there is a way," Arafat said. Like Abbas, he
urged the U.S. government "to push strongly" for implementation of the
Among those with Hanson were the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, bishop of
the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod, and the Rev. Floyd M. Schoenhals,
bishop of the ELCA Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod, Tulsa, Okla.. Many Arabs in
New York and New Jersey are praying for peace for the Palestinians,
Bouman said. Schoenhals said his synod will continue to pray for peace
as part of the ecumenical prayer vigil for Middle East peace.
-- -- --
Photos from presiding bishop's visit to the Middle East can be
found at http://www.elca.org/co/news/mideast on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG
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