From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
ELCA Presiding Bishop, Jerusalem Bishop Meet Congressional Reps
Fri, 13 Feb 2004 13:56:38 -0600
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
February 13, 2004
ELCA Presiding Bishop, Jerusalem Bishop Meet Congressional Reps
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In an extraordinary off-the-record meeting, the
Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA), and the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine) (ELCJ), met Feb. 11 with members
of Congress and congressional staff in Washington, D.C. They discussed
their hopes and concerns for Middle East peace.
Hanson and Younan later met personally with U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson
(D-S.D.) to discuss the same issues, the presiding bishop said in an
interview with the ELCA News Service. Johnson is an ELCA member.
The congressional meeting was organized by U.S. Rep. Lois Capps
(D-Calif. 23rd) and U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.19th). Capps, a member
of the ELCA, recently traveled to the Middle East with two ELCA synod
bishops. Capps' trip included visits with Israeli and Palestinian
political leaders, and a variety of local church leaders and members. The
ELCJ and the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, the ELCA's federal
public policy office in Washington, organized the trip. Shimkus is a
member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
"I went (to Washington) to try to build a sense of hope for peace in
the Middle East when there are so many signs today that we've moved back
from the precipice of peace," Hanson said. Hanson said he encouraged
the members of Congress present to visit the Middle East with their local
religious leaders, as Capps did. Hanson, who had made such a trip
himself, said such visits to the Middle East are "balanced" politically
and can be "eye-opening."
A significant piece of what Hanson emphasized in his remarks was the
"intolerable humanitarian crisis" for both Israelis and Palestinians, he
said. That crisis "doesn't get the attention that the horrific violence
gets," he said.
The Lutheran bishops also discussed the Israeli security wall -- now
under construction -- which is intended by the Israelis as a protection
barrier, Hanson said. "That barrier of protection is becoming a barrier
to peace," he said. Hanson said he hoped that members of Congress and the
Bush Administration will tell Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the
wall is unacceptable.
In December 2003, Hanson went to Washington to participate in
meetings and a news conference with a coalition of Christian, Jewish and
Muslim leaders who unveiled a 12-step plan aimed at achieving Middle East
"It has become apparent to me that the voices of the conservative
Christian right are being heard in the halls of Congress and by this
administration much more clearly than the unified voice of Christian,
Jewish and Muslim leaders," Hanson said. Those interfaith leaders are
calling for a just two-state solution to end the violence so that all
people can live in the region in peace, he said.
"A just two-state solution [is] predicated upon the conviction that
there is no security for Israel without an independent, viable and
democratic Palestinian state, and there is no just peace for Palestinians
without a secure Israel," Hanson said.
Hanson said he sensed the congressional members and staff were eager
to find another way to secure peace and seemed frustrated by the lack of
progress. Younan, a Palestinian, was graciously received as a moderate,
"who is passionately and relentlessly working for peace," Hanson said.
"Together as religious and political leaders, we could talk about our
shared responsibility for peace in the Middle East," Hanson said.
According to Younan, "The United States holds the power for a just
peace in the Middle East." he told the ELCA News Service, "We, as
Palestinians and Israelis, cannot agree among ourselves. Only the United
States can implement peace if it remains an honest broker."
In meeting with members of Congress, Younan said he offered three
"points" for contemplation. The first "is that the Christian church is
prophetic, and we should be a prophetic people." He defined prophetic as
"condemning injustice. Occupation is an injustice; it is a sin against
God and humanity. It deprives a person's humanity and dignity, as well as
demoralizing first the occupier and the occupied."
Younan's second point "is a vision for peace and a vision for a
two-state solution that involves the coexistence of people living side by
side peacefully with equality, reconciliation and justice." He also
expressed hope for a "shared Jerusalem" for Muslims, Christians and Jews.
"We should not allow extremists to kidnap the Middle East for political or
religious scenarios and agendas. We should invest in moderation in the
In addition to a two-state solution, Younan said attention must be
drawn to work for a new "Palestinian society." In making his third point
Younan said, "We want a Palestinian society, a democratic civil society
that respects every human being regardless of religion or gender."
"When God gave power to the United States of America through Abraham
Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and others, God did not mean for the
United States to keep that power for itself. You have to allow small
nations and people like Palestinians, who live under oppression and
occupation, to experience that same freedom. We want a life of freedom
and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis," said Younan.
Seven of the ELCA's 65 synod bishops have traveled to the Middle
East, Younan said. In the next three to five years, he hopes more bishops
of the church will visit there.
"I'm really thankful that the ELCA and Bishop Hanson are working to
provide this opportunity," he said, adding that those who visit the Middle
East "should not be pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli. We want [Lutherans],
congressional members and the American people to be pro-justice,
pro-humanity, pro-reconciliation and pro-peace. If they are honest
brokers of these, that will help us."
In addition to their roles as bishops, Hanson and Younan were elected
in 2003 to serve leadership positions in the Lutheran World Federation
(LWF). Hanson serves as president; Younan serves as a vice president.
The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition. Founded in 1947, the LWF now has 136 member churches in 76
countries representing 61.7 million of the world's nearly 65.4 million
Lutherans. The LWF is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
The 12-step plan for Middle East peace can be found at
http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/12stps.htm on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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