Note #9219 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
06182 March 24, 2006
Lutherans urge world community not to cut off aid to Palestinians
by Michele Green Ecumenical News International
JERUSALEM - The Lutheran church in the Holy Land says its ministry will be endangered if the international community cuts aid to the Palestinian Authority after the militant Islamist Hamas group takes office after winning a legislature election in January.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) urged the international community not to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in annual aid to the Palestinians.
"For the ELCJHL and other churches, it threatens our entire ministry," the church said in its latest monthly newsletter. "The funds to be withheld would come straight out of the pockets of families trying to pay their child's tuition or support the church. If our families are not paid, less tuition money will come in to the schools, and the cycle spirals down."
The church also demanded that Israel reverse its freeze on about $50 million a month in taxes that it collects for the Palestinian Authority.
It urged the international community to give the new government a chance, and said failing to do so could spur "more extremism" and "spawn a new and deadly cycle of violence."
The church also said it hopes the Hamas government will uphold the values of freedom of worship, social justice and full human rights, including women's rights, and embrace non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation and move toward a modern, civil society.
The Hamas government is expected to be sworn in during the last week of March. So far it has failed to persuade any other Palestinian faction to join it in a coalition. Hamas has said it will not abandon its charter calling for Israel's destruction or its support of an armed struggle against the occupation.
Easing the concern of some local Christians, Hamas leaders have said, however, that they will not impose strict Islamic Sharia law anytime soon.
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