Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan

                                      E-mail Newsletter from
                                   BISHOP DR. MUNIB A. YOUNAN
                                of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
                                        Jerusalem (ELCJ).
                                       The ELCJ serving in
                                    Palestine, Jordan and Israel.
                                         August 13, 2002

                             Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem, the city of
                             Christ's death and resurrection.

                             We write to you from the Holy Land which is
                             shocked and numbed by the violence in recent
                             days.  There seems to be no end to this spiraling
                             escalation of injury and death.  In this newsletter
                             Bishop Dr. Munib Younan will share his thoughts
                             and perspectives on the continuing violence; we will
                             report on Bishop Munib and Suad Younan's recent
                             journey to Great Britain and the US to speak with
                             people about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict; we will
                             share reports on the developing human tragedy of
                             hunger and illness in the Israeli occupied areas
                             which have been under curfew for many weeks; we
                             will give you news and information about the ELCJ
                             schools; and we will offer concrete ways in which
                             you can help the ELCJ and its schools in ministry
                             and service and also help the Palestinian and Israeli
                             people end the violence which convulses this land.

                             1. Perspectives on the Violence from Bishop
                             Younan

                             Since the middle of June 2002 Palestinian cities
                             have been gradually re-occupied in the West Bank
                             by Israeli military forces with curfews in force.
                             Seven of the eight major urban centers in the West
                             Bank are continuing under curfew yet today and the
                             Gaza Strip is further isolated and has also been
                             militarily attacked by Israel by the dropping of a one
                             ton bomb in a heavily populated area.

                             Bishop Younan:  "I find myself so frustrated as I
                             witness more violence and counter-violence,
                             retaliation and counter-retaliation.  I ask, 'What is
                             heroic in violence?  What is heroic in
                             counter-violence?  Does the world really think that
                             violence will solve the problem?'

                             "Sometimes I feel I am really lost in this world.
                             There seems to be such a change in values.  My
                             upbringing in Lutheran schools, the Lutheran church
                             and the Lutheran faith taught me that it is only by
                             dialogue and by seeing God in the other that we can
                             acknowledge our differences and the things we have
                             in common.  It is in this way that we find solutions.
                             What has happened to our world?  What has
                             happened to dialogue and political solutions?  Is our
                             voice as the local Christian church proclaiming a
                             just peace, reconciliation and co-existence only a
                             voice in the wilderness?  Is it a voice in the past that
                             has no bearing in this mad world?

                             "Perhaps I sound critical but I find I must express
                             my frustration and despair when I see and hear the
                             language of power, re-occupation, heavy curfews,
                             people unable to work or even come to church
                             worship services, people hungry and sick and when
                             I see innocent blood flowing cheaply in our land.  As
                             a responsible Christian I sometimes ask, 'My God,
                             my God, why have you forsaken us?'

                             "But then I remind myself of God's love to us in
                             Christ, of how God came to this earth, to this very
                             place, to become a human being like us and to
                             suffer with us the pains of our humanity. I remember
                             Christ's death and resurrection right here in the
                             neighborhood of the Lutheran Church of the
                             Redeemer. I realize that it is not God who has
                             abandoned us but rather we have forsaken God.
                             We believe in power, might, violence, lobbying,
                             retribution and defaming the other in order to score
                             political points and further political agendas."

                             The time has come for suffering people to live in
                             dignity.  The time has come for people of good
                             conscience to act on behalf of powerless people.  If
                             the politicians have failed to bring a just peace, then
                             other leaders in the world must rise up.

                             Bishop Younan, an executive committee member of
                             the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC),
                             recently accompanied Rev. Jesse Jackson of the
                             US during his visit to the Palestinian people.  The
                             bishop agreed with Rev. Jackson when he stated
                             that the Church and religious people should be the
                             third power in the Middle East.  The political
                             establishment is the first power; the mass media is
                             the second; the religious people need to be the
                             third.  The living Church knows the root cause of the
                             problem.  The compassionate Church knows the
                             solution and the remedy.  There must be proactive
                             measures taken that will lead to a political
                             dialogue.  The dialogue in turn will allow
                             Palestinians and Israelis to live side by side, to
                             implement the international legitimacy, and to end
                             the violence.

                             In the fifth section of this newsletter you will find
                             several practical ways in which you, your
                             congregation and community can be making a
                             positive contribution to the action and dialogue
                             which Bishop Younan describes in his statement.
 

                             2.  Bishop Munib and Suad Younan Speak Out
                             in Great Britain and the US

                             The bishop was invited by the Diocese of Oxford in
                             Britain to attend their "unconventional convention."
                             He felt honored to be invited to speak to the
                             convention about the role of religion in building
                             peace and reconciliation.  He continued to insist
                             that the conflict in Palestine and Israel is political,
                             not religious. However, religion can seek to build up
                             positive values in schools, churches, families and
                             institutions to be sure we are building a world of
                             justice.

                             Bishop Munib accompanied his wife, Suad Younan,
                             to the US as they attended and spoke to ELCA
                             Global Mission Events (GME) in Hickory, North
                             Carolina, and  Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Suad spoke
                             about the situation for Palestinian people and was
                             joined in her message by Dr. Marc Ellis, a Jewish
                             theologian and a professor at Baylor University in
                             Texas.  Dr. Ellis is working on Jewish liberation
                             theology.  It was a time for Suad and Marc to speak
                             of Palestinian and Israeli pain and of the future
                             which must be prepared together, a future without
                             pain and suffering.

                             Bishop Younan found it remarkable to see how
                             much the American people identify with suffering
                             people.  He found ELCA members ready to do their
                             utmost to end the suffering in the world.  He said, "I
                             felt proud to be a partner with the ELCA.  It was a
                             privilege to see how the church is structured, with
                             ways to equip people in the grassroots to
                             accompany local ELCA congregations in education
                             and service, and to help rejuvenate the spirit of
                             mission.  This spirit then creates a responsibility
                             and Christian witness in order to empower the local
                             churches to be a living witness in the Middle East,
                             Africa, Asia, Latin America and all over the world".

                             Bishop Younan and Dr. Ellis also held five
                             workshops about Middle East issues at both
                             GMEs.  The bishop was surprised and pleased that
                             all the workshops were packed with people who
                             wanted to learn more and also wanted to know what
                             they could do to help.  He spoke to the workshops
                             about the opportunities people in the US churches
                             have to enable the Palestinian Lutheran witness to
                             continue to be heard in this land.  For two thousand
                             years Palestinian Christians have witnessed for our
                             Lord and Savior, in good times and in bad, in times
                             of colonialism and of military occupation.  "Our
                             witness should not end but rather it should be
                             strengthened and empowered in this difficult
                             situation.  I believe it is the responsibility of the
                             global church to help the Palestinian Lutheran
                             church as part and parcel of the Church of God to
                             be stronger so that we may continue our witness for
                             Christ.  We are the church of martyria, a church that
                             works to forward the Kingdom of God in the midst of
                             injustice, suffering and pain.  It is a church that is
                             called to proclaim God's sacrificial love on the
                             cross, a love that includes every human being.  We
                             only understand the true meaning of love when we
                             live in a heavy atmosphere of hatred, bitterness and
                             revenge."
 

                             3.  Reports on the Developing Human Tragedy
                             of Hunger and Illness

                             We encourage you to see and evaluate for yourself
                             the US Aid report released on August 5, 2002,
                             regarding the conditions of malnutrition and anemia
                             among children ages 6 months to 5 years in the
                             West Bank and Gaza Strip.  The web site is
                             www.usaid.gov.  The report is entitled "The
                             Preliminary Finding of the Nutritional Assessment
                             and Sentinel Surveillance System for the West
                             Bank and Gaza."  It was prepared by Johns Hopkins
                             University in Baltimore, Maryland, and Al Quds
                             University in Jerusalem.
 
                             Following is a brief summary of the findings among
                             childen ages 6 months to 5 years:
                             In regard to ACUTE moderate and severe
                             malnutrition among the children, the
                             WBGS (and especially the Gaza Strip) face a
                             distinct humanitarian emergency.  The rate of 9.3%
                             is considered an emergency by most humanitarian
                             and public health officials.  It is the most severe in
                             the Gaza Strip (13.2%) where the rates are three
                             times that of the West Bank (4.3%).  In a normally
                             nourished population, only 2.28% would be in this
                             acute category.

                             In regard to CHRONIC malnutrition, the rate among
                             the children is13.2% overall.  In the West Bank
                             3.4%; Gaza Strip 17.5%.

                             In regard to ANEMIA, nearly 1/5 (19.7%) of the
                             children are moderately and/or severely anemic,
                             with little difference in percentages between the
                             West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Anemia causes
                             many health problems, including slowed physical
                             and mental growth in children, and slowed learning.
                             (Among pregnant women anemia can result in low
                             birth weights for the babies and also premature
                             births.)

                             In regard to FOOD SECURITY AND FOOD
                             AVAILABILITY IN THE MARKET:  The study found
                             that market disruptions from curfews, military
                             incursions, border closures and check points
                             affected key high protein foods, especially meat,
                             poultry, dairy products, and in particular, infant
                             formula and powdered milk.  A significant portion of
                             people cannot afford to buy high protein foods.
                             Nearly 1/3 has difficulty affording basic inexpensive
                             staples, such as bread and rice.  Poverty continues
                             to cause food insecurity.  Households are stressed
                             financially as evidenced by the need to borrow
                             money and sell assets for food.  These same coping
                             mechanisms were evident over one year ago.  These
                             sources will eventually run dry.

                             Finally, as quoted in the Palestine Monitor on
                             August 5, 2002, "Palestinians are unable to work
                             and so cannot buy food.  Military blockades and
                             checkpoints isolate one Palestinian area from the
                             next so goods cannot travel.  The problem here is
                             ACCESS to employment and to food.  It is not
                             unavoidable, and it is not a 'natural' situation nor an
                             'act of God.'  It must not be treated that way by the
                             international community.  The cause of this crisis is
                             not a lack of food or a famine or a drought.  Only
                             one factor is responsible for the crisis and that is
                             the Israeli-imposed military occupation, siege and
                             closures to which Palestinians are subjected."

                             Bishop Younan states, "We are facing a human
                             tragedy which affects all our children in many ways.
                             It will also affect our Lutheran school system.  The
                             children will not be able to pay tuition fees because
                             their parents are unemployed but we have a policy
                             that no child in our system will be dismissed for
                             inability to pay.  We believe God will provide the
                             means by which we can keep the schools open for
                             the children.  For the sake of our children who have
                             their God-given human rights to be fed and healthy
                             and educated - we urge the people of good
                             conscience to alleviate the suffering of the people by
                             demanding that the occupation and curfews end
                             now."
 

                             4. News from the Lutheran Schools in Palestine

                             During a two-hour period of time in the afternoon of
                             August 7 in Ramallah, forty-one students graduated
                             from the Lutheran School of Hope. They gathered
                             together to celebrate their accomplishments, to
                             sing, to honor their classmates and to receive their
                             diplomas.  The ceremony had been postponed
                             many times due to closures and curfews.  But on
                             August 7 the young people hurried to the Lutheran
                             church hall, wearing their graduation gowns.  Family
                             and friends with cameras and with gifts and flowers
                             filled the hall, cheering for their children,
                             grandchildren and friends.  Bishop Dr. Munib
                             Younan, patron of the Lutheran schools, gave a
                             challenging message to the students, encouraging
                             them to continue their education, but also
                             encouraging them to plan their future in this land of
                             Palestine, to be strong, productive citizens of the
                             new state of Palestine.  The graduation ceremony
                             was a joy to behold - happy, smiling, laughing
                             people celebrating a very special day in the midst of
                             military occupation and a curfew that had been lifted
                             for the better part of the day.  Shortly after the
                             graduation was over, shooting and the release of
                             tear gas by Israeli soldiers in the downtown area of
                             Ramallah made people move toward home a little
                             quicker, but with a very special memory of the
                             beautiful, joyful graduation ceremony for the
                             Lutheran School of Hope .

                             Bishop Younan:  "As the ELCJ schools prepare to
                             open on August 26, there are feelings of uncertainty
                             and discomfort.  This is highly unusual because the
                             opening of school each fall has always been a time
                             of joy.  Why is there uncertainty now?  It is because
                             the ELCJ schools cannot be sure if the West Bank
                             children will even be able to start the school year
                             due to the continuing Israeli curfews.  When school
                             does begin, there is great uncertainty in regard to a
                             regular school schedule, again due to closures and
                             curfews.  It has always been the ELCJ policy to
                             open schools and educate children.  Such
                             education gives hope to children and families.  THE
                             ELCJ SCHOOLS WILL OPEN AND WE INSIST
                             THE CHILDREN MUST BE ALLOWED TO
                             ATTEND.  In the 2001-2002 school year the schools
                             were open 140 out of 172 days.  As long as the
                             schools can be open they provide a therapeutic way
                             to overcome the persistent traumas the children
                             experience while living under military occupation and
                             curfews.  I implore the global church to work to lift
                             the curfews and to end this military occupation so
                             that the Palestinian children may have their basic
                             human rights to education.  The ELCJ cares deeply
                             about the children and the schools, as well as the
                             Palestinian universities where the young adults can
                             receive their hope and training for the future."

 

                             5. What Can People Around the World Do to
                             Help?

                             What can be done by people who care deeply but
                             feel the frustration of not knowing how to help?

                             For one thing, it is extremely important to speak
                             and write to leaders in governmental positions,
                             saying, "Enough of working only for political gains!
                             It is time to work for justice, and in the
                             Palestinian/Israeli conflict that means two things:
                             End the Israeli military occupation, and Establish
                             two states, Palestine and Israel, side by side, to live
                             equitably in justice
                             and peace."

                             Tell other people what you know and are continuing
                             to learn about the Palestinian Christians and all
                             Palestinians caught in the occupation and curfews,
                             and the resulting hunger and illness.  Ask them to
                             speak and write to governmental leaders, too.

                             Another very positive thing to be done is to sponsor
                             a child in a Lutheran Palestinian school for 50-70
                             US dollars per month.  And to take it a step further,
                             find ten people who would be willing to do the same
                             thing.  Please contact us at the ELCJ to learn how
                             to do this.

                             Continue to pray for the ELCJ, for its schools and
                             other community ministries, for the people who are
                             caught in the spiraling violence and are suffering
                             hunger, illness and hopelessness, and for a just
                             peace and reconciliation in this land for both
                             Palestinians and Israelis.
 

                             Thank you so much for your expressions of
                             concern, for your prayers and for your desire to
                             help.  We cherish your support.  It helps and
                             encourages us through the very difficult times.  May
                             God bless all of us in our areas of ministry in this
                             world.

 

                             Noted by Rev. Dr. Mary E. Jensen
                             Communications Assistant to Bishop Dr. Munib A
                             Younan and the ELCJ