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Palestinian Bishop Younan Calls "Roadmap to Peace" a "Golden Opportunity"

The Church is the "Only Hope" for the Oppressed

WINNIPEG, Canada, 29 July 2003 - In a press briefing at the Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Rev. Dr Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (ELCJ), declared that the “Roadmap to Peace” is a “golden opportunity” to solve the enormous problems in his troubled region of the Middle East. Younan said that for the first time the United States is actively involved in the peace process.

Younan also cited the fact that the Roadmap peace plan is the first agreement that has achieved the backing of the essential “quartet” of world partners: the United Nations, US, European Union and Russia. But the true test of the Roadmap, cautioned Younan, will be the fulfillment of certain benchmarks on the path to a full and free Palestinian state stretching from the West Bank to the Jordan River, existing side by side with Israel by 2005.

The Roadmap must also address the root issue of the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israel. “That is a sin against God and humanity,” declared Younan. “The occupation demoralizes both the occupier – Israel – and the occupied – Palestine,” said the ELCJ bishop. “We want security for Israelis and justice and liberation for Palestinians,” he stressed.

Younan said the “world should confess that there has been injustice against Palestinians in 1948, 1967 and injustice continues on. Once this is confessed then the right of return should be dealt with justly and fairly.”

Younan, whose church has congregations in Jordan, Palestine and Israel, said those Israelis who wish to stay in the settlements are welcome to do so, but under Palestinian rule. He sees such an arrangement as an ideal outcome of the peace process.

He believes that Palestinian Christians have a special role to play in the peace process – a role of reconciliation and helping oppressed Palestinian people to achieve parity in the region.” We want justice for both Palestinians and Israelis,” he noted.

It therefore concerns him greatly that Palestinian Christians, who comprise less than 2 percent of the population, are emigrating out of the region in large numbers. Around 1,600 of 16,000 Palestinian Christian residents of the Bethlehem district are reported to have moved out of the region in the last two years, Younan said. “What is the Holy Land without Christians?” he asked. To counter this hemorrhage, he stated, the ELCJ, with support from other sources, must improve educational, medical and housing resources for the people.

“The church is the only hope for the oppressed people of the region,” declared Younan, “because a living church condemns injustice." He went on, " I am worried about the physical wall,”  referring to the “security fence” that has recently been erected by the Israeli army, “but there is an unseen wall of hatred that daily grows higher and higher with every drop of bloodshed and injustice.”

He pointed to some successful efforts to promote understanding, such as the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) in which international volunteers spend three months working and living side by side with Palestinian Christians.

Younan condemned the so called “Christian Zionism” movement as “anti-reconciliation.” He said that Christians should not seek a literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy but rather Christ, who reconciles the world to himself.

In conclusion the ELCJ bishop said that Christians living in other parts of the world can help in very concrete ways to bring about justice and peace in his region. First and foremost, “Pray,” he declared. In addition, he asked that people advocate for the peace process; send others or visit as EAPPI participants and support educational, medical and housing programs for Palestinians, so that they can remain as citizens of Palestine.

The Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is taking place 21-31 July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada, under the theme "For the Healing of the World." It is being hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).

There are around 820 men, women and youth participants in the Tenth Assembly including 380 delegates from the 133 churches with full membership and three associate members. The Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the LWF, and meets normally every six years. Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by its Council that meets annually, and by its Executive Committee.

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