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June 27, 2009

Lutherans resolve to pray, advocate for peace in the Holy Land

Following a Friday evening session punctuated by passionate dialogue, delegates of the 2009 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) National Convention passed a multi-point resolution to support peace in the Holy Land. ELCIC’s Twelfth Biennial National Convention is taking place June 25 to 28 at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

“This resolution seeks peace with justice for both Israelis and Palestinians and the continuation of the Christian witness in the Holy Land,” said Tom Brook, National Church Council (NCC) member, who introduced the resolution. “The National Church Council feels it’s important that our church community express our support to continue our journey with our partners at this special moment of possibility and opportunity.”

The resolution recognized the ongoing divisions between Muslims, Jews and Christians in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. It lamented violence and oppression in that area, and directed the ELCIC to support a secure state of Israel and a viable state for Palestinians. The resolution also called for all ELCIC members to work for peace by praying, educating, and accompanying peace builders.

In 1948, the United Nations established the State of Israel, leading to war and displacement of 700,000 Palestinians. The Six Day War in 1967 marked the beginning of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which continues to expand. Several peace processes have stalled, and extremism is increasing in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

ELCIC’s resolution called for the Government of Canada to play a more active, constructive, and balanced role in creating conditions for peace in the Holy Land. Among other points, the resolution called for the government to support a shared Jerusalem, oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, and to support aid and policies that build the Palestinian economy.

The Rev. Dr. David Pfrimmer, a public policy expert who also introduced the resolution, noted that the resolution affirmed policies already stated by the Canadian government. He also remarked that the ELCIC’s resolution is in line with similar statements made by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The resolution inspired much discussion on the convention floor. Some delegates spoke against the resolution, stating, among other things, that its comments on Israeli and Palestinian statehood were beyond the scope of the ELCIC. Many others spoke for the resolution and described personal trips to the Holy Land where they had witnessed injustice.

The ELCIC has many relationships and partnerships with the Holy Land, specifically with the 12 congregations and 6,000 members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), which is a member of the LWF, alongside the ELCIC.

The bishop of ELCJHL, the Right Rev. Dr. Mounib Younan, is a special guest at the convention. Bishop Younan was consecrated as the third Palestinian bishop of ELCJHL in 1998, and serves as vice president of the LWF, Asia Region, and the president of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches.

During a morning Bible study, Bishop Younan spoke passionately about the church’s role in promoting peace and justice in the Holy Land. He described the work of organizations, including Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem, which address the needs of Muslims, Jews, and Christians in the area.

Bishop Younan also addressed two afternoon forums where he shared challenges of living in Palestine. He said he spends half of his time organizing permits so that Palestinians can work in Israel, visit family members, and even attend funerals. He also stated his concern about the declining number of Christian Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories.

When asked what the ELCIC could do to support peace in the Holy Land, Bishop Younan replied, “You have to speak the truth. I did not come here so that you would become pro-Palestinian. It’s not my aim that you would become pro-Israeli. We want you to be pro-truth, pro-justice, pro-reconciliation.”

Over 400 Lutherans are meeting in Vancouver at the ELCIC's National Convention. Full agenda details and a live link to the proceeding are available on the National Convention website: http://elcic.ca/In-Convention/2009-Vancouver/default.cfm

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 162,100 baptized members in 611 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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