Arab Christians gather in Jerusalem

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The Christian Right, in their unquestioning support of the Israeli government, often forget that almost all of the Christians in the ‘Holy Land’ are Palestinians.

The church in Israel/Palestine indeed has the unenviable task of preaching love and reconciliation between all the peoples of the land (Christian, Muslim and Jew) while enduring outright hostility from so many of their brethren in the West.

Bishop Younan Calls Church to Remain Steadfast, Hopeful, and Prophetic

Rev. Janne Rissanen (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland) leads the worshipping assembly in the Lord's Prayer with sign language during the service marking day four of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo © ELCJHL/Rev. Elizabeth McHan

JERUSALEM, 25 January 2012 – Worshippers from nearly every Christian tradition crowded into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem last evening to mark day four of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Together, those gathered celebrated a Service of the Word in Arabic, German, and English with Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), preaching.

In his sermon, Younan reflected on the centrality of the cross of Christ not as doctrine or decoration, but as the very way of life, unity, history, experience, and call in the church—not only in the past, but in the present life and witness of the church in society.

“The church today is again called to be bridge-builders and ambassadors of reconciliation.” Younan said. “We are called to play a role in building a modern civil society, but also to inject into society the common values of all religions that promote coexistence, peace, and justice, and accepting the other. We are called to a prophetic role, speaking the truth to power. Only when the church is involved in society, and especially among the suffering, then it will have a future.”

Younan spoke to recent articles published questioning the survival of Arab Christianity in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and developments in the Middle East that point toward a growth in extremism and threaten to curtail human rights, in particular women’s rights.

Yet, Younan said, “even in these circumstances, we will continue to be steadfast and not emigrate. For we are a people who carry a message—a message of love, a message of moderation, a message of undying hope—a message entrusted to us that is so essential in these days as the situation in the entire Middle East continues to develop. We are called to remain because the Lord called us to be brokers of justice and instruments of peace in the Holy Land.”

Younan called on the local Christian community to “Remain steadfast. Do not give up hope. Remember your calling. Be a source for moderation in the midst of a sea of extremism.”

Younan also called upon expatriate and global Christian communities to “take up your crosses in an accompaniment relationship with the local churches. Walk with us as the Emmaus disciples and Jesus walked together on that first Easter afternoon, listening to one another, learning about the current situation in Jerusalem… Come abide with us. Come share our bread. Come and see.”

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