Pray that Christians not flee the Holy Land, says LWF Patriarch
“Who could imagine the Holy Land without Christians?”
STUTTGART, Germany, 25 July 2010 – In his first sermon as president-elect of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Rt Rev. Dr Munib A.Younan told a congregation today that Christians should be “children of the light,” and urged them to “pray that Palestinian Christians may not lose faith and leave the country.” He was preaching at the Andreaskirche in Uhlbach, a suburb of Stuttgart.
Christ walked in the Holy Land, he said. “Who could imagine the Holy Land … without Christians?” the bishop asked. Younan is bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHC).
“We as Christians and especially as Lutherans have a role to play in the Middle East in reconciliation and interfaith dialogue,” the president-elect said.
“I sometimes ponder the fact that there have been Christians in Palestine since the first Pentecost,” he said, and added, “Now we Palestinian Christians are less than 1.5 per cent of the population.” Palestinian Christians leave their homeland for three reasons: ” the difficulties caused by the political conflict, a lack of jobs and growing political and religious extremism.”
“Even so,” he continued, “Palestinian Christianity has survived 2,000 years. We have never ruled the country, nor were we ever in the majority. We do not have much property, power, money or influence. Yet we have survived.”
That survival, he said, is because “we have carried the death and resurrection of our Lord in our bodies, souls and minds.” Palestinian Christians should be “brokers of justice, instruments of peace, ministers of reconciliation, defenders of human rights including women’s rights and apostles of love,” he said. The bishop has been active in a variety of inter-religious activities in his homeland and has held high positions in local ecumenical and inter-religious groups.
Christian love reaches across religious and ethnic boundaries, Younan told the congregation. He recalled being asked about a Christian woman who had been seen caring for a Muslim child. He had responded, “As Christians we are called to serve every human being regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.”
Younan said that as “children of the light,” a phrase from the biblical book of Ephesians, Christians should work to promote justice, peace and reconciliation and “to eliminate Islamophobia, xenophobia and antisemitism.”
The bishop and several other visitors from the LWF Assembly were introduced to the congregation by Rev. Margarete Goth, pastor of the church situated amid Uhlbach’s famous vineyards and not far from the burial chapel with tombs of Wuertemberg royalty from previous centuries.
Younan’s term as LWF President begins as the Eleventh Assembly ends here 27 July.