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Lutheran bishop advocates for “resistance of prayer” amid Palestinian-Israeli violence

Lutheran bishop advocates for “resistance of prayer” amid Palestinian-Israeli violence

Rev. Dr Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land. © WCC/Mark Beach

12 November 2015

As Palestinian-Israeli violence escalates, Bishop Munib Younan said resistance to the forces of empire must be sustained with a spirituality of prayer.

Addressing a Council for World Mission (CWM) Theological Colloquium in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and president of the Lutheran World Federation affirmed the “need of a spirituality that helps us remain steadfast, that gives us the courage to act not with hatred and revenge, but in the pursuit of peace based on justice”.

The latest breakout in the six-decade-old conflict was triggered by Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site for Muslims.

Since 1 October, 66 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces or settlers. Nine Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in knife attacks or shooting incidents.

Bishop Younan said “sumud” is the word used in Arabic to describe the steadfastness of the olive tree, firmly rooted in the soil.

“In order to stand firm with sumud, we need a spirituality of prayer. Our resistance to the forces of empire must be sustained with this spirituality of prayer”, he emphasized.

He also recognized that empire can grow, spread into new territories and claim new lands and peoples. Yet empire “can never strip the human being of the yearning for liberation. Empire can never erase the human hunger for the dignity given by God”, he asserted.

He warned against transforming “the God who is our refuge and strength into a hard castle wall”. When we turn God into a fortress, it is difficult to avoid the temptations of a fortress mentality, he said.

“In this context—surrounded by walls and checkpoints and every other expression of imperial self-protection—we must be careful when imagining God as a fortress, as a wall or barrier separating us from threat. In a fortress mentality, we pursue safety for ourselves and our community alone. In a fortress mentality, we seek security at all costs, even trampling over others in our way. In a fortress mentality, we do not hesitate to build walls to keep others out: walls of concrete and steel, walls of ideology and hatred, walls even within our hearts”, said Younan.

The CWM event, entitled “Mission in the context of Empire: A Call for Global Theological Resistance in Palestine”, was held on 27-31 October and drew theologians and scholars from all over the world.

Full text of the WCC general secretary’s letter to churches in Israel and Palestine

WCC calls for prayers so that “wall will fall” between Israelis and Palestinians (WCC news release of 18 September 2015)

WCC programme "Churches in the Middle East”