MARCH 25, 2003


Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan

              The Lutheran Bishop of Jerusalem

                Evangelical Lutheran Church  (ELCJ)

Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan


War has broken out in Iraq. The United States and the United Kingdom together with their coalition have finally done what they have threatened to do without United Nations approval. War is injuring and killing civilians, and denying survivors the basic human rights of food, water and sanitation.


War is touching the hearts and lives of everyone in the East and the West. The most sophisticated technological weapons, surgical strikes, careful war plans and months of training cannot prevent the humanitarian tragedy occurring in Iraq and in the rest of the world.


My heart is bleeding when I see the work of war destroying the image of God in human beings. Every drop of blood is too precious to be spilled and wasted. Every person is too precious to be killed. We need no human blood for a better economy in the world.


The Christian church and its believers around the world have warned that such a war will take lives – lives that could be saved through continued negotiations and far-reaching political and humanitarian approaches. Obviously politicians and powerful world leaders think differently. They are not ready to listen to the prophetic voice of the church and the people of God in the whole world.


1.  Now we demand an immediate halt to the war in Iraq. We demand that the attacking armies withdraw from Iraqi territory. Peaceful means must be resumed and new ones must be found to resolve this terrible conflict.


We here in Jerusalem are feeling the despair and the sense of defeat in the hearts of people because the world leaders did not give peace a chance but resorted too quickly to force. We believe peaceful solutions can be found for complicated political conflicts.  War is a shock for humanity and for those who believe in a non-violent struggle.  We strongly emphasize: This war is not between religions or civilizations. This war is about an ideology that seeks power and an enlarged economy. This war is making the rich richer and the poor poorer. I raise my voice with His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, to say that war is a defeat for humanity.


2.  We want to assure you that we Arab Christians will remain loyal to our God-given call in continuing the peaceful co-existence with other religions and in a multi-cultural society. We are committed to teach the world how to live with the other religions and cultures in a peaceful, just and equal way. We deplore all kinds of “Christian” evangelical right wing Armageddon scenarios that have infiltrated the Middle East. We deplore the “Christian” groups that are using the war for proselytizing frightened people. These extremist religious ideas harm good relations between people and between religions and they cause confusion in our region. The Middle East does not need more of these sick scenarios of war. We need comprehensive peace and lasting justice. The psalmist says, “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; justice and peace will kiss each other.”  (Ps. 85:10)


3. We join our voices with all voices of the Christian church – especially the mainline churches in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia and all of Europe, in Asia, Africa, Latin America, South America and Australia. We join our voices also with regional ecumenical councils, such as the Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches, the Middle East Council of Churches and others. All of these churches, ecumenical councils, their leaders and individual members have written to us with encouragement, support and prayer. We are asking to consolidate our partnerships with these churches and councils in order to work together for mutual understanding of the nations, for the self-determination of the nations.  We also need to work together to stop any kind of religious extremism that dehumanizes other religions and nations.  Our voices as the church in the North and South compose the symphony of peace, justice and reconciliation in our broken world.  Ours may be voices in the wilderness but they are the voices of truth.


4. We Palestinian Christians call the world to implement the international legitimacy in Israel and Palestine so that Palestinians and Israelis will live in their own states, side by side, equally, equitably, justly and peacefully.


5. Christian Palestinians are frightened and thinking of more emigration.  This is because they are experiencing war after war and see no future for their children and their children’s children. It appears to them that the power of the world’s might is stronger than the power of justice. My heart is bleeding as I see this defeat for humanity and democracy taking its toll among the people in my own Christian church in the Middle East.


6. I APPEAL IN GOD’S NAME THAT YOU SPECIFY GOOD FRIDAY, APRIL 18, 2003, TO BE A DAY OF PRAYER FOR PEACE, JUSTICE, FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION FOR THE WHOLE MIDDLE EAST – and especially in Iraq, Palestine and Israel. I also call upon people of all religions and people of living conscience to set aside this day to raise your voices in sustained and earnest prayer to the God of all Love and Mercy. We urge you to pray not only that war and hatred stop but that God will be gracious and open the minds of world leaders and all humanity to see the rights of the other, accepting the otherness of the other. It is clear that this war in Iraq is going to fan the flames of hatred and extremism around the world.  We urge you to pray for our broken humanity.


May every human being in every country of this world be safe and free from the fear of brutality, injustice, oppression, hatred, war and violence. May each person know the love of the Creator God who calls us in Christ to love one another.