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Thursday, September 24, 2009

 

Communities of Peace

As you know from reading this blog, I was one of 12 people from a number of faith traditions who were blogging as a part of the "Million Minutes for Peace" effort by the Odyssey Networks (http://www.odysseynetworks.org/), an effort to undergird the United Nations International Day of Peace this past Monday, September 21, in prayer.

The final question we were asked to make a blog response to was this: "Are there some communities or countries that seem to have successfully established cultures of peace? Could you identify them and describe how they achieved peace?"

Here is my response:

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I am interested in "communities and countries that seem to have successfully established culture of peace," but I am more interested in those who champion efforts for peace in the midst of far less than peaceful situations. When I think of such champions, I think of my dear friend, the Rev. Dr. Munib A. Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

Younan serves as Bishop of the Lutheran churches located in Jerusalem, Amman, Jordan, and the occupied territories of the West Bank. He has become a champion for peace with justice in Jerusalem and Palestine while challenging everyone to avoid violence in the pursuit of such justice.

In a recent speech to the convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), Younan said, "In the midst of overwhelming injustice, we Palestinian Christians are called to be ministers of reconciliation, brokers of justice, defenders of human rights, instruments of peace and prophets to speak truth to power." He asked for prayers for peace that affirm each person's humanity.

In his ELCIC address, Younan spoke of "signs of hope" in the Holy Land. Younan went through a long list of hopeful signs for Christians in the Holy Land, emphasizing the unique role his small church has in the pursuit of peace with justice there. I am most interested in his interfaith work which includes the "Jonah Dialogue Group" made up of faith leaders from Palestinian Christians and Israeli Jews, a group which deals with issues of daily life "to help us know and respect one another." Another area of Younan's interfaith work is in Muslim-Christian dialogue where his call for a "code of conduct" resulted in the "Amman Declaration" which supports mutual respect among world religions and continued "dialogue and human cooperation so that justice, peace, development and decent living, called for by the human and religious teachings of the heavenly religions, can be achieved."

Younan also helped call together the "Council for Religious Institutions in the Holy Land" in 2005, a group which, for the first time, brought together Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders there with the purpose of "promoting interreligious understanding and cooperation." Among other agreements, this group has set up a hotline to take calls about derogatory remarks by clergy, imams and rabbis about other faiths, part of their call for adherents of all three faiths to accurately represent each other at home, in school, at work and at synagogues, churches and mosques.

Near the end of his ELCIC address, Younan stated that reconciliation is possible and is a sign of hope in the Holy Land. He spoke of true reconciliation being rooted in truthfulness and built on justice with the willingness to forgive. The fruit of such reconciliation is peace.

His full speech is online at http://www.elcjhl.org/Signs%20of%20Hope%20ELCIC%20June%202009%20final.doc .

Younan is fond of quoting this story from the Midrash in which a rabbi asked his students how they would know when the night is over and the dawn is come. One student responded, "Is it when, in the first rays of morning light, you can tell a dog from a sheep?" "No," said the rabbi.

Another student responded, "Could it be when we can distinguish an olive tree from a fig tree?" Again, the rabbi said, "no." "So," said the rabbi's students, "when can we tell the night is over and the dawn is come?" The rabbi answered, "It is when you can look in the eyes of another and recognize your brother or sister. Then truly the night is over and a new day has dawned."

I pray for such a new dawn of peace in the Holy Land, throughout the Middle East and across the world.

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