Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Meeting with Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan

On Thursday 6 December 2007 our delegation met with Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, at the offices of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Center.

Bishop Younan told us that, in his opinion, the root cause of all the present Israeli-Palestinian problems is Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. He suggested that there were ultimately two options: either Israel or Palestine will eliminate the other, or they will work out a two-state solution. He expressed a preference for a return to the pre-1967 border (the famous "Green line") and for two separate, internationally recognised states.

On the state of the Churches in Jerusalem, Bishop Younan believed that relationships between church leaders were currently positive, and that it was vital to capitalise on that before changes in personnel took place and the opportunity for progress on long-running disputes was lost.

He said the great challenge for Israel/Palestine was not Islam but extremism (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim). "It's OK to disagree around the table on the theology of Israel, but as soon as it becomes an ideology it destroys us," he said, possibly alluding to Christian Zionism. "My Christianity is that of the cross, not the sword."

He saw four areas for short-term action by Christians:

(a) establishment of a hotline for rapid response to controversial comments/actions by local clergy;

(b) reform of Palestinian and Israeli education curricula (especially aimed at eliminating racism);

(c) working to achieve an acceptable political/religious outcome on the future of Jerusalem;

(d) establishment of a Christian reference group to assist future peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

An indication of Bishop Younan's standing in the Palestinian (and international) community is that he was to meet former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that evening for talks on the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Albright has a strong interest in Middle East politics - see, for example, here and here.