In 1989, the ELCA Church Council addressed the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Stating: "Our faith calls us to stand with all who suffer, whatever their religious conviction or cultural identity," the message begins with a confession of how Lutherans have failed the Jewish people in the past. It goes on to critique human rights abuses in Occupied Territories, and ask for prayers for a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict.
The message acknowledges the long roots of the conflict, which involved seemingly mutually exclusive claims to the same land. It lists both the Palestinian and Israeli claims. And it lists the political goals of both Israelis and Palestinians. It states: "We recognize that resolving such a deep and complex conflict will involve lengthy, sustained negotiations. Yet we are encouraged b the spreading recognition that perpetuation of the status quo will be increasingly detrimental to both sides, as well as to world peace"
The message concludes with urging ELCA members to:
- Familiarize themselves with the history of the Middle East and current issues affecting the conflict so that they can be advocates for responsible political action, and
- Pray for the coming of God's gift of peace in this area so that Christians, Muslims and Jews might live lives free from violence and fear.
I will be travelling in the Holy Lands this week, learning more about the lives of the people there, and praying for peace. I hope that you will join me in prayer.
In the 29 years since this message was adopted, there have been ups and downs in the Middle East peace negotiations. The ELCA has kept abreast of the situation, and has a program called "Peace not Walls," with resources at www.elca.org. Part of the ELCA's witness in the Middle East is to remind the world that there are Christians in the Middle East, Arab Christians, even Lutheran Christians. We have close ties with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Lands.
"We speak because of our faith in God, the bringer of peace. Called to serve this God, the ELCA is constitutionally mandated to participate in God's mission by '...advocating the dignity and justice for all people, working for peace and reconciliation among the nations.'"
Jessica Crist, Bishop