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Bishop Munib A. Younan's Call for Peace and Justice in the Holy Land 이미지
Laureate News
732 9 November 2023

Bishop Munib A. Younan's Call for Peace and Justice in the Holy Land

Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, 2020 Sunhak Peace Prize Laureate, shares his heartfelt message from Jerusalem, addressing the ongoing conflict and violence in the Holy Land. He emphasizes the need for peace based on justice, the sanctity of every human life, and the importance of promoting reconciliation and human rights. His message calls for an end to violence, the illegal occupation, and a lasting solution that ensures peace, justice, and equality for both Palestinians and Israelis.What Does God Demand of You, but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)   A Word from a Palestinian Christian   Bishop Dr. Munib A. YounanI write to you, dear friends, from the Holy City of Jerusalem. I write to you with anguish and grief as this Holy Land is gripped by yet another war threatening the wellbeing of all who call it home.   The Hamas attack of October 7 and the resulting war have resulted in many statements about the tragic situation. Many of these statements are either pro or against one “side” or another. Some of the Western Christians are seeing the war through apocalyptic lenses, suggesting it is a religious war. Many of us who live in Jerusalem see it differently, praying with David: “I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord who makes heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1).   I speak to you as a Palestinian Christian Evangelical Lutheran bishop amid ongoing violence and the war on Gaza. Believing in the sanctity of every life regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, political or denominational affiliation, I affirm that because every human bears God’s image, both Palestinians and Israelis have equal dignity. Jesus’ promise—“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10)—is for all. Every human being is loved by God and deserving of life with dignity.   Our Holy Land is today stricken by the sin of violence, the sin of hatred, the sin of war, the sin of dehumanization, the sin of oppression, the sin of occupation and the sin of denying human rights to other humans. Amid this sin and the tragedy that results, the Church is called to speak a word. It must be a word that champions freedom, promotes responsibility, encourages justice, inspires hope, makes room for mercy and calls for accountability.   As a Palestinian, I cry to you from Jerusalem:   -enough of violence and killing of human lives that are created in God’s image -enough of hatred -enough of dehumanization -enough of using religion for political agendas -enough of violence -enough of illegal Israeli occupation -enough of bloodshed -enough of war  (C) Mint We are people of life; we are never people of death. This is the reason, God meant that every human being whatever is their nationality or race must enjoy God’s given life with dignity, including full human rights.   I always believed in a peaceful non-violent struggle. There will be a time when those who lead wars will be forgotten by history, but that peaceful, nonviolent believers will be written in the history books. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Zephania Kameeta, Bishop Manas Buthelezi, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Archbishop Romero and many others challenged injustice, racial discrimination, and colonialism with the power of the word. I have always believed in a peaceful, nonviolent struggle for justice.   They spoke truth to power and have given a true vision for justice, peace, living together, harmony, equity, and reconciliation. They interpreted the teachings of religious tradition to promote love of the neighbor, even going as far to love the neighbor by protecting their human rights. While those in power were disturbed, these leaders guided their people in times of injustice and wars to see that peace based on justice is stronger than any war, oppression, racial discrimination or violence.   Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s wise words still ring in our ears: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do it. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do it.”   Even in catastrophic events when too many Palestinians and Israelis are killed, the light of God shines in our hearts. According to today’s numbers, in past few weeks, more than 1400 Israelis and over 10 000 Palestinians have been killed. These figures include approximately 4000 children, as well as medical personnel and international aid workers. I unequivocally condemn any killing of civilians, both Israelis and Palestinians. Even in these dark days, we can never allow hatred to consume us. We instead carry the light of peace based on justice for the sake of all people living in this Holy Land.   The peoples of this land are tired to live through another war every eighteen months; another attack, another revenge and another counter revenge. Our people ask: why does not God hear our prayers for peace based on justice? We have prayed for 75 years, including 56 years of illegal occupation. Why does not God hear us? The story of Exodus teaches us that God hears the groaning of the people and the prayers of the oppressed (Exodus 2:24).  (C) UNICEF God hears our prayers, our yearning for freedom and justice. It seems, however, that the Pharaohs of the world still do not. As in Exodus, their hearts are hardened and they do not see the truth or seek the liberation of every nation.   The western powers are among those Pharaohs and are equally responsible for where we are today. They have heard neither the cries of occupied Palestinians nor the cries of many peace-loving Israelis. They care only for their political power, arms sales and economic interests, not for justice in the Holy Land. Together, we must call on these worldly powers to immediately stop this war in Gaza. The attack in Israel and the war in Gaza must be the last ones in Palestine and Israel.   If only the world leaders would invest half as much money and energy into peacemaking as they invest in war. It is time to end violence over the Holy Land. It is time to end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories along with all of Israel’s unjust policies against Palestinians. It is time to establish two states solution where the State of Palestine along 1967 borders will live with State of Israel in peace, justice, equity, and equality.    Christians in the Holy Land are disappointed to see some Christians elsewhere using biblical interpretations that justify Palestinian suffering. Christians believe that the fulfillment of prophecy has been in Jesus Christ alone. People should therefore not use the Old Testament texts to identify the present situation with biblical events. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is neither religious, nor biblical, nor eschatological. It is a modern conflict about the colonization of land. It must be seen as political conflict that needs a political solution achieved through the just application of United Nations resolutions and international law.    In the Appeal for a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land published on Oct 19, 2023, and written by the Roman Catholic Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah, The Anglican Bishop Emeritus Riah Abu Assal, Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna and myself : “We appeal to the UN an international community and those who consider themselves friends of Israel and Palestine, to use your influence to stop the ethnic cleansing, implement the rule of international law and uphold  the fundamental human rights of Palestinians as well as Israelis, to live as equals with justice, dignity and security in their historic lands.”   Additionally, the Sabeel Center for Liberation Theology has said: “The non-violent majority of Palestinians, along with our Israeli and International friends, should continue to harness creativity and courage as the primary tools, and it is imperative for all who seek liberation, justice and peace in Palestine and Israel to uplift and support each other.”   HH Pope Francis has said: “The Middle East does not need war but a peace built on justice, dialogue and the courage of fraternity.” Let us also be mindful of the recently departed former President of the Republic of Finland, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, who said in his speech for the Noble Peace Prize: “We cannot go on, year after year, simply pretending to do something to help the situation in the Middle East.” He knew that while “religion has been used as a weapon or as an instrument for prolonging the conflict,” they can “also be a constructive force in peacebuilding.” Following President Ahtisaari’s lead, we must draw on every possible resource to seek peace based on justice in Palestine and Israel, and also for the Middle East as a whole.   We must honor these calls for peace by demanding an immediate cessation of the war and all the atrocities in Gaza, allowing the humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. Do not allow extremists to determine the path forward. Instead, urge the international community to hold an international conference where Palestinians and Israelis negotiate all final status issues. Now is the Kairos for justice in Palestine and Israel.   As a Palestinian Christian friend who spent many formative years in Finland, please hear me when I say I ask you to be neither pro-Palestinian nor pro-Israeli. I instead ask you to be pro-truth, pro-life, pro-justice, pro-freedom, pro-peace, and pro-reconciliation.   I ask you to pray for all victims of the attack and the resulting war, for all the bereaved, for all the injured, for all the traumatized, for all the prisoners of war, for all the displaced, for all whose homes were demolished, for all the children that live in fear.   Please pray that God may touch the minds of the politicians to work for justice in Palestine and Israel so we can realize the vision of St. John, who wrote that “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).   God bless you.   Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan Bishop Emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land Former President of the Lutheran World Federation The Honorary President of Religions for Peace International


Sunhak Peace Prize

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