“I ask you as our brothers and sisters in Christ, do not leave us alone, do not leave us alone in the struggle,” Younan told the once-every-six years assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Lyon, France recently.
“Do you know how the apartheid system collapsed? It is because the churches in the world accompanied the churches in South Africa,” said Younan, who heads the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. “As long as you accompany us as churches in Europe, there is hope that peace and justice will come to the Middle East.”
Receiving a standing ovation from delegates, Younan said in his July 16 address that he would never lose hope for peace and justice in the Middle East despite circumstances such as the region’s declining Christian population.
“The longer the conflict goes on, the more the people will emigrate,” he warned.
As a sign of hope, Younan pointed to the formation of a council of religious institutions in the Holy Land that includes local Islamic and Christian leaders, and Israel’s two chief rabbis, and that meets every two months.
“Even when there is bombing, shelling, suicide attacks, we could as religious leaders meet together and speak of justice,” said Younan, a vice-president of the Lutheran World Federation. “We do not come to each other with smiling faces; we carry the suffering of our people under our skin.”
One project of the inter-religious council has been to carry out a review of textbooks used in schools, which instead of promoting justice and reconciliation, Younan said, “are teaching hatred against the other.”
Another project has been to commission Palestinian and Israeli communication bodies to monitor the public utterances of religious leaders. “What we see is shameful,” said the Lutheran leader, speaking of the results of the monitoring. “We all have to repent, even as Christians.”
Younan said that as a Palestinian Christian, “I call also my people the Palestinians to see God in the Israelis, and have told also Israelis to see God in us Palestinians.”
He said, “If we accept each other’s humanity, then I would say very clearly that we will recognize each other’s human, civil, religious, and political rights.” To applause, Younan concluded, “The day is coming, the day of transformation of Palestinians and Israelis, the day is coming as long as there is the risen Lord. That is my faith.”