Dr. Munib Younan, biskup og fv. forseti Lútherska heimssambandsins, LWF, og fv. biskup lúthersku kirkjunnar í Jórdaníu og Landinu Helga, flutti erindi á seminari Stofnunar dr. Sigurbjörns Einarssonar sem haldið var á Þorláksmessu á sumar, 20. júlí 2019, í Skálholti í samstarfi við Skálholtsbiskup og Skálholtsstað. Umræðustjóri á seminarinu var formaður Stofnunar Sigurbjörns, Bogi Ágústsson. Daginn eftir flutti dr. Munib prédikun í hátíðarmessunni á Skálholtshátíð og Bogi Ágústsson flutti aðalerindið í hátíðardagskrá sem fór fram í Skálholtsdómkirkju eftir kirkjukaffið. Á einni myndinni er Munib við Gullfoss með eiginkonu sinni, Saud Younan. Erindi dr. Munib er birt hér í heild sinni. Yfirskrift þessa seminars var: “Just Wars and Just Peace: What is the role of religion in reconciliation?”
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
The Role of Religion in Peacemaking and Reconciliation
Lecture given by Bishop Dr. Munib Younan
Former President, Lutheran World Federation
1. Religions and Peacebuilding
As I was walking once in Jerusalem, I came upon a woman with her church group from the United States visiting the Holy Land. I asked her where she had visited, and she gave me the usual list of places. Then I asked her if she had spoken with any Palestinian Christians and she was quick to reply:
“No, no, this is a church group. We’re not getting political.”
Think about that. To some Christians, my very existence—a brother in Christ—is seen as political. Nowhere in the world is the mix of politics and religion as potentially lethal as in the Middle East. There are those who distort the holy writings and teachings to justify violence, occupation, and hate, and who try to transform political issues into religious wars.
But perhaps the problem is not that we are mixing politics and religion, but that these are the chefs we are allowing to take over the kitchen. Their mix of extremism in both politics and religion can be dangerous.
If Jesus were alive today, someone would surely be telling him to stay out of politics and stick to religion! But this would make little sense to Jesus. He didn’t care what you called it, he just believed in loving and serving humanity. His compassion led him into the streets and among the people. From the first day he laid out his program, it was clear that his mission would be revolutionary:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
So perhaps the first step, when considering whether religion can have a role in peacemaking and reconciliation, is to determine the true purpose of religion. What do these systems of belief want for their followers and for the world? Do they want people who follow the prescribed rules, but neglect their neighbor? Or do these ways of life promote the love of God and, at the same time, the love of all human beings? You may guess that I certainly think it is the latter. As Jesus said in his summary of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, the basis of “all the law and the prophets” is that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, “your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:38-39)
Sometimes, it is helpful for someone outside your own faith to remind you what it means to be a Christian. This is what happened when, in October 2007, Christian leaders around the world were addressed in a letter from 138 Muslim scholars from all sects of Islam, titled “A Common Word Between Us and You”. The Muslim signatories of “A Common Word” sought to break down walls of division and suspicion by inviting “Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments.” Jordan has also hosted an important dialogue between Muslim imams and church leaders that contributes directly to preserving peace in our communities and addressing past divisions.
Strengthening the relationship between people and between those people and God is the true purpose of religion. From this foundation, we can confidently say that the people who believe in a living God can indeed contribute to peace. Each of these great traditions—grounded in the witness of Abraham’s hospitality to the stranger and our faithful response to the Word of God—leads their followers to respect instead of demonize the other. Some may dismiss this as an idealist apology for religion. The realities, they say, are far different. Indeed, there is much evidence to the contrary, even today. To those perspectives, I can only respond with my experience, that I have seen healthy, positive interreligious encounters with my own eyes. It can happen, and in Jerusalem of all places!
One area of good interreligious cooperation is the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land (CRIHL). Founded in 2005, the CRIHL is the first consultative body representing the highest official religious authorities in the Holy Land. In addition to the Heads of the Local Churches of the Holy Land, the group includes the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Ministry of Islamic Waqf at the Palestinian Authority. Together, we have accomplished many things, including a rapid-response network for responding to instances of religious desecration.
One of our recent projects has been support for an analysis of Palestinian and Israeli textbooks to see how they depict the neighbor. The 2013 publication of “Victims of Our Own Narratives: Portrayal of the Other in Israeli and Palestinian School Books” was a watershed moment in the parallel narratives of the Holy Land. Using the latest empirical methods, we discerned the manner in which the books we are handing to our children are shaping their attitudes and comprehension of those around them.
Our shared goal is for the education ministries of both Israel and Palestine to produce curricula based on mutual understanding and respect. The study revealed, however, that textbooks from all communities lacked information about the religions of other peoples. In a recent panel discussion in Jerusalem, Father David Neuhaus, from the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, said he had recently completed his own thorough investigation of both the Palestinian and Israeli standard textbooks. His conclusion was that if he were a parent, he would not want his children to learn from Palestinian textbooks. However, he said that he also would never want his children to learn from the Israeli ones! In both cases, the curriculum lacks a healthy respect of the other who is different. Moreover, the books tended to treat the holy city of Jerusalem as a right exclusive to their own communities. They have not emphasized the value of coexistence and—in a step we need for building a shared future—have not sought to compare and reconcile the two conflicting narratives underlying Palestinian and Israeli lives.
Even with these challenges, the good news here is that the CRIHL is working together to resolve these issues. With this analysis in hand, we can effectively address the issues we found and work to give our children—both Palestinian and Israeli—a more accurate and hope-filled picture of a future with peaceful coexistence. Our aim is to make the textbooks more inclusive, so that children will grow up with a knowledge and respect of their neighbor’s faith and practice. That the CRIHL—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders together—is cooperating in this goal is a sign of religious contributions toward building peace.
2. Religiously-Sanctioned Extremism
Today, there are many groups trying to politicize religion or religionize politics. Religion is thus being used—or manipulated—to justify violence and injustice. So we must ask: Is religion the problem facing the Middle East today, or even the whole world, including the U.S.A.? Or are we in fact challenged by religious extremism? Some would argue that religious extremism is the natural outworking of religious commitment. My response is that religious extremism is, in fact, a perversion of religious commitment itself.
Throughout the Middle East, we are seeing too much religious extremism, which focuses on the exclusion and humiliation of the religious other. Because religions guide human reflection on eternal principles and values, it can provide a strong motivation when mixed with totalitarian political extremism. To a person guided by such religiously-sanctioned political extremism compromise is not an option.
I must be clear: no religion has a monopoly on extremism. In addition to violent expressions of Islamic extremism which harm Christians, Jews and moderate Muslims alike, we are seeing a growth in Jewish extremism, especially among some settler groups. While Christian Zionism can seem less directly harmful to human flourishing, Arabs are very aware of how Christian Zionists justify and promote state violence by “blessing” wars against certain enemies as reflecting the will of God. All of these forms of extremism drive us away from relationship with one another, harming our shared capacity to draw create a sustainable future in which all human communities can flourish.
There are five things that extremism has in common:
• Absolute truth claims;
• Blind obedience;
• Establishing the “Ideal” time;
• The end justifies any means; and
• Declaring Holy War.
The problem is not Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. The problem is when certain individuals, claiming to speak for God, or who seek to defend God, act in ways that are contrary to the core teaching that love for God reveals itself most fully in respect for the Other. As Charles Kimball has said, “Whatever religious people may say about their love of God or the mandates of their religion, when their behavior toward others is violent and destructive, when it causes suffering among their neighbors, you can be sure the religion has been corrupted and reform is desperately needed.” When, on the other hand, “religion remains true to its authentic sources, it is actively dismantling these corruptions.” It is so interesting to me that often the people who call themselves fundamentalists in any religion have often abandoned that which is most fundamental of all: “love God and your neighbor as yourself.” As John the Apostle puts it, “those who say I love God and hate their brothers and sisters are liars. For those who do not love a brother and a sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). And there are today many liars in our world. Rather than calling for the elimination of religion, the proper response to religious extremism is found in greater, more authentic expressions of faith. Leonardo Boff explains it in this way:
“In the biblical tradition, it is not enough for faith in which it is expressed (Orthodoxy); it is verified, made true, when it is informed by love, solidarity, hunger and thirst for justice. St. James teaches us that ‘faith without deeds is useless.’”
In the Middle East, we understand that extremism very often has little to do with religion at all. What we see, in fact, is religiously sanctioned or religiously justified political extremism. In order to achieve a particular political or economic goal, certain leaders concoct interpretations of religion which mobilize people toward that goal. Extremism is the antithesis of love. For this reason, it is frightening and concerning for those of us in Israel and Palestine committed to the goal of peaceful coexistence. We are concerned that the logic of violence will infiltrate our children and negatively affect progress toward reconciliation.
When mainstream Jews, Muslims and Christians remain silent and timid in the face of religiously-sanctioned political extremism, they allow themselves and the traditions they represent to be held hostage by extremists. This is especially true of religious leaders who are able to speak on a broader stage. At the same time, Christians must work to amplify the voices of moderates who are speaking out against extremism within both Judaism and Islam and Christianity. The voices are there, but they are often not heard, especially in the West. Amplifying those voices demonstrates that there are indeed partners for peace throughout the Middle East and helps decrease exclusionary extremism in the West. We are in dire need of robust moderation, not any sort of extremism.
3. The Prophetic Role
For the sake of our children, we must relearn what it means to be in relationship with one another, affirming our God-given differences and promoting one another’s God-given dignity. This is a role not only for the churches, but for governments as well. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “It is part of the Church’s office of guardianship that she shall call sin by its name and that she shall warn men against sin; for ‘righteousness exalteth a nation,’ both in time and in eternity.”1 Today we ask the church in our world to be prophetic and to speak the truth to power, to work for peace based on justice and reconciliation based on forgiveness.
Today, against both religiously-sanctioned extremism and popular secularism, we must reclaim space in the public sphere for the voice of politically moderate religious faith. We can list many times, even in the Bible, when religion has done nothing but legitimize the political power of the day. In return for support to their rulers, court theologians have been rewarded with certain privileges and benefits.
On the other hand, religious conviction has also been the source of motivation for criticism and protest against unjust social structures and political powers. The Old Testament teaches us that such prophetic religion—embodied in people unafraid to challenge the order of the day—is never static or pleasing. It is always dynamic, driven by a total commitment to live in a relationship of love with God and with all people. The benefits sought by the prophetic are for all people, not just one portion of humanity.
When we seek to “speak truth to power,” we most often mean that we are addressing the structure of temporal government in our own country. Indeed, there is much to address in every context. Even in the so-called developed countries of the world, there are still many inequalities and structural injustices that need to be addressed. The debate in Europe about immigrants and refugees who are Muslims provides a clear opportunity to ensure that both public rhetoric and public policy are seeking the flourishing of all human communities rather than reinforcing forms of male chauvinism and populism. The prophetic response to foreign policy takes us even further beyond ourselves, asking if perceptions of national security and national interest truly justify the harm our actions in other countries may cause. How, specifically, could Christians more forcefully address the excesses of other global powers?
Through our schools and in our churches, we seek to counteract all forms of hatred, including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and Christianophobia. As I said earlier, the conflicts in the Middle East are not driven by religious passion alone. In Israel and Palestine, our disagreements are not driven by eschatological, apocalyptic, or biblical feelings; it is a conflict about land alone. We often notice, however, that the experience of ongoing violence often leads people to mix the political with the religious in both positive and negative ways.
It is more difficult to respond to extremism outside of one’s own community. Nevertheless, it is our responsibility to identify persons who are willing to live alongside us, making a better future for the whole of our beautiful region. Religiously-informed voices of political moderation are present in the Middle East. We only need ears to hear. Your Christian sisters and brothers in the Arab world can help serve as your hearing aids!
4. A Local Church Perspective on Peacebuilding in Israel and Palestine
What is our church, the ELCJHL, doing to promote peacebuilding in a context of growing extremism? First, it is always important to insist that, even in its present phase, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political conflict that can be solved through political negotiation. Along with the rest of the region, however, the local dynamics of the conflict are being informed by greater and greater religiosity. Religious motives find a political purpose when outside powers allow political negotiations to falter and fail. Without an optimistic political horizon, Muslim extremists seek to claim the entire land for themselves, Jewish extremists wage campaigns of exclusive expansion and promoting greater Israel, and Christian Zionist extremists wait for Armageddon to erupt.
Middle Eastern Christians make up only two percent of the combined population in Israel and Palestine. We nevertheless refuse to live with a minority mentality, whether it is dhimmi or millet. We refuse to be protected by any other religion or political power. We are an integral part of the society, an essential broker in building peace. This is the reason that we Christians in the Middle East strongly promote equal citizenship with equal rights and equal responsibilities for every citizen regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religious affiliation. We call for equal citizenship that embraces diversity. And also we call that all religions, despite their numbers, have equal rights and equal responsibilities which are secured in a democratic constitution.
A central challenge facing Palestinian and other Middle Eastern Christians is emigration. Various pressures are making many Christians depart from this traditional homeland. Why are Palestinian Christians emigrating? Recent surveys among Palestinian Christians have pointed to several clear reasons why our community, in particular, migrates out of the region.
a) The top reason given by those who choose to emigrate is the general lack of freedom and security in the Palestinian territories and the lack of peace in the horizon.
b) The deteriorating economic situation in Palestine. The conditions of Palestinian life have made many of our young people concerned about their own economic futures.
c) The measures of the occupation, including dehumanizing experiences at checkpoints, property confiscations, home demolitions, and non-existent building permits, and the lack of possibilities for family reunification. All of this creates an atmosphere of hopelessness.
d) Finally, the growth of extremism on all sides of the conflict has forced many peace-loving Christians to seek safer environments in which to raise their families.
We can see from the data that the main reasons for Christian emigration away from Palestine—lack of freedom and deteriorating economic prospects—are tied directly to the experience of Israeli occupation. This is a long-term and harmful trend.
Arab and Middle East Christians maintain a crucial balance in our society. They are bridge-builders, brokers of justice, defenders of human rights, gender justice, initiators of dialogue, and ministers of reconciliation. Most importantly, they are peacemakers. One of our politicians recently said that Arab Christians are the guarantors of building a modern civil society. They are the ones who bear the peace that passes all human understanding to the people of the Middle East. And yet they separated by either material walls or psychological walls of fear, hatred, and separation. For what is the Holy Land without the Palestinian Christians?
The witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land— along with other Christian churches in Jerusalem—is one of robust moderation, peacebuilding, and reconciliation. For the ELCJHL, these commitments are shown most clearly in our educational ministries. Our schools and education programs pursue the mission of providing a happy, productive, and safe environment for students, teachers, administrators, support staff, and parents. Some members of our synod have suggested that we consider closing our schools due to their financial burden they put on our entire church organization. My response is always to emphasize that the direct mission of the Church is accomplished through the educational ministries. Through the schools, we impart the Evangelical ethos in the Palestinian context, meaning,
a. We mold the Palestinian identity of our youth.
b. We teach our youth to live with other faiths, especially the faiths of our neighbors with a focus on Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
c. We provide peace education, teaching our children the tools for creative and life-affirming resistance to dehumanizing powers and dialogue to pursue peace with justice in a non-violent way.
d. We promote the role of women in society.
e. We provide a quality education that equips students for life’s many challenges.
f. We mold the future of Palestinian civil society by valuing diversity and promoting democratic participation.
Today, our four schools serve 3,000 students. Gender balance continues to be a strong emphasis, with all students learning together in a co-educational framework. One third of our students are Christians, while two thirds are Muslims. We reject any efforts to convert students who are not Lutherans. Our mission is to convert our students from extremism toward moderation. This is an evangelical call. Though the ELCJHL is a small church, one out of six Palestinian Christians shape their thinking in one of our schools or programs. We are small; we nevertheless make a vital contribution to the future of Palestinian Christianity.
The positive investment we make in Palestinian society through the ELCJHL schools is directly related to our church’s contribution toward peacebuilding in Israel and in Palestine. We build future generations of reconciliation. These steadfast commitments will hold, even if meaningful steps toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continue to not succeed. We all know that no framework of final status agreement can succeed without willingness. All of us in Palestine and in Israel must ask ourselves how much we want peace. Through our educational efforts, we are helping form generations of leaders who faithfully seek peace. If we take faith in our One God seriously, the answer from every person in Israel and Palestine should be a resounding “yes.”
What sort of peace do we seek? I will speak in terms of Lutherans, including many of you in these statements. Lutherans advocate for a two-state solution based on 1967 borders. We believe that Jerusalem should be shared by the three religions and two nations. We seek a viable political solution to resolve the right of return of refugees. Finally, all parties in this conflict must admit to their part in perpetuating the conflict and be willing to seek painful and honest reconciliation. Once the acknowledgement is there, then we can find solutions.
We strongly believe that Israeli settlements built on land confiscated during and following the 1967 war are illegal, not just inconvenient. Politicians and public figures have consistently observed that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are a major obstacle to peace. Please know that these Christians are not naïve and that they are serious in wanting the success of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. Let us be clear: these churches are protesting the settlements alone. If settlements are indeed an obstacle to peace, their current status must be challenged. We are thankful that many churches in the world are working with us for peace based on justice in Palestine and Israel.
If there is to be peace, Palestinians and Israelis must learn to share natural resources, especially water. The sharing of resources can be the foundation of economic growth and prosperity through further regional cooperation. What would this look like? It is self-evident that neither Israel nor Palestine can exist alone. While they can be independent states, they will be side by side, interdependently prospering through collaboration on resources and infrastructure development. If we truly honor the human dignity of every person in the region, then we must work to have regional cooperation.
Regional cooperation is essential if we are seeking the flourishing of all communities in the Middle East—Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. For the Arab and Muslim countries, the core conflict in the Middle East is the IsraeliPalestinian conflict. Once this conflict is resolved, the way will be easier toward regional cooperation, based on the Arab Initiative of 2002. In that declaration, the existence of a sovereign state for Palestine would result in 57 Arab nations formally recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Fifty-seven nations, including Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. For many of you, this may sound too good to be true. But that is the offer on the table.
Jerusalem should be a shared city for the two nations and the three Abrahamic religions; settlement activity should end; there should be a just political solution for Palestinian refugees; resources should be shared and regional cooperation should flourish. We continue to believe in these principles, but political realities do not often seem supportive of that vision. This is the reason I appeal to both Palestinians and Israelis to give peace based on justice a chance. While the present situation is very dangerous, peace based on justice is good for Palestinians and Israelis alike. It is a win-win situation we should pursue with all our might.
Lasting peace in the Middle East is contingent upon the birth of peaceful coexistence between peoples in Jerusalem, the Holy City, the heritage of humanity, now a city of two peoples and three religions. The best solution is for Jerusalem to be shared by two sovereign states—Palestine and Israel—and the three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jerusalem can and should be capitol to both nations. Jerusalem has a unique character that distinguishes it from all the other cities of the world; a character which surpasses any local political sovereignty. As the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches said together in 1994, “Jerusalem is too precious to be dependent solely on municipal or national political authorities.”
Jerusalem’s two peoples are the guardians of her sanctity and carry a double responsibility: to organize their lives in the city and to welcome all the “pilgrims” who come from around the world. The needed international collaboration is not meant to replace the role and the sovereignty of her two peoples. It is rather needed in order to help both peoples to reach the definition and the stability of the special status of the city. That is why, concretely, and from the political, economic and social point of view, her two peoples must bestow on Jerusalem a special status that corresponds to her double character, holy and universal, and ordinary and local, where daily life unfolds. Once this status has been found and defined, the international community is required to confirm it with international guaranties that will assure continuing peace and respect for all.
The components of this special status must include the following elements:
1. The human right of freedom of worship and of conscience for all, both as individuals and as religious communities.
2. Equality of all her inhabitants before the law, in coordination with international resolutions.
3. Free access to Jerusalem for all—citizens, residents or pilgrims—at all times, whether in peace or in war. In this way, Jerusalem should be an open city.
4. The historical status quo must be maintained and respected;
5. The custodianship of Christian and Muslim Holy Places must continue to be under the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, King Abdullah II ibn Hussain.
Since 1994, the heads of the local churches have proclaimed that the “rights of property ownership, custody and worship which the different Churches have acquired throughout history should continue to be retained by the same communities. These rights which are already protected in the Status Quo of the Holy Places according to historical ‘firmans’ and other documents, should continue to be recognized and respected.” Today, it is important to add that any final status agreement regarding Jerusalem must ensure that all Christian holy places are united within a single political geography.
For Jews, Christians and Muslims, Jerusalem is a high place of revelation and of God’s encounter with humanity. That is why I cannot remain indifferent to her fate nor remain silent in the face of her sufferings. “For Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest until her vindication shines out like the dawn and her salvation like a burning torch” (Isaiah 62:1).
Peace in the city of Jerusalem cannot come from one party alone. Christians, Jews, and Muslims must collaborate toward an agreement based on mutual respect and open dialogue. A peace imposed on people at gunpoint, or a peace for prosperity’s sake, is not peace, but merely a charade. A city divided by walls and concrete, fear and hatred, cannot be called a united city. Sovereignty over the city must be shared, with equal access to both Palestinians and Israelis. Two sovereignties for two distinct peoples is also possible so long as these peoples share equal regard for the dignity of the other in order to reach a true unity of hearts in the two parts of the city. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6)
If there is to be peace based on justice in the Middle East, it will start in Jerusalem and spread to the farthest reaches of the Holy Land and beyond. There will not be peace in the Middle East without peace in Jerusalem.
People often ask me if I am optimistic or pessimistic about these political concerns. I answer that I am neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but that I am hopeful. I am hopeful that peace with justice, and reconciliation based on forgiveness are coming. Hope has arisen in Jerusalem; it does not come out of Washington, DC, or Berlin, or London. As long as I live, I will teach people to see the image of God in Israelis and to teach Israelis to see the image of God in the Palestinians, so that we might be transformed and celebrate diversity among ethnic and racial groups. When we do this, we will accept the humanity of the other. Thus, we will recognize each other’s human, civil, religious, and political rights. When this happens, then the Holy Land will truly become a promised land of milk and honey for both Palestinians and Israelis. When will we allow this to happen? I promise you that religious leaders cannot bring peace to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but peace cannot come to the Middle East without the active involvement of religious leaders. It is now time for peace and religious reconciliation. If we do not achieve it now, none of us will be winners; all of us will become hostages to extremism.
Those of us who seek peace for Israel and Palestine—and indeed for the Middle East and the world—are challenged daily by the exposed realities of religiouslysanctioned political extremism. The best way to counteract such extremism is to persist in proclaiming the core of our faith: that God’s love extends to every human being, regardless of their gender, ethnic identity, or creed. No matter who you are, you are loved by God and loved by us. This is a robust moderation per se.
This challenge is present also for those seeking to make a religious contribution to peacebuilding in Israel and Palestine. There are many forces and structures around the world who profit both economically and politically from this conflict and the suffering it produces for our societies and which do not hesitate to make use of religious conviction to further their goals. All of this distorts the image of God in the neighbor. As a result, there are too many people locked in a simplistic way of thinking in which one of our peoples wins and the other loses, pushed into the desert or into the sea. But this should not ever be so. For the sake of our children, for the sake of our humanity, we ask the world to help us to bring peace based on justice, and reconciliation built on forgiveness. We ask at this stage for the world to follow the international law that they voted for and we tell you as Christians, that for me, justice is not political. It is biblical. It is for the sake of humanity. When justice is implemented, then peace and reconciliation will be the natural outcomes. This is the reason I will continue to work for peace based on justice until it becomes a reality.
I call on you to speak out for what you know is right, to know that peace and reconciliation are possible when ordinary people unite to make extraordinary change. Peace starts in Jerusalem, it is true, but the fire of peace is kindled in the hearts of her inhabitants—a fire that burns brightly as a beacon to the world. As the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’.”
Do not leave us alone in this struggle. Our mission is yours, and yours is ours. Continue accompanying your Arab Christian sisters and brothers, especially those of us in Palestine and Israel. Continue to work with us for peace based on justice and reconciliation, built on forgiveness.
May God bless you.
1 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012), 345.