Bold religious leaders vital to end Middle East impasse: Palestine bishop

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)Bishop Munib A. Younan speaks to Ecumenical News during the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan South Korea on November 1, 2013.

BUSAN, South Korea - A Palestinian bishop who heads the Lutheran World Federation has called on religious leaders to show the courage of Biblical prophets and challenge their governments to act in order to bring justice and peace to all Palestinians and Israelis.

Bishop Munib A. Younan made his call at the 10th assembly of the World Council of Churches, in Busan, South Korea running from October 30 to November 8.

"Christian churches must be prophetic and challenge their governments in France, in Britain, in Germany and in the United States and speak  them about the urgent need for justice in the Middle East," said Younan in an interview with Ecumenical News on November 1.

Younan, who is the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land said, "The Palestine-Israel problem can only be solved by bold political and religious leaders who believe in a two State solution with the 1967 border in mind. The state of Palestine will then live alongside the state of Israel.


"Jerusalem must be shared. It must be for the three religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And there must be a political solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees and an end to Israel's settlement policies.

"There must also be a sharing of the area's resources and the world's leaders must set about solving this explosive problem not tomorrow - but right now, today.

"We see the suffering and feel the fear of people in the Middle East but this problem will not be solved without justice. We need bold religious and political leadership and not lip service from the world's leaders."

Younan, who received his theological training in Finland, in 2010 became the first Arab to head the 70-million strong Lutheran World Federation.

He said that even though Western powers including Britain, France and the United States had created the problem of Israel and Palestine in the first place, they have to be drawn in to solve the problem along the lines of United Nations resolutions 242 and 338.

"It's no good thinking that the Palestinians and Israelis can do this on their own, on a one-to-one basis.

"The international community has to be involved. The Americans and the Europeans and Americans are responsible for problems in the Middle East but they must now ask themselves if they don't help bring justice to the region they will be indirectly affected themselves.

"We are watching the growth of extremism and we are all hostages to this extremism. The longer there is no solution, the more extremism will grow."

The Palestinian bishop said that extremism is not the monopoly of any one religion.

"We have Jewish extremists, we have Muslim extremists and we have Christian extremists. If we don't solve this problem it will be bad for all of us."

Younan said there were some courageous religious leaders who fearlessly call for justice in Israel but not enough of them.

"It's no use having one voice in a choir. You need several voices – a choir of courageous religious leaders inspired by the prophets who challenged their leaders," said the Lutheran leader.

"Then we will have a symphony of justice and that will always disturb those politicians and those people who are not working for justice in the Middle East."

He said that although Palestinians like himself had lost their land and many of their lives "we have not lost our dignity and that dignity gives is the power to work for justice, peace and reconciliation."

The bishop, who serves on inter-faith groups, dismissed charges that critics of Israel's policies are anti–Semites.

"All of us, even me as a Palestinian, are any form of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia. We will fight any form of anti-Semitism that exists anywhere in the world. "

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