Jerusalem, as the site of the resurrection, should be the city of hope, said Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land in his Easter message of encouragement to Christians in the region.
He began with harsh reality, however. “Many people here, Israeli and Palestinian alike, find it easy to relate to the sadness of Mary mother of Jesus [at his crucifixion]. We feel there is no hope. We cry. We lack energy. We don’t think clearly. We are afraid. We withdraw into our territories, our political positions, our arguments and opinions, and lock the door.”
Bishop Younan continued: “Extremists try to justify their erroneous positions with holy writings, which threatens to turn the political situation into a religious war. The demolished houses, the ruins of the peace process, the bloodshed, the mistrust, the violence, the fear, the hate, the military action make us see our circumstances as a frightening, dark tomb. We are like Mary, standing at the empty tomb saying, ‘They have taken my Lord away. They have taken our hope away. And we do not know where they put it’.”
Writing of the recovery through baptism of the life-giving dynamic of the Gospel, the Lutheran leader said: “We in Jerusalem continue to shout out the message of the early church: the resurrection of Christ is our sole hope in this world. This has been our message for 2,000 years, and will continue to be our message … the living Christ will never allow our hope to fade away, for he is a God of hope and wants us to be messengers of hope.”
“I experienced this deeply this past January at the general assembly of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) in Beirut, Lebanon. I had gone seeking a word of hope - and I received it, as I listened to the testimonies of our sisters and brothers in Christ in Sudan, in Iran, Iraq and other countries in the Middle East. To me, it seemed as though the risen Lord was commissioning us for a new mission; that, like Mary, we are to revive hope in our fellow disciples by reminding them that ‘the Lord is risen’; that, like St. Paul admonishes, we are to strengthen our sisters and brothers in need.”
“In God’s family, there is no majority or minority, rich or poor, big or small. We’re not divided into ‘the hopeful’ and ‘the hopeless’ - we all may experience both simultaneously. As one who experienced hopelessness, Jesus’ resurrection gives hope that is not cheap but expensive, not lip service but genuine. The Lord commissions us all - not to bemoan our relative disadvantages but in all things to spread hope with our words, prayers, solidarity and help.”
Bishop Younan said: “We Palestinian Christians are called as apostles of hope despite our struggle, despite our hopelessness. Our congregations, schools and centres play an important role in providing hope and developing Palestinian society. Our parishioners’ daily struggle to maintain a Palestinian Christian witness in this land is an encouragement to our many partners and friends all over the world. Our efforts at building bridges between Palestinians and Israelis prepares us to live together peacefully after a political settlement is reached. Our dialogue with Muslims and Jews inspires other Christians to cross borders to build peace in this broken world. As St. Paul says of Jesus, ‘In his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us’ (Ephesians 2:14b).
He concluded: “The resurrection calls us Palestinian Christians, given our current circumstances and our steadfast hope in the victory of life, a special call to impart hope where hopelessness exists in the world. We can encourage persecuted Christians in Asia and Africa; advocate for innocent civilians in war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Iraq; stand up for oppressed minorities like Dalits in India; share our resources with countries like Haiti destroyed by earth quakes. We can facilitate reconciliation between majority and minority populations of Bangladesh, Central America, Burma and Turkey. We can teach people who fear unfamiliar cultures, religions and political realties about celebrating diversity. We can welcome refugees, migrants and trafficked people from among the poor and disempowered around the world. We can share with others the hope that comes from dialogue.”