Lutherans condemn anti-Semitism and back Palestinian rights

By agency reporter
18 May 2008

As the State of Israel marked the 60th anniversary of its founding, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) affirmed the Lutheran communion’s responsibility and challenge to continue working “to remove any vestiges of antisemitic attitudes toward our Jewish sisters and brothers, through processes in which we encounter each other as human beings with a shared faith heritage.”

In a 15 May letter to Israeli President Shimon Peres on the anniversary’s occasion, LWF General Secretary Rev Dr Ishmael Noko said the LWF joined “in celebrating the survival and flourishing of the Jewish people after their centuries of exile and the genocidal catastrophe of the Second World War.” He underscored the LWF’s recognition of the burden of responsibility borne by Lutheran churches for antisemitic and discriminatory attitudes toward Jewish people.

Anniversaries are also a time for reflection, reorientation and renewal, noted Noko in his letter to Peres, in which he expressed concern for the relationship between Israel and Palestine. He pointed out that the week also marks the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian people’s Nakba - when they were dispossessed of their homes and land, and became refugees.
The LWF general secretary noted the relationship between Israel and Palestine had been marked by deepening divisions, exclusion, hatred and brutal violence, which “can never secure a sustainable peace for either community.”

Peace, noted Noko, could only be achieved through a dialogue that does not exclude any one, and expressed appreciation for efforts to break down the barriers of “non-dialogue” in the Middle East situation such as those initiated by former US President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jimmy Carter. He said the official refusal to talk to Palestinian party Hamas and Hamas’ refusal to recognize the State of Israel both lead to the “the same dead-end.” In the absence of dialogue and encounter, enemy images and the desire to obliterate the ‘other’ only increased. “The ‘other’ will always be present, and peace will either be achieved with them or not at all,” he cautioned.

The LWF general secretary also underscored the responsibility of the international community to accompany, support and encourage Israelis and Palestinians in the search for a just peace in the Holy Land “as it did in the birth of the State of Israel.” He appealed to the global religious communities that hold the Holy Land holy to “be catalysts for peace, acting not in support of one community against the other but in support of the establishment of a just peace.”

Saying peace could not be postponed for the sake of all Israelis and Palestinians, Noko urged concerted efforts from both sides and global support “to ensure that no more anniversaries of this date will pass without a just peace in the Holy Land.”

The LWF is present in Israel-Palestine through its member church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and the East Jerusalem-based LWF Department for World Service regional programme.

The Lutheran World Federation is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of over 68.3 million.

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