Bishop Munib Younan has said that Christians need to have a stronger voice in Jerusalem in order to prevent tensions spreading there, and that Muslims and Christians should work together on ecology issues - writes Peter Kenny.
Younan, the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land since 1998, appealed for Jerusalem's multi-faceted character of "holiness and inclusivity" to continue. Jerusalem, he said, is still the Holy City of and for Christians, Jews and Muslims, who are all, "Peoples of the Book".
The bishop was speaking at the 25-30 June 2008 meeting of the main governing body of the 68-million-strong Lutheran World Federation, its council, of which he is a member, during its meeting in Arusha, northern Tanzania. Younan and other Palestinians have often criticised what they see as Israeli activities that act to push out Arabs from Jerusalem, particularly East Jerusalem.
"The Christian world needs a stronger voice on Jersulalem … otherwise extremism will become the norm," Younan told the LWF council. "Extremism is not only in Iran and in the USA," he added, noting that he believed extremism in the Middle East could only be fought by interfaith dialogue.
"Europe is suffering because [Christians] do not know how to talk with Muslims. Africa is also having problems on how to talk to Muslims. Ecology is the way to speak to the Muslims because we share the environment," Younan said.
The LWF general secretary, the Rev. Ishmael Noko, a Zimbabwean, said in reply to Younan on 25 June, "I am very sensitive that we Christians in Africa have tried to bring peace as Christians only. We have forgotten other groups. We see things as Christians. There are others who we share the environment with."
German Lutheran Bishop Maria Jepsen from Hamburg said, "Inter-religious dialogue must also include Jews. There is a lot of anti-Semitism in the world, not only in Germany and Europe."
The Lutheran council meeting, held about every 15 months, took place near the foot of Africa's highest mountain, and with the theme, "Melting Snow on Mount Kilimanjaro: A Witness of a Suffering Creation". Much of the discussion focused on climate change.
About 170 participants attended the 2008 LWF council meeting, including church leaders and officials from LWF partner organizations.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]