Shun silence

Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land has issued a powerful statement concerning the arson in Tabgha, a church at the site in Israel where Christians believe Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. Bishop Younan’s statement underscores his conviction that "despite the atrocity against it, [the church] will survive the hatred and will remain a spiritual haven and blessing to all who enter its doors.

 Bishop Munib Younan

Bishop Younan

The flames consumed much of the interior of the monastery and destroyed the roof, leaving only charred remains of Bibles and other objects, according to news reports.

Younan appeals for people to shun silence because, as he puts it, "To be silent is to allow the extremists including the perpetrators to turn us to hostages and pawns. ... All believers in God [must] speak up and raise their voices to denounce hostile acts such as this venomous act.”

The bishop stands by hope praying that "this venomous act be the last." He affirms that the "minds of those who deny others a dignified life accept diversity as a norm and as projection of God’s multi-genius creation of human beings." The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum of the World Council of Churches urges persons to read the bishop’s statement, and disseminate it widely within their networks, place them on websites, tweet the message and use whatever other social networking sites available to spread the word.

Statement of Bishop Munib Younan
concerning the arson in Tabgha, Israel.

We have come from Jerusalem to stand in solidarity with the brother monks of this monastery after the arson and burning of this historic Church. The atrocity is not only against you and this particular church vicinity, but against every Christian and believer in the One True God, and must be denounced vehemently.

This Church was built on the real story of the blessing of the loaves and fish, and despite the atrocity against it, it will survive the hatred and will remain a spiritual haven and blessing to all who enter its doors.

The problem which we face is sadly the recurrence of these incidents on religious sites. We have heard recently the authorities arrested suspects who are thought to be the perpetrators. We strongly recommend that they are taken into justice.

However, the problem is much deeper and succinct: the prevalence of intolerance, religious bigotry and discrimination. This, in turn, creates a mentality of non-acceptance of diversity and of the otherness of the other.

The Lutheran Church demands a change in the public discourse, a total reform of the education systems and complete transformation of how one sees the other who is different. There is absolutely no other solution in this place other than educating our children to tolerate and co-exist with other religions in the region: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

If this country wishes to continue being seen as Holy, this is only possible through egalitarian right, and freedom of religion where every religion has the right to equally worship the One Holy True God ,and to equally respect the Church as the Synagogue as the Mosque.

We are saddened by the silence vis-à-vis these atrocities. To be silent is to allow the extremists including the perpetrators to turn us to hostages and pawns. We demand that all believers in God speak up and raise their voices to denounce hostile acts such as this venomous act.

Once we speak up, then future generations would learn to accept the other who is different. This way, we promote peace and justice, living with others, and reconciliation which are desperately needed in this country.

May this venomous act be the last, and may the minds of those who deny others a dignified life accept diversity as a norm and as projection of God’s multi-genius creation of human beings.

Jesus consoles us by saying: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

May God bless you and continue to protect you to further God’s kingdom in this Holy Land.

(Tiberias, July 14, 2015)

Letter to the Editor