October 10, 2023
Dear Partners in Ministry:
The news out of Israel and Palestine is troubling, as is any news of war and violence. We who are called to speak words of hope and peace often find ourselves at a loss when seeking to address such a complex, nuanced, and fragile situation. Harm has come to real human lives. Anger and hurt that have roots far deeper and more tangled than likely any of us understand are all at play. Standing from afar, we raise our voices in lament and in rejection of violence, but also with humility, acknowledging the complexity of the circumstances.
Below is a prayer written by the Rev. Meghan Aelabouni, one of our ELCA pastors living and serving in the Middle East. This was shared with the group of Bishops who traveled to the Holy Land last January, of which I was a part.
I share this with you as a resource as you consider how to pray for and with those caught up in this ongoing conflict. Pastor Aelabouni has said the prayer is intended for congregational use. Please feel free to use this as best fits your own context.
Bishop Joy Mortensen-Wiebe
God of hope in the midst of hopelessness, we pray for the people of Palestine and Israel, who are your beloved ones.
Through your prophet Jeremiah, you spoke the truth to oppressive powers:“They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.” In your son Jesus, you wept over Jerusalem and the failure of the world to “know the things that make for peace.” Truly, in this moment all the people of the Holy Land know this lack of peace, which is rooted in a lack of justice.
We pray for all those in southern Israel and in Gaza who are mourning the loss of life, those who are injured and traumatized, and those who are working to provide care in these devastated communities. We pray for an end to this present war and its violence. And we pray for a resolution that addresses the root causes of conflict, including an end to 75-plus years of an occupation that deprives whole Palestinian communities of human rights, freedom, and dignity.
For the peace that is not the absence of tension but the presence of justice, we pray. For the peace Jesus gives to us, that is not as the world gives, we pray. For a new day, in which all your beloved children are treated as precious and worthy of care, we pray. In the name of the one who died in solidarity with the su”ering and rose to defeat the powers of death, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
The Holy Land Advocacy Team works to promote justice and peace in the Holy Land for Palestinians and Israelis through education, advocacy, and accompaniment. Palestinian Christians, and specifically our friends in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, live in deplorable conditions of occupation and inequality. Despite these circumstances, they are on the forefront of working for peace, creating hope and striving for the opportunity to experience the fullness of human rights we would expect for all people. As members of churches in the United States, we have a particular responsibility to advocate for a more just and equal treatment of the Israel/Palestine conflict, as well as to insist that our government abide by its own laws regarding human rights and foreign aid.
“The Psalmist laments and cries out, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” Palestinians have long asked “how long?” and looked for signs that they are not forgotten. The prophet Jeremiah’s message conveys God’s promise of hope during a time of yearning for home, for Jerusalem. Jeremiah offers comfort that God’s plans guarantee the welfare of the people, and a future of hope. Seventy years of displacement and dispossession, half a century of occupation, and generations of yearning are enough. We trust in God, that the hope the prophets foretold is not only a promise for all of God’s children, but will be realized, and we pray—and recommit to working—for the realization of God’s justice and peace for all peoples.”
An Excerpt from 70 Years On: Seeking a Hopeful Future in a Time of Yearning, an ecumenical document for the 70th anniversary of the “Nakba” (Day of Catastrophe) on May 15, 1948, remembering the displacement and dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians following the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The document was signed by more than a dozen religious groups in the United States, including the ELCA. Read the full document at: http://blogs.elca.org/peacenotwalls/elca-joins-more-than-a-dozen-other-churches-and-christian-organizations-in-a-statement-70-years-on-seeking-a-hopeful-future-in-a-time-of-yearning/
Members of the Holy Land Advocacy Team are available to present on this topic in your setting or to recommend speakers for you. Contact the synod office if you need contact information.
The curated and timely resources below are offered as a way to aide congregations wishing to engage more deeply and respond to the escalation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine that began in April, 2021 and continues:
Academy Award Nominated Short Film from 2021 is available on Netflix. Trailer: https://youtu.be/-Kl09vy6p2c. Yusef and his daughter Yasmine set out to buy his wife an anniversary gift. Between the soldiers, segregated roads, and checkpoints, how hard can it be to go shopping?