Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Statement of Middle East Christians on Hamas election victory

Jan. 30, 2006
From the ELCA Middle East Networking List

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) put out a statement yesterday from Bishop Munib Younan on the Palestinian elections.

January 2006 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land Bishop Dr. Munib Younan Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem, City of Peace

Thoughts on the Palestinian Elections

This week the Palestinian people have spoken in a clear and democraticprocess that they want a new and more effective government. With a voterturnout of 77 percent, one of the most effective expressions of democracy inthe Arab world was achieved despite the hardships of occupation. We areproud of this great achievement and believe it illustrates our people'sdesire for a modern, civil, democratic state.We are still somewhat in shock, however, at the extent of the Hamas victory.We need time for self-evaluation to ask ourselves why this happened and whatit means.We believe it was probably an accumulation of many things:

1) Desperation in the street that despite an ongoing "peace process"occupation continued unabated as did land confiscation, settlement growth,home demolitions, the deteriorating situation in East Jerusalem and thecreation of the Separation Wall that enclosed us into enclaves intended tosomeday be euphemistically named a "state." In talking with many who votedfor Hamas, they did not support a radical Islamist agenda or violence, theywanted change and reform in a system that has been broken for a long time.

2) Division, corruption and lack of accountability within the former rulingparty of Fatah.

3) Lack of substantial political support by the US and Israel for thePalestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his non-violentmandate - support which could have led to more tangible signs ofimprovement - instead caused less security and more disorder.

4) In the face of the economic hardship, Hamas' social programs providedthe aid and comfort Palestinian families needed, while the administrationcontinued in mismanagement and deadlock over the ongoing conflict.

5) The unilateral nature of the withdrawal from Gaza was then interpretedby some as a sign that Israelis weren't negotiating with Abu Mazen anyway,and that perhaps it was Hamas that ultimately triggered the withdrawal.

Today there is fear and hope, threat and promise, and time will tell whetherwe as two peoples can seize this opportunity to break out of our torturedhistory of standoff and conflict. Partners for peace are made, not born, bythe ways we treat one another and shape together our common destiny.

We in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL)will continue our Christian witness and service for justice, peace andreconciliation. We will still continue to renounce any kind of violence fromanyone - including suicide bombing, extra-judicial assassinations,incursions,home demolitions, land confiscation or any other kind of destruction of lifeand liberty.

We still envision a two-state solution with two, viable,contiguous and independent states living equally side by side with sharedresources, a shared Jerusalem and a just resolution for the refugees and theproblem of illegal settlements and land confiscation according tointernational law. We will continue to work adamantly for a modern, civil,democratic society that respects freedom of religion, freedom of speech andequal rights for women and men.We ask the Palestinian people, especially Palestinian Christians, not topanic and arrive at hasty conclusions but to persevere and remain steadfastin this land. Now more than ever we need to continue to be an active,integral part of the people and to continue as Christian witnesses forjustice, instruments of peace and ministers of reconciliation.

This is a moment of challenge and possibility in the midst of unexpectedchange. We as a church pledge ourselves to watch, pray and work unceasinglyand prophetically so that the policies implemented for the Palestinianpeople will be guided by justice, equality and freedom.We ask you as faith and world leaders to support these positions of ourchurch because this is the path that will ensure pluralism, human rights,justice and freedom for all at this crucial stage. We urgently ask our Christian sisters and brothers to work with our ministries in schools,churches and organizations to ensure that Christian witness is strengthenedand not diminished. Please keep us in your prayers, thoughts and actions.

We also challenge both sides to go beyond the tired old rhetoric that hasonly brought us stalemates and conflict. Let us work together to find newlanguage and proposals to build common ground on our shared interests forjustice and reconciliation and an end to occupation and violence. We believethat isolation of those with whom we disagree only adds to prejudices andstereotypes and the probability of more extremism.

We continue to believe that Israeli security is dependent on freedom andjustice for the Palestinians, and freedom and justice for the Palestiniansis dependent on the security of the Israelis. We urge both sides torecognize this because our futures are intertwined, and our children shouldbe able to live in freedom without fear, occupation, violence or anyviolation of Human Rights.

Bishop Dr. Munib Younan

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If you have received this bulletin directly from us, it is because yousubscribed to the ELCA Middle East Networking List. Please forward thisbulletin to others who are interested in a just peace for Palestine andIsrael.To Join (or Leave) this List, go to on the web.Ann HafftenCoordinator for Middle East NetworkingDivision for Global Mission,, ext. 6466