We seek to keep you literally "updated" on movement in terms of truth and justice in the Middle East in general with a particular eye on Palestine. The links below will take you to various articles and websites that offer the perspective of leaders in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities. Additionally, Al-Bushra, ever vigilant, provides links to regular reporting as well as opinion pieces by journalists. The dates given here indicate when the link was posted; the most recent posting is at the top. Check the article itself for the date the information was released by the source.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Iraq: Our land Is a Land of Abraham

Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil Speaks About His Suffering Church

ROME, MARCH 30, 2012 (Zenit.org).- When Iraq’s new ambassador to the Holy See presented his credentials, Pope Benedict XVI stated unequivocally that this was a Church in a struggle for her very survival.

Mark Riedemann for Where God Weeps in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need interviews the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil in northern Iraq, Bashar Matti Warda, about the story of Catholics in Iraq.

Q: You entered the seminary at the tender age of 12. Did you always have a sense of your vocation?

Archbishop Warda: At the age of 10 we moved to Al Dora (South of Baghdad, Iraq), which was closer to the seminary. At that time I used to go there for catechism. I saw the 3rdand 4thyear students who were very kind, also in their way of looking after the spiritual aspect of our lives. They put so much effort into teaching us the principles of Christianity in a very difficult situation. That was my first sense of my vocation: I wanted to be like them.

Q: What was the greatest preparation for your priesthood?

Archbishop Warda: It was during the Gulf War. There was damage everywhere. I and 40 other young people from the southern part of Baghdad gathered during the long nights of bombing. I was in my first year of Theology and during these gatherings I got to know these young people deeper. They had so many questions about Christianity and about their faith. These moments required me to deepen my vocation and prepared me to be ready for the mission, which is beyond just the celebration of the Sacraments but required me to accompany my people especially during these moments of “poorness” that we all experienced at that time.

Q: They needed a priest to walk with them?

Archbishop Warda: They needed more than just a priest but a brother, a friend or what you call in Arabic “Abbeena” - essentially an “our father”. They had so many questions and this helped me in a way to rediscover on a daily basis what it means to be a priest in these moments of transition and difficulties especially when the sanctions were imposed upon Iraq. They were there to help me and I them. I learned be more attentive, listening more to the suffering of these people - not just the physical but also the spiritual sufferings.

Q: At age 41 you were ordained the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil in Northern Iraq, I think at the time one of the youngest bishops. What was your reaction when you heard of your appointment?

Archbishop Warda: It was a shock. The diocese was without a bishop for five years and those five years were very demanding because of the influx of over 5000 Christian families who fled the violence in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk and came to Erbil. The Church in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, is everything to a Christian. Whatever they need they go to the Church. When they need a job, even a government job, they approach the church for assistance. This is how it goes. The diocese was not ready to welcome these huge influxes and it split the diocese between the original families and the newcomers. There is a gap between the two and we are now just in the process of reconciliation.

Q: A year before your ordination the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul was killed. There were death threats to the church hierarchy. With all these challenges, of which you were well aware, did you not want to say: “I do not want this responsibility; it is too much”?

Archbishop Warda: It is not natural but I said I am ready whatever it takes. It is obedience. I knew that it was demanding and challenging. I have since undergone several experiences in Baghdad during and after the war. Thankfully Erbil is safe but there is a natural sense of fear which is also there but once you are committed you just go; that’s it.

Q: You completed your studies in Louvain, Belgium, and your thesis was on violence in Islam. Why did you choose this particular topic?

Archbishop Warda: In 1993 and 1994, the former regime in Iraq turned to Islam and the Islamic movement, not because they believed in it, but to establish greater control especially during the time of the sanctions. We then experienced a rise of violence inside Islam and among the Muslims especially in the Middle East. I studied the roots of these movements and I expected that there was going to be an increase in the politicization and radicalization of Islam. From 2001 to 2003 it was obvious to see an emergence of radicalized Islamic movements on the street, which is not normal. I realized that the whole of the Middle East is undergoing a very delicate and challenging time especially with Islamic radicalism.

Q: Is violence inherent in Islam or is Islam being manipulated by the fundamentalist?

Archbishop Warda: I would go for the second, manipulation, because we have lived together for so many years in a peaceful co-existence with the Shia or Sunni Muslims. It is certainly a manipulation as opposed to violence being inherent. There is of course violence in the history of Islam and still is; not so long ago a bishop was killed and so many families have been forced to leave Mosul and Baghdad. Many groups within Iraq believe that Islam is the only religion and using violence to achieve it is justifiable.

Q: For what purpose?

Archbishop Warda: Conquest. Their explanation is that it is part of their belief. It is part of Jihad. It is demanded of them. It is not a choice but a way of life. Some politicians use these movements - not believing in the idea - but only as a means for political end.

Q: Is there a dedicated campaign to force the Christians to leave?

Archbishop Warda: Violence is all over the country. The situation with the Christians is a special phenomenon. The Shia respond with violence towards the Sunni when they are attacked and vice versa while Christians are the only community that do not respond with violence. So it makes them special….

Q: …a soft target if you will…

Archbishop Warda: Exactly. And there are so many reasons to attack the Christians; the Christians are victims of a social, economic and political process and interest. There are people who discriminate and attack Christians because they are Christians; there are other groups that attack the Christians because it makes international news - to show the whole world that the political process in Iraq is a failure; there are people who attack Christians out of social interest and finally others for economic reasons. This last group threatens Christian families forcing them out of their homes simply in order occupy the abandoned houses.

Q: The American soldiers have left. What is your feeling for the future of the country? Will violence increase?

Archbishop Warda: I hope that we’ve learned that war is damaging, brutal and has cost us the lives of our loved ones. I also hope that we have learned that only dialogue between all Iraqi parties is beneficial to the country. But if it goes the other way and communication among the political parties is curtailed then we might experience more violence, even a civil war. And as you know, the minorities are the ones who will suffer from such situation and of course the Christians will be the target.

Q: Do you think a civil war is on the horizon?

Archbishop Warda: I hope and pray that it will not because we have seen the awfulness of this in Baghdad and Mosul.

Q: I want to ask you about the Internally Displaced Persons coming from the south and flooding into the north. What is the impact on your diocese?

Archbishop Warda: The experience of these poor people has prompted us to care for them pastorally. So it is a grace from God and a sign of hope for us. In the dioceses of Baghdad and Mosul, they are forced to close churches while for us we are thinking of building new churches for these families. We have over 5000 new Christian families and they need a place. It is not, however temporary, because many people, thanks be to God are purchasing property in Erbil and Ankawa. Purchasing a property is a sign that they think of permanent settlement.

Q: …which is a good sign for the country…

Archbishop Warda: Yes, it is a good sign for the country and for Christianity also because we can find a balance between a suffering area and a peaceful area. This will also give hope to the other bishops and priests in Baghdad and Mosul who will, at least, see a sign of hope because what saddens us are those families that leave the country. This is really a sad story because we know that they will never come back.

Q: Is there one particular story that struck you personally when you think of refugees?

Archbishop Warda: A family was asked to prepare their daughter to be married to an emir, a head of a small radical group, within 24 hours. The ultimatum was marriage; convert to Islam and to leave the house.

Q: This was in Baghdad?

Archbishop Warda: This was in Baghdad and they left immediately and went north.

Q: There has been a proposal to develop a Christian enclave on the Nineveh plains. Is this a good idea?

Archbishop Warda: In discussions with the Christian politicians, none of them have ever thought of this idea at all. There is no one who believes it a good idea to gather Christians in one spot. This has been misunderstood from the beginning. There are some historical villages and cities, which have been known as Christian. A certain Islamic group started buying the Christians properties at double the price just to own the property and to change the demographical status of the village until the people realized the deeper motivation behind this and they stopped selling. The demand is, instead of changing the demographics of these cities, to have constitutional rights to those historical cities and villages. No-one, however, has asked for a gathering of Christians in one place.

Q: As there is difficulty, so too you are experiencing an extraordinary number of faithful attending Mass as well as a growth in vocations?

Archbishop Warda: Our land is the land of Abraham. He was called at a time of barrenness. It was also a time of difficulty and God told him, see the sky and the multitude of stars. Your descendants will be like this. So it has always been. God gives us the sign of hope amidst the suffering so we can rely on Him and keep going. This is the joyfulness that we always experience and praise God for in the middle of suffering. In the middle of a crisis, God will always give us the sign of hope and joy that He is with us, Emmanuel.

Q: What can we do to help the Christians in Iraq?

Archbishop Warda: First of all, pray for this Church because the root of Christianity is in the Middle East. Especially in Iraq, you have so many important spiritual traditions. Secondly raise awareness. Every Christian should be made aware of the sufferings of the Christians in Iraq, to help people become aware of the sufferings of the minorities. We are afraid that in the bigger political picture, the minorities become lost and nobody will hear our stories. The Church in Iraq is a suffering Church, but give us the hope and the encouragement to continue our mission because we see that Christianity is valuable for the country. We cannot say, ‘well they rejected us and we should leave’; no. We still have so many people who believe with us that we have a mission towards this community especially during the times of violence. We have a mission there, a mission to hopefully play a very important part in bringing reconciliation to all the political parties. For that, we need a lot of prayers on your part and also the awareness that the Church is still very much alive there.

* * *

This interview was conducted by Mark Riedemann for “Where God Weeps," a weekly TV & radio show produced by Catholic Radio & Television Network in conjunction with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-34549?l=english

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on the Net:

For more information: www.WhereGodWeeps.org and www.acn-intl.org

Friday, March 30, 2012

Orthodox primates stress need for peace and stability in Middle East


A Synaxis of the Primates of Eastern Orthodox Churches in the Middle East met in Cyprus on 27 March to discuss the situation of Christians in the region and to agree on common approaches to solidarity, strengthening and support of Christian communities struggling to maintain their presence in their historic homes.

The invitation for the gathering was extended by Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus. He was joined by Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa, Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch and All the East, and Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

According to a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, it was agreed “that due to the current situation in Syria, this Synaxis has had a special importance and supported the immediate need for peace, security and stability.”

The primates proposed to “visit different decision-making centres in order to voice their concern for peace and reconciliation and to create awareness of the situation of the Christians in the Middle East”, the communiqué reported.

The primates noted that Syria is a land in which Christianity has existed since the days of the first apostles, and that today Syrian Christians “coexist with mosques in a unique symbolism of symbiosis, fraternity and mutual respect”.

The Eastern Orthodox leaders paid tribute to the late Pope Shenouda III of the Egyptian Coptic Church, who died on 17 March. They also reaffirmed their commitment to working closely with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC).

The participants in the Synaxis are leaders of member churches belonging to the MECC and to the World Council of Churches (WCC). The current issue of the WCC quarterly journal Ecumenical Review (March 2012) is devoted to the theme “Christians in the Middle East”.

Text of the Synaxis communiqué

WCC activities in solidarity with churches in the Middle East

Source: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/article/1634/orthodox-primates-stress.html

Vicar : "These are bad times for religious minorities..."

Church Protests 'Ethnic Cleansing' In Homs Neighborhoods

R eports of “ethnic cleansing” of Christians in the Syrian city of Homs have begun circulating in the aftermath of an assault on the city by the Syrian army, which drove out most armed elements of the Syrian opposition in mid-March. The Syrian Orthodox Church, which represents 60 percent of the country’s Christian minority, alleges that militant armed Islamists have managed to expel 90 percent of Christians from Homs and have confiscated their homes by force.

According to Orthodox Metropolitan sources, the militants went door to door in the Homs neighborhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan, forcing Christians to flee without giving them a chance to take their belongings. Church leaders say this “ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians” is being carried out by members of the Brigade Faruq. According to church sources, the Faruq Brigade is run by armed elements of Al Qaeda and various Wahhabi groups and includes mercenaries from Libya and Iraq. In Homs, according to a local source, there are only about 1,000 Christians left, living in hiding and fear in a neighborhood that “is caught between two fires,” as fighting continues between army and rebels.

The warnings issued by the Orthodox Church accompany new concerns from the New York-based Human Rights Watch about the deportment of the Free Syrian Army, army deserters and rebel fighters loosely organized under the opposition Syrian National Council. Western media have frequently noted the numerous flagrant human rights abuses perpetrated by Syrian government forces during the yearlong clampdown on internal opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Now Human Rights Watch warns of similar abuses by the irregular forces of Syria’s opposition. In an open letter to the leaders of Syria’s opposition, Human Rights Watch noted increasing evidence “of kidnappings, the use of torture and executions by armed Syrian opposition members.” The group urged resistance leaders to “ensure that all opposition members refrain from engaging in these unlawful practices.”

Regarding the reports of ethnic cleansing, the Vicar Apostolic of Aleppo, Bishop Giuseppe Nazzaro, O.F.M., said: “We have no sources to confirm this information directly, but we can say that these relationships are beginning to break down the wall of silence built up to now by the press worldwide.” He said, “In this situation Islamist and terrorist movements are making headway.”

The vicar apostolic recalled with concern some recent episodes: “Last Sunday, a car packed with TNT exploded in Aleppo in the vicinity of the school of the Franciscan fathers. By a miracle a massacre of children was avoided at the Center of Catechesis of the Church of St. Bonaventure only because the Franciscans, sensing danger, made the children leave 15 minutes before the usual time. Other bombs exploded in Damascus. These are bad signs for religious minorities.”

In Damascus the apostolic nuncio to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, said that a March 21 statement unanimously approved by the U.N. Security Council on the conflict in Syria “should be fully supported, as it is really urgent to put an end to violence.” The United Nation’s six-point plan calls for an end to troop movements and the use of heavy weapons, the progressive implementation of a cease-fire, the distribution of humanitarian aid, the release of those detained arbitrarily, the free movement of journalists and the beginning of political dialogue.

Source: http://www.americamagazine.org/content/signs.cfm?signid=973

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Palestinian Christian response to Michael Oren

A Palestinian Christian response to Michael Oren
Published Wednesday 14/03/2012 (updated) 17/03/2012 20:08

Christians take part in a Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem.(MaanImages/file)

As the parish priest of Ramallah, an op-ed by Israel's envoy to the US gave me pause for thought. Michael Oren's article spoke volumes of Israel's unending misrepresentation of Palestinian daily life.

The presence of our 13 Latin Patriarchate Schools throughout the West Bank and Gaza, for over 150 years, is a living witness to the coexistence of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

We have never faced in our schools or society the supposed persecution of Christians by Muslims to which Mr Oren referred in "Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians," published Friday in the Wall Street Journal.

Contrary to Oren’s statements, the persecution of Christians here is caused mainly by the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory. This occupation humiliates us, destroys our economy, causes demographic changes and deprives millions of the freedom of movement and their right to decent lives, in addition to the confiscation of land.

These are the main ways Christians are persecuted in Palestine.

As anyone with eyes can see, the wall that Israel has imposed has negatively affected the lives of Palestinians and has confiscated a large amount of what is left of Palestinian land.

Oren claims that Israel "allows holiday access to Jerusalem's churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza." In reality, the countless fixed and flying checkpoints have turned our lives into hell.

Israeli obstacles and practices do not differentiate between Muslims and Christians, and are imposed over a whole nation. The bullets that fired against Palestinians do not differentiate between Christians and Muslims.

But it is these imposed Israeli obstacles which strengthen the ties between Christians and Muslims. Christian students share the same classrooms with Muslim students and all school activities involve both religions.

For example last week at one of our schools, the al-Ahliyya College in Ramallah, we held a concert with peace songs, and 180 pupils of both faiths joined in the event.

The oppression of Christian communities is indeed "an injustice of historic magnitude."

Israel could begin righting this wrong by setting an example: Offer freedom to the Christian communities under its occupation before criticizing Muslim oppression in other countries in the Middle East.

No such oppression exists in Palestine.

The author is the director-general of the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine and the parish priest of Ramallah.

Source: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=467896

Friday, March 16, 2012

Syria Crisis: Caritas Lebanon Shelters Families Fleeing Violence

Even as former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan rushed to Damascus to meet Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on March 10 in a futile effort to achieve a ceasefire, church aid workers were scrambling to find housing for hundreds of Syrian refugees fleeing the increasing violence. About 200 families made their way to the border town of Qaa in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon on March 5 and were struggling in the region’s near-freezing temperatures.

The Rev. Simon Faddoul, president of Caritas Lebanon, said that “women and children and the elderly are coming out in the cold with nothing but the clothes on their backs.” The United Nations reported that as many as 2,000 Syrians crossed into Lebanon on March 5 and 6 to escape violence that has claimed hundreds of lives as President al-Assad continues a brutal crackdown on resistance to his regime.

Father Faddoul said most of the refugees arrived on foot from areas near the besieged city of Homs. “They are leaving the young men behind in Syria to guard their houses” from attack, Father Faddoul said. “These are people fleeing from war, their homes under bombardment.” Before the latest surge, about 100 families had fled to Lebanon and were receiving assistance from Caritas, the priest said. Father Faddoul estimated that about 40 of the newly arrived families were Christian; the rest were Muslim.

“This has nothing to do with religion. Whenever there is suffering, we have to be there with them and to help them,” he said. Father Faddoul said the availability of adequate housing in the poverty-stricken town of Qaa is limited. About 35 refugees are currently crammed into small rooms, but Caritas is collaborating with municipal officials to locate homes that three or four families could share.

Caritas Lebanon has had a regular presence in the Bekaa Valley, coordinating programs in agriculture to address the region’s poverty. “Now we have so many [new] concerns—how to find shelters, especially if the situation [in Syria] drags on,” Faddoul said. “We hope the situation doesn’t deteriorate further,” he added.

In Ottawa, Ontario, Carl Hetu, national director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, said his agency was monitoring the situation of Christians in Syria. “Right now,” he said, “there are thousands of people who are displaced. Among them are Christians, but that has been because of the conflict, not because of direct attacks on them.” Many fear that as the uprising among Syria’s primarily Sunni majority persists, minority groups, like the politically powerful Alawites and the nation’s Christian communities, could become targets for sectarian reprisals.

“Christians are stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Hetu said. “They cannot show approval of the Assad government, but they have to be careful, because they can’t be seen to be supporting the rebels, either.”

Mr. Hetu said his agency was preparing for a possible massive influx of Syrian refugees to neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, should the already tense situation grow worse. “Our offices in Jordan and Beirut are expecting the worst if the country goes into wide civil war or the Assad government falls,” he said.

Source: http://www.americamagazine.org/content/signs.cfm?signid=961

Thursday, March 15, 2012

American Bishops Express Concern for Mideast

Urge People to Be Peacemakers

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 15, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On Wednesday the administrative committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published a statement expressing concern over the conflicts in the Middle East.

"The daily reports of conflicts, turmoil, bloodshed and violence can leave no one indifferent and unconcerned,” they declared.

"With Pope Benedict we share a special bond with our brother bishops, especially of the churches of the East who continue to guide their precious faithful and care for them in the most difficult of circumstances,” the statement continued.

"We urge a change of heart and mind on the part of all those who sow division and hatred. We plead with leaders of nations to show respect for the rights and dignity of all the citizens of their respective countries,” they said.

"We insist that peace, which is ultimately a gift of God, must be made the goal of every nation not only internally but in consort with all the nations and peoples of the region.”

"In a time of political uncertainty, economic suffering and social and cultural crisis, men and women of good will must reach across the divisions that have separated them and become peacemakers refusing to be caught up in the whirlwind of hatred and death that violence sustains,” they urged.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-34462?l=english

Friday, March 2, 2012

Vatican Calls Bishops to Support Holy Land

Cardinal Sandri: Every Christian Is at Home in Jesus' City

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 1, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world concerning the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land.

The letter also bears the signature of Archbishop Cyril Vasil, secretary of the congregation.

"The Son of God made man, after having crossed this land announcing the Kingdom and confirming the word with mighty works, wonders and signs, went up to the Holy City to immolate Himself", reads the English-language version of the letter. "From that time, every Christian finds himself at home in that City and in that Land. This is possible thanks to the pastors in this place, who, by the will of the Lord Jesus, continue in our day also to gather our brothers and sisters in the faith to celebrate the love of Him Who 'makes all things new'.

"The Congregation for the Oriental Churches hereby reminds the bishops of the entire world of the unceasing request of Pope Benedict XVI that the mission of the Church in the Holy Places be generously supported. Although specifically pastoral, this mission at the same time offers a praiseworthy social service to all without exception. In this way, fraternity, which can overcome division and discrimination, increases and gives renewed impetus to ecumenical dialogue and interreligious collaboration. This constitutes an admirable work of peace and reconciliation, which is all the more necessary today, as we share the Holy Father’s preoccupation 'for the people of those countries where hostilities and acts of violence continue, particularly Syria and the Holy Land'".

"This year, Good Friday seems more fitting than ever as a sign of the needs of both pastors and faithful, which are bound up with the sufferings of the entire Middle East. For the disciples of Christ, hostility is often the daily bread which nourishes the faith and sometimes makes the echo of martyrdom. Christian emigration is exacerbated by the lack of peace, which tends to impoverish hope, changing it into the fear of facing alone a future that seems to exist only in the abandonment of one’s own country.

"Nonetheless, as was the case for the Gospel’s grain of wheat, so the trials of Christians in the Holy Land prepare without doubt a brighter tomorrow. The dawning of this new day, however, requires support now for schools, medical assistance, critical housing, meeting places, and everything else that the generosity of the Church has devised".

"We have the duty to restore the spiritual patrimony which we have received from these Christians’ two millennia of fidelity to the truth of the faith. We can and must do this by our prayer, by concrete assistance, and by pilgrimages. The Year of Faith, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican Council II, will provide particular motivation for us to direct our steps towards that Land. ... Next Good Friday, around the Cross of Christ, let us be conscious of being together with these brothers and sisters of ours. May the loneliness that is at times strongly felt in their situation be overcome by our fraternity".

Also made public today was a report prepared by the Custody of the Holy Land (a province of the Order of Friars Minor with responsibility for the Holy Places), listing the works carried out with the proceeds of the Good Friday collection of 2011. Restoration and maintenance has been carried out on numerous shrines, churches and convents in the Holy Land including such places as Bethlehem, Jerusalem (Gethsemane and the Shrine of the Flagellation, among others), Jaffa, Magdala and Mount Tabor. Other initiatives sought to improve welcome services for pilgrims.

A significant part of the proceeds was used to fund student scholarships, to help small business, and to build houses, schools and areas for children. Other recipients of aid included families, parish communities, the poor and cultural institutions.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-34390?l=english

Thursday, March 1, 2012

WCC congratulates Mitri Raheb for German Media Prize


The World Council of Churches (WCC) congratulates Palestinian Lutheran pastor Rev. Dr Mitri Raheb on receiving the 2011 “Deutscher Medienpreis” (German Media Prize). The award recognizes his individual work and Palestinian churches’ efforts for peace.

“Dr Raheb is a person with immense integrity. His understanding of Christian witness with clear words and profound actions makes him a deserving recipient of this honour,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC.

Raheb is pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). He is among four recipients of the prestigious prize to be awarded in Baden-Baden, Germany today.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the prize this year, it honours individuals who, in their work for peace, have quietly carried on with little media attention. The Deutscher Medienpreis jury said Raheb was being honoured for building the Bethlehem congregation’s education, health care and dialogue programmes.

Raheb is president of the Diyar Consortium and the ELCJHL Synod. The Bethlehem congregation and the Consortium, along with other congregational and educational ministries, reach out to thousands of individuals and families each year in Jerusalem, other parts of the West Bank and Amman, Jordan.

“Raheb’s vision for building peace from within, knowing the roots of Palestine, its culture, churches and people, makes his work unique. Therefore we acknowledge his contribution to the ecumenical movement with great pride,” said Tveit.

This is not the first time that Raheb’s work has been internationally recognized. In 2008 he received the Aachen Peace Prize. Also receiving the Deutscher Medienpreis today are Dr Denis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Stanislaw Petrow of Russia and Dr Sakena Yacoobi of Afghanistan.

The 3,000-member ELCJHL has five congregations in Jerusalem, Ramallah and the Bethlehem area, and in Amman, Jordan. The church is led by Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, who is also president of the Lutheran World Federation.

Source: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/article/1634/wcc-congratulates-mitri-r.html