Prayer, Work for Middle East Peace, Says Presiding Bishop

Jun 17, 2003 10:20 AM EDT

"We denounce the forces of violence and grieve with those who mourn the loss of loved ones."

Eight member delegation of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America(ELCA) had a trip to the Middle East, encouraged the churches by speaking with ecumenical church eaders, Muslims, and high officials of Israel government.

The visit to the West Bank region, started from May 21 to 28 was also to demonstrate support for the 2,000-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and Palestine.

The delegation participated in worship services, visited refugee camps, holy sites, schools and other institutions. They mostly discussed about the violence that continueouly happens in Middle East especially about the resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

However, on June 11, at least 27 people died in Jerusalem and Gaza by a suicide bus bombing which was combined with Israeli military retaliation against leaders of the extremist group Hamas.

The leader of the delegation, Rev. Mark S. Hanson said "during the visit, we realized the resolution for peace in the Middle East is our prayer and work.

"Recently I pray that we all must show restraint against further violence. We hope ELCA members to constantly pray for peace and support US to help the Middle East for everlasting peace," said Hanson.

He also added "Israel must end the occupation and its practice of establishing settlements in Palestinian territories."

The delegation had 8 members, the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod, and the Rev. Floyd M. Schoenhals, bishop of the ELCA Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod, Tulsa, Okla.

During the visit, Rev. Floyd M. Schoenhals gave a messege to the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod, "We needed to let members here know their brothers in the ELCA are with them."

Rev. Bouman spoke in a written message the idea of the 'right of return' for Palestinian refugees to their land in the State of Israel and asserted "it is an absolute non-starter with even the most moderate Israeli Leaders."

By Young Sun Lee
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