Working Group on the Middle East (WGME)


Dedication of Bethany beyond the Jordan

The Talitha Kumi Scouts, associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Beit Jala, were brought to perform before and after the service.

On January 6th, 2014, over 200 clergy, royalty, and guests joined the ELCJHL Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land in dedicating the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan under the patronage of King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein, located at the spot where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. ELCJHL was given 5 dunums of land at the Baptismal Site by His Majesty King Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 2008, making the ELCJHL one of seven churches to receive land with the hopes that each of the local churches would create a church home and center of their own at the site so that they can invite their churches worldwide to use the site for pilgrimage and baptism.

Bishop Munib Younan, of the ELCJHL, presided over the service with the help of clergy from around the world, including Rev. Rafael Malpica of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; as well as Synod President Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and all of the pastors for the ELCJHL. Bishop Younan spoke of how the vision for this church is more than just a pilgrimage site, but also as a way of sharing the plight of Middle East churches with those who come to visit the church. “Churches in the Middle East are destroyed, attacked, but in Jordan, we received permission to build our church. This shows that there is freedom of religion and that Christians are considered equal citizens. When pilgrims come, they need to know that Jordan and Palestine protect freedom of religion for Christians. This [church] shows, in a concrete way, a way to help Christians in the Middle East by connecting pilgrims all over the world with us here, in Jerusalem, and in Bethlehem. It was a gorgeous celebration and even the palace was present, the minister was present, Muslims and Christians alike. That is very significant for all of us,” said Bishop Younan. Minister Nidal Katamin spoke on behalf of His Majesty King Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on the importance of the church at the Baptismal Site. Music and art were a large part of the dedication.

Now that the church has been dedicated, Bishop Younan wishes to encourage churches around the world to include the Baptismal Site in Jordan as part of their pilgrimage: “I ask that churches around the world to partner with us – between places that want to come on pilgrimage. To start, on their pilgrimage with the Baptismal Site and to then visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem to be with us. This will be a blessing to us and all of us will benefit, not only the locals. For me, pilgrimage is reviving your faith when you visit and reviving the faith of others. We want every pilgrim to use this place for choirs, concerts, worship, baptisms, and weddings. This church is a church for all people, for the glory of God.” For those wishing to visit the Baptismal Site, please contact the Rev. Rolf Pearson at

The ELCJHL gives thanks for the generous support given and pledged by various international partners, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) working closely with the the Church of Sweden for their supporting in seconding the pastor and deacon, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland for their grant, and many other friends of the ELCJHL.

The church continues to accept donations for both the building’s completion and to cover costs. For those desiring to support the Baptismal Site monetarily, please send checks made out to “ELCA” and “GMG0196 – ELCJHL Baptismal Site” noted in the memo line to:

ELCA Global Mission
Attn: Finance, 10th Floor
8765 W. Higgins Rd.
Chicago, IL 60014

All donations to the ELCA are tax-deductible in the United States and will be applied directly to project costs.


36 Aid Agencies Call for End to Demolitions

Early in December numerous house demolitions occurred in the Israeli controlled West Bank of Palestine. In a single day, a total of 25 structures were demolished, displacing 39 people, 24 of whom are children.*

Since the resumption of the peace process in July, Israel has destroyed 207 Palestinian homes and property in the occupied West Bank, displacing 311 Palestinians, over half of whom are children.

These demolitions, in areas under Israeli control, have driven Palestinian families from their communities and their land, increasing poverty and the need for humanitarian assistance. Such demolition of civilian property is in direct violation of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law, which prohibits demolitions carried out without military necessity. Demolitions often occur to facilitate the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, with 60 percent of demolitions occurring in Palestinian communities close to settlement zones.


*Figures from 28 July 2013- 2 December 2013, Protection of Civilians Database, OCHA (United Nations Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

Prayer vigil for peace


A global ecumenical prayer vigil began on December 24, 2012, and will continue across the globe on the 24th of every month, until the occupation of Palestine ends, all violence ceases and there is a just and negotiated resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Gather a few people together at lunch time or join with area churches to host a prayer vigil together with an educational time after prayer. Luther Memorial Church, 2500 W Wilson, Chicago 60625, invites the public to join in their Prayer Vigil on the 24th of each month at 7 p.m.

We invite you to view this new video, launched by the ACT Palestine Forum (APF), calling on partners around the globe to participate in the APF Ecumenical Prayer Vigil held on the 24th of every month. The video highlights the urgent need for a just and peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

>>>Watch video<<<

Click here for the subtitled prayer from the video in English. You may want to use this for your own Prayer Vigil.

To include during your September 24 Prayer Vigil is that the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel is September 22-28 and the International Day of Prayer for Peace is September 21.
During the week following the International Day of Prayer for Peace, church organizations, congregations, and people of faith are encouraged to make a common witness by participating in worship services, educational events, and acts of advocacy in support a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians. 

Additional prayers may be found here.



Peace Not Walls Action Alert
End the Gaza Blockade




 The members of our synod's Working Group on the Middle East include:

Name Congregation
The Rev. Joanne Fitgerald   Martin Luther, Chicago (Convener)  
Mary Anderson Atonement, Barrington
Joan Ehrenberg St. Paul's, Evanston
Ghassan (Gus) Khoury   St. Elias, Chicago  
Kholoud Khoury   St. Elias, Chicago  
Delbert and Gretchen Leppke St. Paul's, Evanston
Pam Sall Ebenezer, Chicago (Information Liaison)
Joe Scarry  St. Luke's, Logan Square, Chicago
Don and Laurie Schuemann New Hope, North Aurora
Dieter Schulte Luther Memorial, Chicago
Ed Thompson   Gloria Dei, Northbrook









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