Palestinian bishop critical of Israeli policies wins top Lutheran post

BERLIN (JTA) — A Palestinian bishop who has been a harsh critic of Israeli settlements and a proponent of a shared capital in Jerusalem was chosen for a top post in the Lutheran Church.

Munib Younan, 59, told Lutheran leaders after his election as head of the Lutheran World Federation in Stuttgart on Saturday that he hoped to contribute to building peace in the Middle East.

The Jerusalem native said his church must dedicate itself to fighting "extremism and xenophobia, especially anti-Semitism and Islamophobia," according to the Deutsche Welle news agency. He added that "The conflict in my own home is never far from my thoughts."

Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, will head a church federation with 145 member churches in 79 countries.

Some critics have charged Younan with being anti-Zionist. While he declared support for a two-state solution in a 2009 interview with PBS, he also suggested that Israeli policies were to blame for violent attacks on Israel.

"We Palestinians, Christian or Muslim, care for the security of Israel," he told PBS. "But the security of Israel depends on the freedom and justice of the Palestinians."

In 2006 he signed "The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism," condemning the pro-settler Christian movement as "detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel." The declaration also promoted "nonviolent resistance as the most effective means to end the illegal occupation."

In the PBS interview, Younan also said that Palestinians had to understand the trauma of the Holocaust for Jews, and Jews and Israelis must "understand the deep trauma of occupation in the depth of us Palestinians. Although there is no comparative suffering. Suffering is suffering."
 

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