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National Council of Churches Delivers Pastoral Letter in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, December 9, 2000-- Following is the text of a Pastoral Letter addressed to the Christian Communities in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. It was written on December 5 and delivered here today by members of the ecumenical delegation currently traveling in the Middle East as a witness to peace and reconciliation.

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
December 5, 2000
A Pastoral Letter to the Churches of Christ in Jerusalem and the Holy Land

Your Beatitudes, Your Eminences, Your Graces, reverend fathers in God, and all the beloved Christian community in Jerusalem:

Grace and peace to you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

On behalf of the churches of God gathered by the Holy Spirit in the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, in this time of earthly trial we greet you with love and in a firm faith that God, creator of all things in heaven and on earth, is with you in the Holy City that was the place of our Lord's glorious triumph over death, sin and the evil. For this we offer praise and thanks.

From afar in earthly distance, but nearby in our minds and hearts, we have witnessed with deep distress, sorrow and concern the resurgence of violence in the Holy Land. We have heard the witness of our brothers and sisters in Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, in Ramallah and Gaza, of the destruction that has been wrought, of the thousands of injured and hundreds of killed, of the population denied access to food, health care, employment, emergency services and freedom of movement. Even more, we have heard and seen the increase in rage and hate, which destroy the soul as weapons do the body.

Therefore, the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA offers its prayerful support to the Christian churches in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, that their continued presence in the land of Christ's birth, earthly ministry, death and resurrection may be strengthened, and that they may endure this time its long pain and struggle. Recognizing that only justice will bring peace, it affirms the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and its call for the preservation of the city of Jerusalem as a open, shared city where free access to the Holy Places and freedom of worship are assured for people of all faiths.

Our churches have been called upon to support through prayer Christians, Muslims and Jews and all those who are working for true justice and peace, and to convey to U.S. policy makers their concern for peace with justice and reconciliation in the region.

We have heard that, due to the fighting and violence, to the hindrance on travel, and to the tragic suffering and death of so many, events and ceremonies in Bethlehem celebrating the birth of our Lord two thousand years ago are being canceled. The lights of Bethlehem will be darkened. This news saddens us, darkening the brightness of our joy at Christ's Nativity. We are given hope, however, by the words of the Scripture, "those who sat in darkness have seen a great light". That light is Christ, whose light shines in our hearts, and illumines all so that we may in the paths of righteousness and peace.

May Christ Who deigned to be born in a stable in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, be born again in this year in the hearts of all who worship Him there and in Jerusalem and throughout the world.

Robert W. Edgar
General Secretary, NCCCUSA

John L. McCullough
Executive Director, CWSW

-end-

Story by James Solheim.  For all stories from the U.S. ecumenical church leaders' delegation in Jerusalem, go to the Web site of the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, www.loga.org

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