February 10, 2009

Israel questioned over bishops shut out of Gaza

by David Masters

Leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church (TEC) have written to Israel asking it to explain why two bishops were refused entry into Gaza, whilst others in the church delegation were allowed to cross the border.

Writing to Israel’s ambassador to the United States, ELCA presiding bishop, Rev. Mark S. Hanson, and TEC presiding bishop, Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, asked why two Palestinian bishops were refused entry to Gaza when they had permits from Israeli officials to do so.

Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), and Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, were denied entry to Gaza on February 4.

They were the only two Palestinians in their delegation, and the only two who were denied entry.

“We are concerned that they were not allowed freedom of movement into Gaza to carry out their pastoral responsibilities,” wrote Hanson and Jefferts Schori.

“We believe that it is urgent that adequate humanitarian assistance reach the people of Gaza immediately, and we underscore Bishop Dawani’s statement that ‘most certainly pastoral care is an important factor in such services.'”

The two Palestinian bishops refused entry remain defiant in the face of their humiliation.

“Although we are denied entry, whatever the reasons of the Israeli security, this will never change our policy,” Younan said.

“We still believe that violence from any side will not bring justice and peace.

“It will bring more hatred and extremism and bitterness between the two peoples.

“Only nonviolent ways will assure security for Israelis and freedom for Palestinians.”

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