Wednesday, October 28, 2015

EVANSTON Nov 1: Christian Peacemaker Teams on the Recent Events in Israel / Palestine

Sunday, November 1, 2015
12:30 p.m. (follows 11 a.m. worship service)
Trinity Lutheran Church
3637 Golf Road, Evanston

Palestinian Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) field worker Yousef Natsheh will discuss the startling recent escalation of Israeli violence, which has targeted not only Palestinians but also international observers, human rights activists, and journalists.

CPT worker Charles O'Rourke will join Yousef to describe the current contours of the Israeli occupation, focusing on trends in the city of Hebron and CPT's work for a just and sustainable peace in Palestine. Speaking will be followed by a time for questions around 1:30.

A light lunch will be served.

For more information, please e-mail Cathi at

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WGME Monthly Meetings -- September, 2015

The Working Group on the Middle East 
welcomes your participation!

Our next meeting will be

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
2:00 p.m.
Martin Luther Lutheran Church
6850 W Addison, in Chicago

For info on how to Skype into the meeting,
email ethompson [at]

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

WGME Leads Chicago Event on International Day of Prayer for Peace

The prayer gathering took place in Federal Plaza, with the Calder sculpture in the background.
Chicago: Interfaith Gathering for Peace in Palestine/Israel on September 21, 2015
(Photo: Josh Evans)

Members of the Chicago community participated in an Interfaith Gathering for Peace in Palestine/Israel on September 21, 2015, in Federal Plaza, organized by WGME.

The gathering was in connection with the International Day of Prayer for Peace during World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel.

Read the full coverage of the event in the Chicago Monitor article, "Chicagoans Commemorate World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel 2015," and see the group singing "We Shall Overcome" - video on Facebook.

Thanks to Josh Evans for the great photos accompanying this article!

Many WGME members were in attendance.
Chicago: Interfaith Gathering for Peace in Palestine/Israel on September 21, 2015
(Photo: Josh Evans)

Pastors Emily Heitzman (left) and Joanne Fitzgerald (second from left) lead prayers.
Chicago: Interfaith Gathering for Peace in Palestine/Israel on September 21, 2015
(Photo: Josh Evans)

Participants included Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) seminarians.
Chicago: Interfaith Gathering for Peace in Palestine/Israel on September 21, 2015
(Photo: Josh Evans)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Metro Chicago Synod Approves Resolution on U.S. Aid to Israel

The following resolution was APPROVED at the annual synod assembly of the Metro Chicago Synod, ELCA, taking place May 29-30, 2015:


WHEREAS, under international law established by the Fourth Geneva Convention, the State of Israel, in its occupation of the Palestinian territories, is not granting the Palestinian people their rights to full access to water, food, shelter, medical, and educational services; and

WHEREAS, in violation of the 1993 Oslo Accord’s call for a two state solution to the conflict, Israel continues to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land, erect a separation wall, deny free movement to Palestinians, and maintain a blockade of the Gaza Strip; and

WHEREAS, the Congress of the United States, under the Foreign Assistance Act, requires that a country receiving U.S. financial aid not engage in violation of human rights of people under its governance; and

WHEREAS, the Congress of the United States, under the Arms Export Control Act, requires that a country receiving U.S. military arms not use these weapons for oppression of another people; and

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Chicago Synod in assembly endorsed the October 15, 2012, letter sent to Congress by 15 American Christian leaders, and that the Illinois congressional delegation was notified of this action; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that members of the congregations of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod be encouraged to contact their congressional representatives and their senators to encourage their support and action to terminate US financial aid until the state of Israel seeks a peace agreement, ends its occupation of Palestinian territory, and enables an independent Palestinian state and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Metropolitan Chicago Synod Assembly through the Synod Council make this resolution known to members of the Illinois Congressional delegation who serve citizens living in our synod and the public at large and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Synod Assembly direct the Synod Council to forward this resolution to the Church Council for consideration and possible action

Submitted by:

Mr. Dieter Schulte , Luther Memorial Lutheran Church , Chicago , Ill.

The Rev. Joanne Fitzgerald, Luther Memorial Lutheran Church , Chicago , Ill

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

ELCA Presiding Bishop Visits Companion Church in the Holy Land

ELCA delegation visits the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem during
January 2015 pilgrimage to the Holy Land. (Source: Living Lutheran)

ELCA News Service

CHICAGO (ELCA) – In her first visit to the Middle East as presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton led a delegation Jan. 11-17 to meet with leaders and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land – a companion church of the ELCA. The delegation also met with political and religious leaders, including a meeting with the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

The ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) are member churches of The Lutheran World Federation, a global communion of 144 churches representing more than 70 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion's only member church from the United States.

During their visit, the delegation met with students of the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour and Dar Al-Kalima Lutheran School in Bethlehem. The school and educational programs of the ELCJHL employ nearly 200 educators, administrators, social workers and others, and nearly all faculty and staff are Palestinians from Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jerusalem and elsewhere. The delegation visited Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem, and they toured the Environmental Education Center in Beit Jala, a ministry of the ELCJHL, to learn more about the denomination’s special ecological projects.

“The impact of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land upon the lives of all people in the region is out of proportion to its size. This relatively small church does enormous work in education, humanitarian aid, environmental study, advocacy, ecumenical and inter- religious relations and peacemaking all while dealing with the difficult and ever present reality of the Israeli occupation,” said Eaton.

“This land has a unique beauty: green and gentle in Galilee, severe and barren in the mountains and hills around Jerusalem and the West Bank. It wasn't what I expected the first time I saw it. It made me aware of all of the preconceptions I bring with me to this place. That is a dangerous thing to do,” she said. This trip marks Eaton’s third visit to the Middle East, first as ELCA presiding bishop.

Visit to Augusta Victoria Hospital
Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, the hospital’s chief executive officer, and the
Rev. Mark Brown, LWF regional representative in Jerusalem,
accompanied Bishop Eaton on the tour. (Source: Living Lutheran)
The delegation visited the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem and also toured Augusta Victoria Hospital, a ministry of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The hospital, founded in 1950, offers the only cancer facility for residents of the West Bank and Gaza, and it employs more than 300 people. In 2014, Augusta Victoria Hospital offered  more than 13,200 dialysis sessions, nearly 10,000 chemotherapy sessions and more than 14,000 interventions in the radiation oncology unit on an outpatient basis.

“Augusta Victoria Hospital is a vital ministry” said Eaton. “It is something that The Lutheran World Federation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are committed to supporting, have been, are now and always will be.”

“We were very honored by the visit of Bishop Eaton and her delegation,” said the Rev. Munib Younan, bishop of the ELCJHL and president of The Lutheran World Federation.

“We arranged a program where she could meet all concerned parties, all ecumenical parties, representatives from all of the Abrahamic faiths, and the work of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and The Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem. Through her visit, this accompaniment relationship that started in 1988 was strengthened even more. It has helped us to see that we both in the ELCJHL and ELCA have been called together for a common mission for the love of God in the Middle East and the United States," said Younan.

The ELCA delegation met with representatives of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land – established in 2005 to ensure the ongoing engagement of the leadership and representation of the official religious institutions of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith communities in the Holy Land.

(l-r) Rev. Munib Younan, ELCJHL bishop; Patriarch Theophilos III, patriarch 
of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem; ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.
(Source: Living Lutheran)

In addition to the council, the delegation met with Patriarch Theophilos III, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem; Patriarch Fouad Twal, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; and Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, Patriarch of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Eaton and others from her delegation met with Palestinian Authority officials, the mayor of Bethlehem, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, Israeli deputy foreign minister officials, the U.S. Consul General and others.

Eaton addressed a gathering of ELCJHL pastors and the denomination’s Church Council. The relationship between the ELCJHL and ELCA “is deeply important to us,” she said, adding that she sees hope for the land through the ministries of ELCJHL. “When I think of people, Christian brothers and sisters, who are in situations that seem hopeless and they have hope, they give me hope. This church is a source of hope for me when I think there can be no hope,” she said.

Additional images of the ELCA delegation’s visit are available at 

Renewing efforts for a two-state peace agreement

In a January 21 letter to President Obama, members of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East urged the president – in coordination with the Quartet (the United Nations, United States, the European Union and Russia) – to work with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to renew efforts and achieve a negotiated two-state peace agreement “before it is too late.” Eaton is among the Christian, Jewish and Muslim endorsers of the letter.

In their letter, the religious leaders wrote that “the Gaza war demonstrated once again that there is no military solution to the conflict” and “given developments on the ground, including dangerous new violent clashes in Jerusalem, simply urging the parties to return to negotiations is no longer sufficient.”

The leaders said that “the outline for a two-state peace agreement is widely known and would likely be accepted by majorities of Israelis and Palestinians if presented by their leaders as the only viable alternative to more violence and war.”

The leaders urged the president to authorize U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry – coordinating with the Quartet and “drawing on internationally accepted principles and practical ideas from previous official and informal negotiations” – to offer a balanced and fair framework to the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority as the basis for negotiating a two-state peace agreement to end conflict. Religious leaders also offered to meet with Kerry to discuss ways they can be helpful.

Related posts

On October 22, 2014, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued a letter to President Barack Obama on concerns related to peace and justice in the Middle East. 
(See October 22 Lettter from ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton to President Obama on Israel )

In August, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was interviewed on the Al Mayadeen TV network, based in Beirut, Lebanon. Al Mayadeen claims a viewership of about 20 million in the Middle East and beyond.

(See Sunday, Aug. 10 - Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton interviewed on the Al Mayadeen TV network )

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sunday, February 22 - Aziz Abu Sarah speaks at St. James (Lake Forest)

Aziz Abu Sarah
Thinking Outside the Box: New Approaches to Peace in Israel and Palestine

Join the conversation with Aziz Abu Sarah.

3:00 p.m., Sunday, February 22, 2015
St. James Lutheran Church
1380 N. Waukegan Road
Lake Forest, IL 60045

Aziz tackles the uncomfortable questions:

* Can there be peace in Israel and Palestine?
* Who Should I Support? Israelis or Palestinians?
* What's religion's role in solving the Israeli Palestinian conflict?

Aziz Abu Sarah is the Executive Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, National Geographic Explorer and a 2014 TED fellow and provides analysis for Al Jazeera, CNN, and Fox.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

WGME Joins "No Way to Treat a Child Campaign" - Congressional Meetings Set for March 18

Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy:
"Israeli Military Detention – No Way to Treat a Child."
The Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy has created a campaign entitled "Israeli Military Detention – No Way to Treat a Child."

Many Palestinian children in the Occupied Territories live in fear that they will be snatched and detained by Israeli authorities. Their fear is more than a child’s nightmare: Children aged 12-17 in Israeli military detention are often subjected to physical, emotional and psychological harm. The 47-year-long Israeli occupation has developed a systematic and sustained pattern in which abuse of children is the norm.

(Check out "Alone" - a 9 minute You Tube video - to get a feel for the Israeli military practices associated with child detention.)

The aims of the campaign are to:

* Stop night arrests
* Stop blindfolds and restraints
* Stop separation from parents
* Stop physical abuse and verbal threats
* Stop isolation and coerced confessions

The WGME is a coalition partner for this campaign.

The Chicago Faith Coalition plans to hold a Congressional Briefing in Washington, D.C., later in 2015.


Contact Ed Thompson
 to become one of the WGME
coordinators for this campaign.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Redeemer Lutheran Church, Hinsdale: Introduction to Holy Land Issues

Members of WGME will provide presentations and lead discussions at two upcoming events at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Hinsdale:

Session 1: Sunday, January 18, 2015 - 9:45 a.m.

Session 2: Sunday, January 25, 2015 - 9:45 a.m.

Members of WGME who will help guide the class include:

Kholoud Khoury, member of St. Elias Christian Church, Chicago, is a native of Palestine and serves the ELCA in the capacity of Program Director, Arab and Middle Eastern Ministries.

Dieter Schulte, member of Luther Memorial Church, Chicago, was born in Germany at the time of Hitler, and will speak to both the social dimensions of state oppression as well as some of the historical dimensions of U.S. and European support for Israel.

Mary Anderson, member of Atonement Lutheran Church, Barrington, has personal knowledge of Israel/Palestine and will focus on the role of Zionism in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

The presentations will include screening of The Stones Cry Out. Examples will be provided of books, study guides, and other resources for continued study.

Attend one session or both!


Redeemer Lutheran Church
136 East First Street
Hinsdale, IL 60521

See map on Google

Parish Room (on main level of the church)
If you enter by the main parking lot entrance, you'll go up half a flight of stairs and all theway down the hall. It's theroom with two sets of double doors across from the stained glass windows.

Related posts

The Working Group on the Middle East is encouraging Metropolitan Chicago Synod congregations as they do their education and faith formation planning for 2014-15 to include at least one book study about the Middle East.

(See Adult Education: Learn More About the Middle East During 2014-15 )

The Working Group on the Middle East had the honor of hosting a book event with Rabbi Brant Rosen on February 16, 2014. Rabbi Rosen read from his book, Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi's Path to Palestinian Solidarity, and engaged us in a conversation about justice in Israel/Palestine.

(See WGME Hosts Rabbi Brant Rosen Describing His "Path To Palestinian Solidarity" )

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chicago: Monthly Prayer Vigil for Middle East 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 Israeli occupation is dismantled, violence in the Middle East ends, and all can celebrate a just and lasting negotiated resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In Chicago, you can participate in the monthly prayer vigil at:

Luther Memorial Church
2500 W. Wilson Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

Prayer vigil the 24th of every month at 7:00 PM
Contact church office at 773-539-3018

Members of Luther Memorial are active leaders of WGME, and have share the following prayer.

A Litany for Peace and Justice

This work for peace and justice is hard.  It is demanding, time consuming, and sometimes tedious.  Will you commit yourself to work for peace and justice?

I will and I ask God to help me!

This work for peace and justice can cause tensions and rifts.  This work can drive wedges between people, but this work needs us to stick together.  Will you dedicate yourself to doing your best to work with others?

I will and I ask God to help me!

This work for peace and justice is more effective when we embrace and respect diversity. Will you commit yourself to embracing and respecting difference?

I will and I ask God to help me!

This work for peace and justice requires creativity. This work demands that we push ourselves to look for new possibilities. Will you dedicate yourself to thinking and acting creatively for peace and justice?

I will and I ask God to help me!

This work for peace and justice requires faith and hope that a better tomorrow is possible.  Will you dedicate yourself to find sources of faith and hope in your life?

I will and I ask God to help me!

This work for peace and justice calls us to find inner peace.  Will you commit yourself to promote peace both within and without?

I will and I ask God to help me!