ELCA presiding bishop calls for end to incursions onto Palestinian land, demolition of Palestinian property

ELCA News

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has urged chairs and ranking members U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees to call upon the Israeli government to halt the ongoing incursions onto Palestinian land and demolition of Palestinian property.

In a Sept. 10 letter to U.S. officials, Eaton wrote to express her distress about actions of the Israeli government that make prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians “more difficult in the short- and medium-term and threaten further the realization of a just two-state solution which so many of us seek.”

As ELCA presiding bishop, Eaton said that she follows closely the situation in Israel and Palestine, “because the events there directly affect the situation and ministries of our companion church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and the lives, livelihoods and security of Israelis and Palestinians.”

“We join our sisters and brothers of the Roman Catholic tradition in expressing in the strongest possible terms our outrage over the resumption of construction of the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley in the West Bank,” wrote Eaton, who visited the Cremisan Valley this year. “I could see the existing and then-potential threats that the planned path of the wall would have on the Palestinian communities there,” she wrote. The Most Rev. Oscar Cantu, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, urging the Israeli authorities to stop work on the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley. Lutherans and Catholics in the United States have been in dialogue for the past 50 years.

In her letter, Eaton noted that The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a member of the Association of International Development Agencies – a coordination forum of international non-governmental and non-profit organizations working in the occupied Palestinian territory – brought to her attention that a “surge in home demolitions by the Israeli Army in August. They determined that the recent demolitions ‘rendered 132 people homeless, including 82 children, accounting for a quarter of the displacement from demolitions in 2015 and marking the highest number of people rendered homeless from demolitions in nearly three years.’ They also note, ‘These demolitions are being carried out against the backdrop of the government of Israel’s plan to ‘relocate’ 7,000 Palestinians living in 46 communities throughout Area C. The international community has repeatedly called on the government of Israel to cancel the ‘relocation’ plan. The plan affects Bedouin and herding communities in the central parts of the West Bank, including the E1 area around Jerusalem, where the government of Israel plans to expand settlements, which are illegal under international law.'”

The LWF was one of more than 30 international organizations that called on world leaders to take action against the ongoing demolitions. The LWF is 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.

The series of events are “very disturbing and destructive,” said Eaton, “both for those directly affected as well as the broader cause of promoting better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians and bringing to an end their too-long-standing conflict.”

Through the ELCA Peace Not Walls campaign, this church’s members are encourage to write their “members of Congress and senators to urge them to call upon the Israeli government to halt these harmful actions immediately and avoid further hostile activities that dim the prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” Information is available at https://secure2.convio.net/elca/site/Advocacy;jsessionid=209FABF285757E6DDAAED67017A08BDB.app296a?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=463.