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January 2, 2009

ELCIC National Bishop Calls for Ceasefire in Gaza; ELCIC Members Encouraged to Join in Day of Justice and Peace on January 4

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) National Bishop Susan C. Johnson says the ELCIC joins with all people around the world calling for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the violence that erupted in Gaza during the Christmas season. Bishop Johnson asks all ELCIC members to join Middle East religious leaders who request that Sunday, January 4 be a day for justice and peace in the land of peace.

Referring to a recent statement by the heads of the churches in Jerusalem, Bishop Susan notes that, the ELCIC joins with our sisters and brothers in praying, 'to the Child in the manger to inspire the authorities and decision makers on both sides, the Israelis and Palestinians, for immediate action to end the current tragic situation in the Gaza Strip. We pray for the victims, the wounded and the broken-hearted. May the Lord God Almighty grant all those who have lost loved ones consolation and patience. We pray for all those living in panic and fear, that God may bless them with calm, tranquility and true peace.'

The call for solidarity comes as bishops of the ELCIC and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) prepare to visit religious, government and community leaders, congregations and schools in Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. The visit was scheduled months ago as part of an annual bishops' academy, a time of theological reflection and study.

The National Bishop, four Synod Bishops, and at least 39 bishops of the ELCA, including Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson, plus many spouses and 14 ELCA churchwide staff are expected to make the January 6-13 visit. A smaller delegation will visit Jordan beginning January 3. The visit is intended to show support for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), led by its bishop, the Rev. Munib A. Younan, and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The bishops also want to learn more about the complexities in the region, and promote just and peaceful solutions to the conflict.

This is a tragic yet opportune time for North American Lutherans to visit their partners in Palestine, said Bishop Younan, also an LWF vice president, in a news release. They will have a unique opportunity to witness the challenges of living in this disputed land.

Leading the delegations from the North American Lutheran churches are Bishop Johnson and Presiding Bishop Hanson. The visit is being coordinated with staff and leaders from both churches, the ELCJHL and the LWF.

As the bishops prepare for their visit, both the ELCIC and ELCA are monitoring events in the region. This week bishops and staff of both churches met several times by conference call.

There was a lot of discussion about whether we should go ahead with the trip given the eruption of violence in the area, says Bishop Johnson. But in the end it was a simple decision to make. If we truly want to be a church In Mission for Others, if we truly want to work for compassionate justice, then now more than ever this is the time for us to visit the region and do our best to fulfil the goals of the trip - awareness, accompaniment and advocacy.

Members of the ELCA and ELCIC are encouraged to pray for the bishops as they prepare and embark on the trip.

The ELCIC continues to accept financial gifts to assist relief efforts at Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), an LWF facility on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. AVH responds to the medical needs of cancer and dialysis patients from Gaza. To make a financial gift to assist AVH, visit: CanadaHelps.org (and indicate GHDA-AVH in the message field).

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 174,555 baptized members in 620 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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