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Munib A. Younan

SUNHAK PEACE PRIZE

Munib A. Younan

Munib A. Younan

Munib A. Younan

Born 1950.09.18
Country Jerusalem
Awarded for A pioneer in religious harmony
Expedition of the harmony between the 3 religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, as well as the reconciliation between the Catholic and Protestant Churches
Co-laureate
Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan is a pioneer who has devoted his entire life to religious harmony, believing that dialogue and reconciliation between religions are the basis for human peace. Born in Jerusalem in 1950 as a Palestinian refugee, Bishop Younan has been on the path of religious harmony for more than four decades since he was appointed a Lutheran priest in 1976. In particular, he led religious harmony for world peace by serving as chairman of the Lutheran World Federation from 2010 to 2017, building a wide network of religious leaders from different faiths.

Academic background

  • • Graduated from Finnish Jürvenpü Luther Theological Seminary (Finland)
  • • Master of theology at the University of Helsinki (Finland)
  • • Graduated from Chicago Lutheran School (USA)

Honarary Degree

  • • Honorary Ph.D. at Germany's Münster (Germany)
  • • Honorary Ph.D. of theology of Wartburg College, (USA)

Professional Background

  • 2016-Present Board Member, Yasser Arafat Foundation
  • 2016-Present Honorary President of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)
  • 2016-Present Honorary President for the Evangelical Family Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)
  • 2010-Present Chair, Executive Committee & the Board of Trustees, (Lutheran World Federation, LWF)
  • 2010-Present Member, Executive Committee, Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC)
  • 2007-Present Chair, Board of Trustees Al Diyar Consortium in Bethlehem (ELCJHL)
  • 2007-Present Chair, Baptismal Site Committee (ELCJHL)
  • 2007-Present Chair, Board of Trustees, Severance and Pension Fund (ELCJHL)
  • 2007-Present Board Member of the Swedish Theological Institute, Jerusalem
  • 2004-Present Chair, Abraham’s Herberge in Beit Jala (ELCJHL)
  • 2004-Present International Grand Chaplain, International Grand Priory of Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, OSMTH)
  • 2003-Present Member, Board of Managers, Near East School of Theology in Beirut
  • 2002-President Chair, Local Reference Group, and Founding Member of original church initiative (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel, EAPPI)
  • 2001-Present Member, Priory of Finland (OSMTH)
  • 1998-Present Bishop of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, ELCJHL (Consecrated January 5th, 1998)
  • 1998-Present Chairperson, Coordination Committee for Cooperation between the ELCJHL and Overseas Partners (ELCJHL)
  • 1998-Present Chair, Evangelical Lutheran School Board, (ELCJHL)
  • 1998-Present Chair of the Board, Augusta Victoria Hospital, Lutheran World Service in Jerusalem
  • 1995-Present Member, Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)
  • 2010-2017 President, The Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
  • 2010- 2016 President, Evangelical Family Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)
  • 2003- 2010 Vice-President & Member of Council (LWF)
  • 2003-2010 Member, Executive Committee & the Board of Trustees (LWF)
  • 2004-2010 President, Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC)
  • 2001-2004 Member of the Board, Vocational Training Center in Beit Hanina (LWF)
  • 1999-2003 Vice-President, Board of Managers, Near East School of Theology, Beirut
  • 1998-2010 Chair, Asian Regional Church Leaders Conference (LWF)
  • 1998-2006 Member, World Council of Churches Orthodox Study Group (WCC)
  • 1998-2004 Member, Executive Committee (FMEEC)
  • 1998-2004 President, Board of Managers, International Christian Committee (ICC), Jerusalem
  • 1997-2010 Member, Committee for the Department for Mission and Development (LWF)
  • 1997-2003 Vice-Chair, Program Committee for Mission Development (LWF)
  • 1997-2003 Vice-Chair, Board of Trustees, Institute for Ecumenical Research (LWF)
  • 1993-1998 Member, Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (MECC)
  • 1993-1998 Member, Theological Committee (FMEEC)
  • 1990-1998 President, Synod of the ELCJHL
  • 1990-1995 Member, Life and Service Committee (MECC)
  • 1985-1990 Member, Education Committee (MECC)
  • 1984-2000 Pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hope in Ramallah (ELCJHL)
  • 1979-1984 Pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Beij Jala
  • 1976-1979 Pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem (ELCJHL)
  • 1977-1988 Youth Pastor (ELCJHL)
  • 1976-1997 Teacher & Coordinator of Christian Education, ELCJHL Schools

Awards

  • 2019 Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award (Catholic Church)
  • 2018 The Building Bridges of Understanding Award (Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.)
  • 2017 Niwano Peace Prize (Niwano Foundation, Japan)
  • 2016 Jerusalem Golden Award (Al Quds University, Palestine)
  • 2014 Civis Mundi Award (Canada)
  • 2013 Al-Hussein Decoration for Distinguished Service, First Class (Jordan)
  • 2008 Mikael Agricola Medallion (Finland)
  • 2007 Templar Peace Prize (Jerusalem)
  • 2005 Bethlehem Star Award (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas)
  • 2004 Holyland Christian Ecumenical Foundation Prize (Washington, D.C.)
  • 2004 Bethanien Prize (Methodist Church, Oslo, Norway)
  • 2001 Human Rights Award (United Nations Association, Washington, D.C.)
  • 2001 The Finnish Peace Prize (Finnish Christian Peace Movement)

Recognitions

  • 2010 President of the Lutheran World Federation
  • 2004 President of the Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches
  • 2003 Vice president of the Asian region of the Lutheran World Federation.
  • 1997 - 2003 He was a council member, vice-chair of the Lutheran World Federation Program Committee for Mission and Development, and vice-chair of the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Ecumenical Research.
  • 1990 - 1997 Adviser to the Council of the Lutheran World Federation.
  • 1990 He was named the president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
  • 1985 He became an active member of the Middle East Council of Churches
  • 1982 He founded the Al-Liqa' Center for Religious studies in Jerusalem
  • 1981 He became involved with the Lutheran World Federation
  • 1976 He was ordained at the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. This begins a long career within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

Initiatives

  • 2016 With His Holiness, Pope Francis, signed Joint Statement commemorating the Lutheran Reformation and Historical Reconciliation between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churches
  • 2010-President Lutheran Patron of the Anglican Lutheran Society
  • 2010-Present Member of the Religious Leader Commission (C-1 World Dialogue Foundation)
  • 2006-Present Founding Member of the Council for Religious Institutions in the Holy Land (CRIHL)
  • 2000-Present Member of the Jordanian Interfatih Coexistence Research Center (Amman, Jordan)
  • 1998-Present Continuing work for the deepening of communion relationships with churches, synods, and diocese around the world
  • 1997-Present Active in local Church-to-Church relationships
  • 1997-Present Evaluator, Palestinian religious curriculum
  • 1991-Present Initiator of the Jonah Group (number of informal long-running dialogue groups, serving as forums for joint reflection of local Christians and Jews)
  • 2009 Contributing writer, 2011 Worship Resources, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
  • 2006 Instrumental in the “Amman Agreement”, a mutual recognition agreement among Middle East evangelical churches Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC)
  • 1997-2000 Developer of the Palestinian Christian Instruction Curriculum (recognized by the Palestinian Ministry of Education for use in Palestinian schools)
  • 1998 Author of the “The Christian Dimension of the Palestinian Curriculum” (adopted in 1998 by the Church Leaders in Jerusalem as the main document for negotiations with the Ministry of Education
  • 1993 Translator, Arabic translation of the Augsburg Confession with study guide
  • 1984 Participant of the Jewish-Christian Dialogue Symposium (World Council of Churches)
  • 1984 Participant of the Anglican-Lutheran Dialogue (Jerusalem)
  • 1982-2008 Co-founder and member of the Al-Liqa’ Center for Religious Studies(Jerusalem)

Publications - Books

  • • Our Shared Witness: A Voice for Justice and Peace. Lutheran University Press, Minneapolis, 2012
  • • Witnessing for Peace: In Jerusalem and the World. Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, 2003.
  • • The Augusburg Confession in Arabic. Emerezian Est., Jerusalem, 1993.

Publications - Chapters

  • • “Beyond Luther: Prophetic Interfaith Dialogue for Life,” in The Global Luther: A Theologian for Modern Times. Fortress Press, 2009.
  • • “The Future of the Lutheran Reformation Tradition: From the Perspective of Palestinian Christians,” in The Future of Lutheranism in a Global Context. Augusburg Fortress, Minneapolis, 2008.
  • • “The Role of the Church in Peacemaking: Raising a Prophetic Voice,” in The Forgotten Faithful. Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem 2007
  • • “Theological Reflection and Theology,” in Theological Reflection on Accompaniment. World Council of Churches, 2005.

Notes

  • • Born to Palestinian refugee parents
Expedition of the harmony of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the Middle East for 40 years
Bishop Munib Younan stressed to the world that a religion's role is to serve all humans, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religion and political factions. In addition, as he traveled around the world, he spread the message of “to achieve consensus in diversity, one must guard against religious extremism, accept the diversity of biblical interpretations, and also accept different religious traditions”

Born in 1950 as a Palestinian refugee in Jerusalem, Bishop Younan devoted his life to promoting dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims, and leading reconciliation. In particular, he served as president of the Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches from 2004 to 2010, serving as a founding member of a coalition movement organization for Palestine and Israel, taking the lead in resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. In addition, he was the first to translate the Augsburg Confession (1530), a key doctrinal document of Lutheranism, into Arabic, contributing to the promotion of understanding between Christianity and Islam. He also published a number of books containing messages for religious harmony.
Conflict reconciliation between the Catholic and Protestant Churches
Bishop Younan has talked continuously with the Catholic church for decades to overcome the deep-rooted conflict between the two churches. As a result, in 2013, the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican jointly adopted a document called "From Conflict to Sacrifice," unraveling the 500-year-old conflict. This came to be known as a historical reconciliation between the churches where both sides promised to “renew their commitment to theological dialogue and continue the journey towards unity, guided by God’s spirit according to the will of Lord Jesus Christ.” This was done with the aim to unite the two churches, accepting that the Lutheran Church and the Catholic Church are from the same roots so they must work towards reconciliation. Therefore, in 2016 Lutheranism and Catholicism together celebrated the 500th anniversary of religious reformation, and Bishop Younan and Pope Francis signed a declaration to go towards a “common path. " It was the first time in history that the pope took part in the founding anniversary of Lutheran Church, with both sides stating, "Theological distinction entails prejudice and conflict, degenerates into a tool for political purposes," and that they "reject all past and present hatred and violence expressed in the name of religion," sending a strong message of religious harmony around the world.

Awarding of Medal and Plaque to Munib A. Younan

  • Founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon is presenting the medal to Munib A. Younan

    ⓒ 2020. Sunhak Peace Prize

  • Committee Chairman Dr. Il Sik Hong is presenting a plaque to Munib A. Younan

    ⓒ 2020. Sunhak Peace Prize

Video of the awarding

Acceptance Speech

  • Munib A. Younan giving his Acceptance Speech during the 2020 Sunhak Peace Prize Award Ceremony.

    ⓒ 2020. Sunhak Peace Prize

Video of acceptance speech

수상연설

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Your Graces, Ladies and Gentlemen, First of all, I humbly stand here as a servant of God to accept this Sunhak Peace Prize. I would like to thank Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, the founder of the Sunhak Peace Prize, and your late husband, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, for your vision of peace as “one family under God.”

I also thank those who suggested my name, as well as the work of the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee, Chaired by Dr. Hong Il-sik. I also thank The Sunhak Peace Prize Foundation, and to all of you who have gathered here today and have honored us by your presence.

And, most assuredly, I thank all those who believe in the mission of peace my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has put on my heart.

I stand here in appreciation of the Korean people for their resilience and industriousness. I also extend my appreciation to the Korean churches, who are preaching Christ’s Gospel of love and are advancing the Kingdom of God in this beautiful country. I want to ask you to continue the good work of unity of the one Church of Christ in Korea.

I have a special admiration for President Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea. I respect and admire his relentless efforts to unify this peninsula. I see that there is no other way forward for the people of this peninsula but to be finally unified under one flag, one leadership, and one unified Korea.

Sometimes people ask me: Why do you work for peace through interfaith dialogue? My answer is: To work for peace based on justice is not only political. It is the core of the biblical message. From my perspective, it is Christ who calls me to serve the suffering humanity and to return to them their God-given dignity. As a Christian, I believe Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, not peace-talkers. St. Paul has written: “For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall that is the hostility between us.” (Ephesians 2:14) In Christ, God was reconciling the world to God’s self, not counting the trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19). For this reason, I am called for this ministry or reconciliation, for there can be no peace without justice and no reconciliation without forgiveness. Therefore, I will continue to work for peace based on justice until the last breath of my life.

Peace is dependent upon respect for the dignity of the Other, regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, religious or political affiliation. All of us are made in the image of God. All of us are children of God. All of us are one family of God. And for this reason all of us deserve to have life and dignity and peace.

Mutual recognition of each other’s dignity is the foundation of our faith and of a new world order, one that is built and based upon truth, justice, love and freedom. This vision of a peaceful life together is the central message of every religion and is integral to the mission of every religious community. This is the reason I call on all religious leaders to raise their voices prophetically for peace based on justice, and to speak boldly against the waves of hatred and oppression making its way across the globe today. Religions must be the conscience of the world. Religious leaders must join their diverse voices into a symphony of peace to disrupt the others shouting ugly messages of injustice, hatred, racism and oppression. Religious leaders must always be witnesses to the protection of life and its dignity.

World leaders today talk about our shared security, but I challenge them instead to talk about our shared well-being. Not only in security, a commitment to a shared well-being calls us to work for a safer world, a world without weapons of destruction.

When we see the image of God in the other, we can do nothing else but work for a nuclear-free world and weapon-free cities and states. Certainly, we must at least insist that our children have violence-free schools, neighborhoods, and societies. When will we hold our world leaders to task, demanding a general disarmament of all weapons of destruction: nuclear, chemical, biological, and the newly emerging tools of death? Korea, and the whole Middle East, will be much safer without arms and weapons. We need justice, not weapons. It is my vision that all states use the funds allocated for weapons to kill life, and instead invest them in economic development, equality, gender justice, and freedom of religion. Pope John Paul II said: “We are a human family. ‘Love your neighbor’ has global dimensions in an interdependent world.”

Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and life abundantly.” (John 10:10) This is a promise to all humanity, not only for Christians, that all are intended to possess dignity, and the world is intended to know a shared well-being among all nations and ethnicities.

How do we achieve such abundant life?

In a polarized world, religious leaders can affect our future toward this end by promoting the common values of living together in dignity, working for peace, and combatting fanaticism, fundamentalism, and extremism. Religious extremists who use religion and manipulate God for their own selfish purposes are an existential threat to humanity nowadays.

Extremism is a blatant perversion of religion and is always the antithesis of love. For this reason, it is the role of religious leaders today to boldly and prophetically combat any kind of extremism within their own religion. It is imperative that we teach our own communities to see and value the image of God in those who are different from us. As it is written: “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

This is our mutual call: To teach love, never division or hatred. With God’s love guiding us, we can always be instruments of peace and promoters of robust moderation.

Fear of the other is the source of all conflict, violence, and war. Every day, we hear of another politician seeking to implant seeds of fear, seeking to grow a harvest of hatred among his or her people. It is no wonder that religious extremism, secular populism, and racism are spreading throughout our societies. We are not powerless in the face of this epidemic. We can, and we must, stand up and resist with all our might this disease of fear and xenophobia. We can inoculate our youth and societies against this disease by boldly proclaiming love, mercy, understanding, and trust of others—even the so-called enemies. We can protect our communities from this disease by rising up against such sick ideologies as white supremacy, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Christianophobia, xenophobia, patriarchy, and every other kind of evil. It is God’s call to us to transform a world filled with hatred into a culture of harmony and love as we celebrate this week the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week.

When people know that I am an Arab Palestinian Christian coming from Jerusalem, they ask me if I am optimistic or pessimistic about the future. It is true that the political situation in the whole Middle East, especially regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is very tense. It seems that the end game is in the hands of the powerful. However, I continue to believe in and promote a two-state solution, with the State of Palestine living alongside the State of Israel, on 1967 borders, together enjoying justice, peace, equity, and reconciliation. I continue to promote and insist on a Jerusalem that is shared between the three religions— Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—with full respect for the historic status quo of the holy places, and with respect to the Hashemite King’s custodianship of Christian and Muslim holy places. Jerusalem must be a shared capital for the State of Israel and the State of Palestine for the sake of peace and justice for both nations.

As long as I live, I will teach my children and grandchildren to see the image of God in Israelis. I pray that my Israeli neighbors will see the image of God in me and in my fellow Palestinians. Once we truly recognize the image of God in the Other, then we can mutually recognize and protect each other’s human, civil, political, national, and religious rights. Only then will our Holy Land become truly holy, an equal home for Israelis and Palestinians. As long as there is a Living God of justice, I know there is hope for both groups to live in freedom, peace, justice, and dignity.

Before I end, I would like to thank my family, and especially my good wife Suad, along with my children and their families. They have always supported me in this mission of peace.

They know the risks and the challenges of walking this path toward peace for all people, and yet they remain committed to this vision, not only for themselves, but for all children of the world. I am so very grateful for them and humbled by their love and support.

Again as an Arab Palestinian Christian Evangelical Lutheran and a Palestinian refugee, I would like to express my gratitude for receiving this prestigious prize. Receiving this prize at this moment in history is just an encouragement for Arab Christianity in the whole Middle East and encouragement for growing more moderates in the Middle East. We don’t need any more extremism or weapons. We need only moderates and justice. Receiving this prize does not graduate me from continuing to do the holy work of interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding. On the contrary, I feel that this moment motivates me to continue to be a witness for peace, a broker of justice, a defender of human rights, a minister of reconciliation, and an apostle of love. Please, continue to pray for me, and for all those sisters and brothers of any religion, and those of good conscience who join us in the challenging call to bring peace based on justice to this one world we all inhabit.

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

May God bless you and keep you all the days of your life working for justice, peace and reconciliation. Thank you.
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