Bishop Emeritus Munib Youan visits Luther to promote peace


Wyatt Hill ('21)

Bishop Emeritus Younan gives a lecture on peacemaking in the CFL Recital Hall on Sept. 26.

Bishop Emeritus Munib Younan gave a lecture on Palestinian Christianity and the Israel-Palestine conflict as part of his week-long residency on Sept. 26 in the Center for Faith and Life Recital Hall. Younan traveled from Jordan with the mission to reach Western Christians with an emphasis on education and peacemaking.

Younan’s lecture focused on the relations between Israel and Palestine and the struggles of Palestinian Christians. According to Younan, Palestinians are often overlooked and he is tired of Palestinian Christians being treated like a “damsel in distress” by Western Christians. Younan also believes that education is the key to the downfall of radicalism, and educating the youth of Palestine and Israel is the only way to resolve conflict in the area.

“If we close the schools we will have no ministry in Palestine,” Younan said. “Instead, we must teach them a nonviolent way to resolve conflict and carry a gospel of love in a world of turmoil and hate.”

Colin Cosgrove (‘20) said Younan’s perspective on using education as a tool to encourage peace and discourage radicalism was valuable to hear as someone who will be a teacher in the near future.

“As a future educator, his perspective on the way that education can dissipate radicalism was interesting,” Cosgrove said. “Because the way he made it sound was that with his mission, no one is trying to convert anyone, but they’re trying to live in a more coexistent manner and work to educate youth from all faith backgrounds to promote moderation as a pathway to peace.”

Throughout his career, Younan has dedicated himself to advocating for “just peace” in Palestine, interreligious relations, and gender equality in Palestine and Israel. On Sept. 24, Younan recieved the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award from the Roman Catholic Church for his interfaith peace-building efforts.

Younan’s visit is one of his five stops on a tour of residencies at ELCA schools across the United States. According to College Pastor Mike Blair, College Ministries wanted Younan to share his years of experience with Luther students.

“He can speak to the perspective of a Palestinian who knows what it means to have Israeli occupation and navigate those things,” Blair said. “He can also speak to the lived experience of life in the Middle East and what would contribute towards a just and lasting peace. He’s a wonderful, delightful person to hang out with. It’s a unique opportunity for us to draw from somebody who is a great leader and global peacemaker and has much to share with students.”

Salomé Valdivieso (‘23) was not sure what to expect prior to hearing Younan’s lecture, but was pleased with how straightforward he was with communicating his hopes for Palestine.

“I was really impressed by how direct the Bishop was and how he wasn’t afraid to voice his support for a two-state solution for Palestine,” Valdivieso said. “A lot of lectures here [at Luther] seem to try to avoid politics altogether, and I appreciated how honest he was about his views.”

In addition to his lecture, Younan also lead Chapel on Sept. 27, held a breakfast at Decorah United Congregational United Church on Sept. 28, and preached at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Sept. 29. He met with student organization Interfaith in Action later that evening as well.

From 1990 to 1998, Younan served as president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land until his consecration as bishop, an office he retired from in 2018. Younan was elected to the presidency of the Lutheran World Federation in 2010 and served as President of the LWF until 2017.

Younan is a co-founder of the Al-Liqa Center for Religious Studies in Jerusalem and has worked with the Jonah Group to run open dialogues for people of the Christian and Jewish faith. In 2006, Younan helped establish a Mutual Recognition Agreement between Middle Eastern Evangelical churches of the Reformed and Lutheran traditions.

Blair believes the way Younan communicates his knowledge and perspectives with others helps challenge stereotypes and encourages others to seek points of view they may not have otherwise considered.

“I think the way that he listens and engages people with questions and his capacity to challenge people in a way that is disarming, because he does a good job of challenging assumptions,” Blair said. “In the U.S., many people [wrongfully] equate Palestinian and Arabs with terrorists. He speaks to how that applies to people who are Muslims and the many misrepresentations, so I think for me part of what stands out is a need for greater need for curiosity and a hunger to learn rather than clinging to familiar narratives.”

Photo courtesy of
Bishop Emeritus Younan and Pope Francis sign a joint statement commemorating the Lutheran Reformation and Historical Reconciliation between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churches on Oct. 31, 2016 in Lund Sweeden.
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