The Episcopal Church
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631
His Excellency Sallai Meridor
Ambassador of Israel
Embassy of Israel
Dear Ambassador Meridor:
We are writing to express our grave concern and to request your help with ascertaining the reason for the denial of entry to Gaza on February 4, 2009 for the bishops of our partner churches in Jerusalem, Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and Bishop Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese in Jerusalem and the Middle East. Bishop Younan and Bishop Dawani were part of a delegation of five heads of churches of Jerusalem who were traveling to visit Christians in Gaza. Although they had received assurances from the Israeli government that they would be allowed to enter, and while the other three members of the delegation were allowed to proceed, bishops Younan and Dawani were prohibited from entering Gaza.
The purpose of their visit was pastoral— to visit churches, humanitarian projects of the Middle East Council of Churches and the Al Ahli Hospital, an institution of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. We are concerned that they were not allowed freedom of movement into Gaza to carry out their pastoral responsibilities. We believe that it is urgent that adequate humanitarian assistance reach the people of Gaza immediately, and we underscore Bishop Dawani’s statement that “most certainly pastoral care is an important factor in such services.”
We support our partner bishops and churches in their Christian ministry, and we share their continued commitment to work for peace in the region—a commitment they both reaffirmed in their statements following their denial of entry into Gaza. We are attaching copies of their statements.
We hope that, having discovered the cause of their denial, you will assure that they will be permitted to enter as soon as possible to offer support and pastoral care to the people they serve.
Thank you for your attention to this request.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
cc: Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton
George Mitchell, Special Envoy for Middle East Peace