Pacem in Terris Award to honor Lutheran peacemaker

Bishop Emeritus Younan is a ‘bridge builder’ of understanding

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, talks with Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, president of the Lutheran World Federation, as Pope Francis attends an ecumenical event at the Malmo Arena in Malmo, Sweden, Oct. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Bishop Emeritus Munib Younan, a Lutheran church leader from the Middle East committed to cultivating peace by building bridges among religions, has been chosen to receive the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award.

Bishop Thomas Zinkula of the Diocese of Davenport will present the award to Bishop Younan during a Sept. 24 ceremony that begins at 7 p.m. at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. All are welcome.

Bishop Younan is visiting Augustana as part of a larger tour of colleges and universities affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He is the past president of the Lutheran World Federation and former bishop of the Evan­gelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

The award is presented by the Diocese of Davenport as part of the Pacem in Terris Coalition, an interfaith group that honors individuals for their achievements in peace and justice. Previous award recipients include Martin Luther King, Jr.; Dorothy Day; Mother Teresa; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Venerable Thích Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama.

“Bishop Younan as a faith leader has demonstrated a strong commitment to peace and reconciliation,” said Kent Ferris, who leads the Pacem in Terris Coalition. “That commitment has benefitted members of his denomination around the world and has enabled him to build bridges of understanding with leaders from other faith traditions.”

“As important as these bridges might be, his commitment to be equally involved in informal interreligious dialogue and supporting local efforts at nonviolent accompaniment is truly remarkable. Doing so enables Bishop Younan to see only a brother or sister, not a stranger, an ability worth celebrating,” said Ferris, who also serves as the diocese’s Social Action director.

Born in Jerusalem on Sept. 18, 1950, to Pal­estinian refugees, Bishop Younan was educated in Palestine and Finland and has been active in numerous faith organizations since his ordination in 1976. He and his wife, Suad Yacoub, were married in 1980 and have three grown children. Consecrated as a bishop in 1998, he later served as president of the Lutheran World Federation, a global organization representing more than 70 million Christians, from 2010-2017. He served as acting Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land from 1998 to January 2018.

One year ago, Bishop Younan accepted the “Build­ing Bridges of Un­derstanding” award at George­town University in Wash­ington, D.C., for his life’s work in fostering greater understanding be­tween faith groups. That award is organized by the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Under­­standing.

Among the accomplishments cited were Bishop Younan’s translation of the Augsburg Confession into Arabic (a key doctrinal document of his denomination) and his active membership in ecumenical and interfaith dialogues in Jerusalem.

Two years earlier, Bishop Younan and Pope Francis signed the Joint Statement by the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (Oct. 31, 2016). That document commemorated the Lutheran Reformation and Historical Reconciliation between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churches. The two church leaders signed the document during a joint Lutheran-Catholic common prayer in Lund, Sweden, in the presence of their ecumenical partners.

In 2012, Bishop Younan joined global religious leaders in signing another historic document, “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders” developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with a Lutheran World Federation initiative. A decade earlier, he initiated “The Jonah Group,” a number of informal, long-running dialogue groups that serve as forums for joint reflection of local Christians and Jews.

He has authored the books, “Our Shared Witness: A Voice for Justice and Peace,” and “Witnessing for Peace: In Jerusalem and the World,” in addition to writing articles, giving lectures and making presentations on peace and justice through the lens of faith. He has received numerous awards for his efforts.

One Among Us

The late Amy Rowell, who led a Christian organization in Moline, Ill., that helps refugees from countries around the world, will be honored posthumously during the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award ceremony on Sept. 24. Her husband, Eric Rowell, will accept the “One Among Us” award on her behalf from Bishop Thomas Zinkula and the Pacem in Terris Coalition.

Amy Rowell led World Relief Moline from 2010 until her death at age 48 on March 30. “She helped new refugees to get settled in housing, obtain household items and other needs,” said Lisa Killinger of the Pacem in Terris Coalition. “Amy worked tirelessly to raise community awareness of refugees in our community, and advocated for World Relief and the people they serve, in times when refugees and refugee services were not always strongly supported. Amy worked quietly and steadfastly, never seeking the limelight; only seeking to better the lives of those she served.”

Pacem in Terris Coalition

The Pacem in Terris Coalition members are Diocese of Davenport, The Catholic Messenger, St. Ambrose University, The Presidential Center for Faith and Learning at Augustana College, Islamic Center of Quad Cities, Quad Cities Interfaith, Muslim Community of the Quad Cities, Congregation of the Humility of Mary, Sisters of St. Benedict, Sisters of St. Francis (Dubuque) and Sisters of St. Francis (Clinton)

The event

What: Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award
When: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m.
Where: Augustana College, Ascension Chapel in Founders Hall, 820 38th St. Rock Island, Ill.
Admission: Free
Other: Reception and book signing after the ceremony

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