Former LWF President and Bishop Emeritus of LWF member church in Jordan and Holy Land recognized for leadership role
(LWI) - The former Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President and Bishop Emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), Munib Younan, has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Helsinki.
The conferment ceremony took place on 9 June at the university where Younan studied for a master's degree in the 1970s. Other recipients of the 2023 doctor honoris causa awards included the director of LWF’s World Service Department, Maria Immonen and the young Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg.
In nominating Younan for this academic honor, the selection committee noted that he had “for decades been the public voice of Middle Eastern and especially Palestinian Christians.” As LWF president, the committee added, “he has played a globally significant role as a Christian leader and theological policymaker. His approach emphasizes the positive role of religion as a factor encouraging public engagement.”
Justice, peace and reconciliation
LWF’s General Secretary Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt paid tribute to Younan’s long years of service to the global Lutheran communion, beginning at the 1984 Budapest Assembly which he attended as a youth delegate. “I am delighted that he has been recognized for his spiritual leadership, to the Lutheran churches, to the wider Christian world and to other faith communities, as well as for his commitment to the work for justice, peace and reconciliation between peoples and nations.”
The ceremony in Helsinki coincided with the publication of a Festschrift or collection of writings honoring Younan and his work. The 25 academic articles have been written by professors from around the Lutheran communion including Africa, Asia, Latin America, the United States, Europe, Palestine and the Middle East.
Order of the White Rose of Finland
In May, the former LWF leader was also named as a Commander of the Order of the White Rose of Finland, a medal which is conferred on those who have distinguished themselves in service to the nation and is the highest honor that a foreign citizen can receive.
Born into a native Arab family in Jerusalem, Younan travelled to Finland to study, first in Järvenpää, north of the capital, and then in Helsinki University from 1972 to 1976. He was ordained in the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem and was consecrated bishop in 1988, serving as head of the ELCJHL for two decades until 2018. He served as LWF president from 2010 until the last Assembly in Windhoek in 2017.
Younan is widely recognized for his commitment to ecumenical and interfaith relations, co-founding the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land and working closely with the Middle East Council of Churches. In 2016, he and former LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge joined Pope Francis as co-hosts of a historic service in Sweden’s Lund cathedral marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.