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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Hope school, Ramallah

"Do you think we look like terrorists?" asks Issa Habash, a senior at Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah. "Will you tell the world the truth?" His face reflects the frustration and puzzlement of Palestinian youth over the negative stereotypes they see of themselves in Western media.

Like others soon to graduate from the five Lutheran schools operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine), Habash sees only obstacles ahead.

One of his classmates says: "I fear I won't be able to go to Bir Zeit (a Palestinian university) because of [road] closures. My father teaches at Bir Zeit. It has been closed for three weeks. My father can't even get there. The whole semester is canceled."

The students' potential departure from the country creates great fear. "Christians are only 2 percent of the population," says ELCJ Bishop Munib Younan. "Our question isn't, 'Will we survive?' but 'Will there be a Christian presence at all?' "

Viola Raheb, ELCJ director for schools, adds: "The moment we close our schools will be the moment we choose to close our parishes. The schools are essential to our continuing presence.

"Interreligious education is essential for the future of this country. We educate Christians and Muslims together. After 12 years of sitting in the same classroom, students don't have a theoretical knowledge of each other. They know each other as a person with a name, so they can't be uncaring to each other."



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