Partners in Mission:
This week President Biden will make a visit to Israel/Palestine. In that time he will visit and meet with a great many leaders, the vast majority of course from the government of the State of Israel. However, in an unprecedented move he will become the first sitting US President to visit Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) on the Mount of Olives. Why does this matter to us as Lutherans in NT-NL? It matters because AVH is a ministry of the Lutheran World Federation. It is the primary oncology hospital available to Palestinians as well as providing dialysis (including pediatric dialysis) treatment. Augusta Victoria serves over 12,000 patients a year and is a testament to our Lutheran commitment to serve and the presence of Lutherans in the Holy Land including our partners in the ELCJHL. While at the hospital President Biden is expected to announce the recommitment of funds to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network of which AVH is a part.
It is also important for us as Lutherans in NT-NL to know of this ministry as President Biden’s visit to AVH has become a source of some partisan political controversy particularly with some members of congress in our area including Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX 24th District) which includes much of Irving. Rep. Van Duyne and a few other members of congress from Texas have written President Biden claiming his visit to AVH legitimizes the Palestinian Authority (PA) and is a bad precedent. As a result of this action I was contacted by Dennis Frado, Director, Lutheran Office for World Community, ELCA and Lutheran World Federation to reach out to Rev. Van Duyne and offer our perspective as Lutherans in support of AVH and its life saving ministry.
I did so and write this blog today to help you as members of NT-NL understand more clearly who and what AVH is and why financial support for that ministry is important and not simply a political act to support the PA. In fact AVH has often had a difficult relationship with the PA who have regularly not passed along funding to the hospital for its work in a timely manner. This has led to a strain on AVH’s finances and required significant support from European and North American Lutherans to ensure care is not denied to those in need.
The politics of the Holy Land are deeply complicated and difficult. They are made all the more complicated by entrenched political positions that fail to acknowledge the complicated reality on the ground for both Israeli citizens and Palestinians. In the midst of this complication our Lutheran witness continues both in the Word and Sacrament ministry of the ELCJHL as well as in the life-saving work of the AVH. I am grateful for the attention that this visit will bring to this hospital’s vital work and for the commitment of funds which will save lives. #NTNL #ELCJHL #InMissionTogether