Reverend Mitri Raheb came to California Lutheran University from Palestine to give a speech titled “Lutherans in the Holy Land” Wednesday, Nov. 2.
Raheb is a former bishop, an author and a founder of a school in Palestine. He focused the event on his personal story and experience as a Lutheran in Palestine. He shared stories about his life, including the fact that he grew up across the street from where Jesus is believed to have been born.
There was a balance between lighthearted humor and history within the event. Raheb discussed the historical attempted conversion of Muslims and Jewish people to Christianity by the Germans in the mid 19th century. He also spoke about the age when Lutherans were introduced to the Holy Land.
Raheb also spoke about issues he had with the way some people approach religion.
“They think theology is now how it was then, and forever, but it’s not,” Raheb said.
Raheb addressed conflicts around the world such as terrorism and talked about the need for change and for things to constantly adapt and move forward.
“It’s the people that make the land holy – or not holy,” Raheb said.
Melissa Maxwell-Doherty, vice president of mission and identity at Cal Lutheran, said she was approached by members of the Southwest California Synod, which Cal Lutheran is affiliated with, to arrange the talk.
“It’s always interesting to hear someone speak who has the same beliefs as you but was raised in such a different situation than you,” Maxwell-Doherty said.
Raheb addressed misconceptions about Lutheranism in the Holy Land, Arabs, Muslims and more. He also addressed how there is only one Lutheran church in Palestine.
One misconception Raheb discussed that although some people use the terms Muslim and Arab interchangeably, the two are not the same, and Christianity actually outdates the Islam in the Arab world.
“I’m really happy I attended this event. I learned so much about Christians in Palestine and it helped debunk misconceptions I’ve heard throughout the years,” said Allie Portis, a junior at Cal Lutheran.
The event consisted of Raheb’s speech, a video and a Q&A session. After the question and answer portion, people were free to walk around and talk to one another and were even able to speak directly to Raheb.
“I think my favorite part of Rev. Mitri’s talk was at the end. I really appreciated that he engaged with the people who attended and actually had lively and passionate conversations with those who came,” Maxwell-Doherty said.
Because she was able to meet Raheb before the event, Portis said it made everything Raheb said more impactful.
“It’s important to stay informed about things that are happening around the world to people maybe unlike yourself. It’s easy to misjudge situations when you never had a chance to see them first hand,” Portis said.
For more information on events like Lutherans in the Holy Land or for those looking to explore and deepen their faith, look at Cal Lutheran’s Mission and Identity statement or email Melissa Maxwell-Doherty at [email protected] for more information.