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|Plight of Palestinian Christians should concern all Christians|
|Written by Father Eugene Hemrick|
|Sunday, 22 November 2009 00:00|
“Why aren’t priests in this country doing more to help Arab Christian Palestinians?”
As we sat down for dinner at the 2009 awards banquet sponsored by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, the question caught me by surprise. I had been invited by chance, but in all honesty I knew very little about the organization.
Thanks to that question, however, I now know much more about why all Christians should be deeply concerned about today’s Christian Palestinians.
There should always be a solidarity among Christians, regardless of where we live. As such, when one of us suffers, we all suffer.
Palestine is where Christ lived, worked and died. While there are Christian Palestinians today, they are suffering and becoming practically extinct in their own homeland.
In a study conducted in 2001 by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, it was determined that 53 percent of Christian residents of Beit Sahour (a predominately Christian town adjacent to Bethlehem) had taken steps within the previous year to acquire emigration visas.
In 1948, the Christian population of the Holy Land was more than 18 percent; today it is less than 2 percent.
Christians face violence daily. Their homes are often confiscated or demolished, and they are rarely issued permits to build new ones. Jobs are scarce, medical assistance is sparse and water is routinely cut off.
How can we respond to this crisis? Study is the first imperative because it moves us out of our provincialism, prompting us to enter into the lives of others.
One project sponsored by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation promotes the exchange of letters between children in the United States and Palestinian territories. This project is aimed at countering provincialism by educating and heightening awareness.
The organization also hosts local conferences and presentations by experts on the Holy Land. It also publishes a newsletter, Living Stones: The Voice of the Holy Land Christians (www.hcef.org).
As the Christmas season approaches, one way to enter into it more fully would be to study the Holy Land and the special role it fulfills in our Christian lives. Here is where the most wonderful promise ever made was fulfilled: Christ came among us.
When we are touched with sacredness, awe follows.
In today’s world, barbarism is found in much of our daily existence, so much so that we tend to take it for granted.
But we don’t have to. Opportunities exist for us to counter this acceptance, and learning more about what we can do to help Christian Palestinians is one of them.
Father Hemrick is director of the Washington-based National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood.