Saturday, December 23, 2006

Irish bishops urge greater awareness of Palestinian Christians' plight.

This week the Catholic bishops of Ireland wrote to all the parish priests in the country, "suggesting that they might raise awareness over Christmas, in their homilies, of the current suffering facing the Christian community in Bethlehem - the town where Jesus Christ was born." In a short statement entitled Bethlehem: A Vanishing Christian Community, the Irish bishops describe how strict Israeli security measures, illegal land seizures and economic woes have devastated one of the world's oldest Christian communities. Christians once made up 70% of Bethlehem's population but now represent no more than 30% - a percentage that will likely decline even further as Christian families emigrate in search of a better, safer life. As the bishops note in the last paragraph of their statement, the diminishment of Bethlehem's Christian community is part of a larger picture:
Disturbing as it is to acknowledge that almost ten per cent of the Christian population of Bethlehem have emigrated since the year 2000, the decline of the Christian population in the totality of the Holy Land is even more striking. Today, it is estimated that there are more Christian Palestinians in Sydney, Australia, than in Jerusalem and that there are more Christian Palestinians in North America than there are in the Holy Land. Christian Palestinians traditionally found employment in the tourism sector associated with the holy places. With the decline in tourism and the economic and social hardships of living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, many have felt left with little option other than to emigrate. Christian Palestinians have traditionally greater links abroad than their Muslim compatriots, and as the statistics show, many have used these contacts to seek a new life outside of the Holy Land.

This Christmas in a spirit of solidarity may we join in prayer with the Christian community in Palestine and with all Israelis and Palestinians of good faith:

Living Lord, ignite in us a passion for justice and a yearning
to right all wrong.
Strengthen us to work for peace in the land we call holy:
for peace among Jew, Christian and Muslim
for reconciliation between communities
for harmony between faiths.
Inspire us to act with the urgency of your quickening fire,
for blessed are the peacemakers
they shall be called children of God.
May this prayer be ours as well. AMDG.


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