Hundreds of children and adults from different communities in the Holy Land were accompanied by church leaders from Jerusalem, the UK, Germany, and France. The March to Bethlehem was in support of Peace, Justice and Solidarity with the Children in Gaza. His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, greeted all those who participated with blessings and called upon the religious and political leaders to show compassion, wisdom and mercy.
Press Release – HCEF
The Journey to Bethlehem, a March for Peace, Justice and Solidarity with the Children in Gaza was organized by The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and sponsored by Caritas Jerusalem and The Pontifical Mission to Palestine.
His Beatitude Patriarch Twal started his address with these words, "Violence, no matter where it comes from or whatever form it takes, must be condemned… the attacks in the Gaza strip which brought, in two weeks, the worst results for Israel and for the region because more rockets were launched than all the rockets of the previous years." He continued, "Violence tempts us, because it seems like it might resolve our problems, but this is wrong and so too is this outbreak of violence."
George Ghattas, HCEF Vice President and Country representative, said "Being the fifth journey of its kind; it bears a special meaning in that it reconfirms the fact that Bethlehem is a city that is open to all, a city that shares common faith with the rest of Palestine."
Today, the journey for peace had a greater impact as we sadly remembered those who died in Gaza, and joyfully maintain our faith in God! What is happening in Gaza could happen anywhere in the world. Peace justifies the dignity and security of all nations and until the chronic cause, which is occupation, is ended, we are all at risk.
Father Issa Musleh, the official spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, condemned Israel's aggression against people in Gaza, especially the innocent women and children who were killed. Expressing his solidarity, he implored, "Let us pray for an end to this war, an end to Occupation and for a Just Peace."
His Grace Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool and HCEF Advisory Board Member shared, "that we religious leaders from the west are bound to come to the Holy Land to show solidarity and commonality in faith, and together we pray for a greater and safer future for the many children who were with us today and the many more that live in the Holy Land."
At the main entrance to the Nativity, the cradle of Christianity and humanity, hundreds of balloons bearing the names of the victims who were killed, the cities and towns in Gaza that were bombarded, slogans calling for justice and peace, the end of occupation and the care for humanity were freed in commemoration of the innocent lives lost and the hope of a better tomorrow.
At the Grotto, prayers to God were read in four languages by children praying for mercy and compassion on the children of the world, especially those in Gaza. They also prayed for an end to this war and that heads of countries will become aware and responsible, advocating for peace and justice in the spirit of Love.
During the press conference, which was held immediately after the Journey to Bethlehem ended, Patriarch Twal made this statement, "We are a people who have suffered and continue to suffer under violence, and we are also born children of God, thus our thoughts and prayers go not just to our own people, but to those in other lands, like Iraq and Africa, who are suffering discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic group or religion."