On Saturday, December 12, 2015, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation conducted its 5th Annual Christmas Simulcast: Message of Peace from Bethlehem and Washington DC. Each year, HCEF’s Simulcast offers people the chance to worship with Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem and to share their message of peace. This event aims to unify people around Christ’s call for peace, a message meant for all people and all nations.
The Simulcast was broadcasted from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and from the Shrine of St. Jude Catholic Church in the DC area.
Religious and civic leaders from both locations were in attendance to share their visions for peace, including: Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem; H.E. Vera Baboun, Mayor of the City of Bethlehem; H.E. Rula Ma’ayah, Palestinian Minister of Tourism & Antiquities; HE Major General Jibreen Al-Bakri, Bethlehem District Governor; H.E. Most Reverend Bishop Barry Knestout, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington; Rev. Dr. David Renwick, Senior Pastor of the National Presbyterian Church; Father Paul Lee, Pastor, Shrine of St. Jude; Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS, HCEF President/CEO, Eng. Anthony Habash, HCEF Regional Director; and others.
The Masters of Ceremonies in Bethlehem and Washington DC, respectively, were Father Michael McDonagh, International Adviser to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem; and Hugh Dempsey D.Ed., K.M. Ob., Consultant, Bethlehem Museum. Songs were performed in Bethlehem by the Olive Branches Choir and in Washington DC by the English and Spanish Choirs of the Shrine of St. Jude.
In his opening message, Sir Rateb called for unity: “We must stand together, Christians and Muslims. We must protect our brothers and sisters at home against prejudice, and abroad against war and violence. The peace of Christ is a peace for all.”
H.E. Bishop William Shomali encouraged us to be merciful: “Our world today is suffering from religious and racial intolerance filled with hate. Here in the Holy Land, we suffer this in the form of occupation…Mercy is not a simple goal. Mercy is not limited to our individual relationships, but we must be merciful in our public life as well, at all levels…caring for the human family must begin with each one of us and must include everyone.”
Hugh Dempsey reflected on the purpose of this year’s event: “This Message of Peace during this advent season isn’t just to call attention to Bethlehem today, but to show that this Holy place is a living, breathing city of the world. It and its people need to be remembered all year round. This Simulcast is also a shout out to our Muslim brothers and sisters. We are with you and we love you.”
H.E. Vera Baboun offered a poignant remark on the state of her city and what that means for peace: “The story of Bethlehem is about peace, love and hope. As long as Bethlehem, the city of peace, is walled, peace will be walled. We must liberate peace in order to truly live in peace.”
Bishop Knestout said, “In this holy season, we rejoice. In the midst of trial and tribulations, we remember that the savior is born to us, Jesus Christ. Our hope is in the Lord, in good times and the bad. This is what the world needs.”
H.E. Major General Jibreen Al-Bakri expressed his hopes, offering a message of interfaith fellowship and solidarity: “The Palestinian people are a living example of Christians and Muslims working together side by side in a deep bond.”
H.E. Rula Ma’ayah offered her message of peace and invited people around the world to visit Palestine: “At our Ministry we believe that tourism is not just an income generating activity, but an important step in building lasting peace. For every traveler we welcome, we create an important connection to the rest of the world. For those of us living in this besieged holy city, this connection is vital to keeping our hope alive. We ask that as you plan your travels for the coming year, you will consider visiting our beautiful nation. Join your brothers and sisters in the Holy Land – we are waiting for you.”
Eng. Anthony Habash expressed his heartfelt thanks for the support of American Christians: “Speaking on behalf of my Palestinian brothers and sisters, I cannot put into words how much it means that you have come to join with us in song, prayer and messages of peace. We so often feel forgotten, but your support today, and your ongoing aid in our effort to find dignity and justice gives us great hope. We know that American Christians are in solidarity with Palestinians.”
Rev. Dr. David Renwick shared the words of Thomas Kempis, author of The Imitation of Christ: “Firstly, be peaceful yourself, and you will be able to bring peace to others. A person of peace does more good than a very learned person. A passionate person turns even good into evil, and readily listens to evil; but a good and peaceable person turns all things to good.”
In his closing remarks, Sir Rateb asked everyone to put their faith into action, to be unified with our in working toward coexistence, peace and for the preservation of Christians in the Holy Land.
Click here to see the full gallery for the event.
Please put your faith in action today. Give Palestinian Christians the gift of hope this Christmas.
Merry Christmas & God Bless!