Holy Land – In early year 2016, we met Christians of the Holy Land who accepted to give their reflections of the past year and their expectations for the New Year. At a time when the past months were marked by violence, both locally and internationally, Bishop Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan, and Samer, a young Christian from Bethlehem, shed a light which, without denying reality, remains focused towards hope and better days.
Bishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan
The year 2015 was full of violence and blood. The most striking fact is the arrival of Iraqi Christians with low morale. On the spiritual level, it was the Year of the Consecrated Life, which involved several activities together with religious congregations active in Jordan.
For the coming year, I expect (hopefully) an end to the Syrian and Iraqi conflict. For Jordan, may it remain safe from violence which affects other Arab countries. For Christians of Jordan, may they withstand and remain in the country despite the menaces and may they continue to show Christian spirit towards Syrian and Iraqi refugees. For the world, may world leaders end up by letting common welfare of humanity prevail over their own interests.
Samer, 25 years, young Christian from Bethlehem
2015 was a year full of fear, hope, but most importantly new rich opportunities and meeting great people. Through my teaching Arabic to internationals, I have made long lasting friendships. Those people empathize with me as a Palestinian and a Christian living in the Holy Land.
Moreover, I took part in a learning process in a center that helped me reconnect with an ancient art that was born in my country, which is writing Iconography. The center helped me grow spiritually and enrich my knowledge in Theology and the Bible. For me, the center represents a powerful Christian presence in a time and place where Christians in the Middle East are persecuted and forced out of their homes, schools and churches. It’s a symbol of an effective resistance and a statement to all people that Christians in Palestine are there to stay and thrive.
The most remarkable event that was on my mind this year was the crisis of refugees. It’s the Iraqi and Syrian refugees that escape their hometowns and risk their lives to try and start over in neighboring countries or in other parts of the world. When Pope Francis asked churches and people to open their doors and welcome the refugees, I realized that we can put into action our empathy and love that God taught us. I realized that love isn’t just a word but an action.
For next year, I hope that Christians in the Holy land will grow more in faith. As equally important, they should remember that without them, the Holy Land will lose its identity as the birthplace of Christianity.
Interview conducted by Calixte des Lauriers
Source: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem