One thousand Arab Christian children will gather in Bethlehem on January 14th as a living witness to peace and ecumenism in the Holy Land.
One thousand Arab Christian children will gather in Bethlehem on January 14th as a living witness to peace and ecumenism in the Holy Land. They will come to the city of Jesus' birth from 13 Christian towns in the Palestinian territories to participate in the second annual HCEF Journey to Bethlehem. The children will march together through the heart of the city – singing Christmas carols as they go – to demonstrate the importance of solidarity amongst the Christian denominations in the Holy Land.
The march will conclude at the Church of the Nativity, where an ecumenical prayer service for the children will be held. More than 50 Latin parishes along with children from Lutheran, Anglican, Armenian, Melkite, Syrian, Coptic and Geek Orthodox churches will gather in prayer for peace.
For many of these children this will be their first visit to Bethlehem and the millennia-old Church of the Nativity, despite growing up only a few miles away. Due to road closures and increased scrutiny at checkpoints, this second march and rally is perhaps a rarer opportunity for the children to visit Bethlehem than the first march in January, 2005. In the year since HCEF's first Journey to Bethlehem, the Separation Wall has extended even further around the city, increasing its isolation. Recent additions to checkpoints on the main roads of entry into Bethlehem have made foreign tourism more difficult and made passage for Palestinians – even children – almost impossible.
However, thanks to the generous support of the Latin Patriarchate, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, Caritas, Pontifical Mission, the Shrine of Saint Jude Parish (Rockville, MD), and Saint Andrew Parish (Milford, OH), AND MANY OTHER Churches and individuals, these thousand children will have the chance to celebrate the Christmas season in the city of Jesus' birth. Each child will also be given a Christmas gift courtesy of the HCEF Jesus Loves the Children Program, which annually distributes thousands of Christmas gifts to Arab Christian children.
"The purpose of this journey is to bring the joy of Christmas back to the birthplace of our Lord, the Prince of Peace,". said Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS, HCEF's president.".It is imperative that we renew hope for the Palestinian Christians in this difficult time, especially in light of the discouraging developments in Bethlehem. These children gather still clinging to the Christmas promise of ' Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men,' and I am eager to walk with them."
Joining Mr. Rabie and the children on the Journey to Bethlehem will be local and foreign religious leaders, including H.B. Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and H.G. Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and HCEF Advisory Board member. The mayors of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour will also be in attendance to welcome all the Journey to Bethlehem participants.
Your gift will help these children celebrate the birth of Jesus and renew their faith that Christians around the world will support them and pray for them, as witnesses of Christ's light in the land where He was born!
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