“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

Waller to share award with parish

Rev. Rob Waller, the pastor of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Milford, has been drawing international recognition to his church.

Rev. Rob Waller, the pastor of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Milford, has been drawing international recognition to his church.
Waller has been selected to receive the 2007 Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) Award. This award is given to individuals who have shown extraordinary commitment to peace, justice and well-being for the Christians of the Holy Land.
Waller has supported a number of the programs of the HCEF designed to provide moral, spiritual and financial support to Christians of all denominations in Palestine, Israel and Jordan.
With the strong encouragement of Waller, St. Andrew has spearheaded a Holy Land Outreach Committee to serve all of the Christian churches in the Greater Cincinnati area. That initiative raised funds which now support more than 300 students in Christian schools in the Holy Land.
St. Andrew’s parish partnership with Annunciation Catholic and its school in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, began in 2001 with the child sponsorship program and the holy land gift sales, and continued with the visit of five Palestinian Christian eighth-graders to St. Andrew parish and school in 2003.
This visit of Palestinian teenagers to Milford gave birth to the Children’s Peace Project.
"For five to six weeks, Palestinian children study with our children and live with our parish families. They connect Palestinian Christians with American Christians, Christians of the Holy Land with Christians of the west," said Waller.
"Our Christians become much more aware of the situation and struggles of Holy Land Christians," he said. "The conflict is not just about Muslims and Jews, but Christians in Palestine as well. Because of the difficult political and economic situation, it’s more difficult for them to stay. This is our way of giving them some hope to replace fear with security."
Since the Palestinian children’s first trip to Milford, the project has expanded beyond St. Andrew. A new group of children from Jordan arrived in Detroit several weeks ago, and some students are in the Mason area at St. Susanna.
Nancy Hemminger, the national coordinator for the program, recently went to Detroit to help make those trips a reality for Holy Land children.
Hemminger said this project isn’t just a regular study abroad program – its goals are to provide bridges between children half a world away from each other.
"The children are the peace ambassadors. They aren’t political in any way. The bridges they build now will lead to peace in the area for all religions," Hemminger said.
She said none of the Holy Land children are against Palestine or Israel, their goal is to live in peace.
"That’s all they want," she said. "They are a living bridge to peace."
Sholine Botto, who was born in Jerusalem and currently lives in Bethlehem, works as assistant to the Patriarch, which is "much like an assistant superintendent in the United States," said Waller.
Botto was the connection in the Holy Land who helped coordinate efforts to bring children to America, and to bring Waller and his parishioners to Bethlehem.
Botto also led multiple trips from the countries of the Holy Land – Israel, Palestine and Jordan – to different communities in the United States.
Botto said when asked what America was like, replied, "This is heaven."
It’s not because of the material goods that Americans have, said Botto. She said it’s the freedom that Americans enjoy to travel for miles without being stopped, not fearing for their safety wherever they go.
In addition to the Children’s Peace Project, the effort also led to the sale of more than $40,000 worth of religious olive crafts made by Holy Land artisans, providing significant economic support to a cottage industry that has fallen on hard times.
Waller also planned and led pilgrimages to the Holy Land’s Christian shrines, institutions and families – the "living stones" of the first Christian church.
"This award is not for me, but for the parish… good gracious. None of the reasons why I’m receiving this would exist without this parish. The award is as much for them as it is for me," Waller said.
The award will be presented to Waller at a banquet during the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation’s Ninth International Conference Oct. 26 and Oct. 27 at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. The theme of the conference is "Walking the Path of Peace." The award banquet will take place Friday, Oct. 26, at the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel in Maryland.

2016-10-24T07:28:32+00:00 October 13th, 2007|Categories: News|