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

To Help Palestinian Christians, Detroit Archdiocese Launches Scholarship Plan

Archdiocese of Detroit officials are launching a three-year plan to raise $900,000 to educate Palestinian children and help halt the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land, an officials announced Saturday afternoon at a conference.

Archdiocese of Detroit officials are launching a three-year plan to raise $900,000 to educate Palestinian children and help halt the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land, an officials announced Saturday afternoon at a conference.

“Poverty is poverty is poverty,” whether it’s domestic or in foreign lands, said Daniel Piepszowski, Christian service department director for the Archdiocese of Detroit, making a connection between terrorism and poverty among Arabs in Palestine.  He spoke on October 20 at the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation’s third annual conference at the Washington Presbyterian Church, N.W.

Cardinal Adam Maida, Detroit’s archbishop, approved the scholarship plan after he visited the Holy Land last year, when he joined the pop’s historic pilgrimage there.
“Arab Christians truly suffer as marginalized and almost forgotten,” Cardinal Maida wrote in a letter to conference attendees.

The establishment of the Jewish state of Israel after World War II out of Palestine and subsequent civil and human rights violations against the indigenous inhabitants in the land where Jesus was born, died and was resurrected, has caused thousands to flee.  The current 13-month-old intifada or uprising by Palestinians against the Israeli  government seems to have made the situation worse.

Since 1948, the Christian population of the Holy Land has plummeted from 18 percent of the total population to less than two percent, while the Christian population of Jerusalem has gone from 51 percent in 1922 to less than two percent, according to the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation.

Piepszowski is trying to identify pastors, as well as Detroit business owners, who would be predisposed to help Palestinian Christians.  About 25 percent of the Detroit area is Arab-American.  The Archdiocese of Detroit is the country’s sixth largest see, with 1.5 million Catholics.  Piepszowski said many young priest may be interested in helping because the archdiocese requires its seminarians to tour the Holy Land.

We have to have a compelling message for (Americans) to act,” Piepszowski said.  He said he agrees with Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, the parishes should involve 80 percent of their time on local matters, 15 percent on national matters and five percent on international issues.

Part of the program will involve parishes and schools partnering with Palestinian parishes and schools, Piepszowski said.  To succeed in Detroit, the archdiocese will have to prepare education materials that teachers can use to help connect the Palestinian education issue with other social justice issues.

Catholic schools in that part of the Holy Land are one-third Catholic, one-third Muslim, and one-third are from other Christian denominations.  Since the scholarship money from the Archdiocese of Detroit will flow through the schools, the money will go to Christian and Muslim children, according to the archdiocese.

Speaking on the same conference panel as Piepszowski, Dr. Bishara Awad, the president of Bethlehem bible College, said that it’s tough t find librarians and computer science, English, music and religious teachers in the Holy Land.  “Most of our schools don’t have counselors,” he said.

“We’ve been trying to start a music program at Bethlehem Bible College from three years.  We can’t find (a teacher),” he said.  Many Christians don’t know their faith well and could fall prey to Muslims who tell them “that Jesus was not crucified,” he said. The Catholic Church runs the largest educational infrastructure in the Holy Land, including Bethlehem University, Awad said.  Christians and Muslims go to the schools, he said.  Awad’s father died in 1948, killed by a stray bullet.

Speaking on a separate conference panel. Father Christiansen said that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all need equal rights in Palestine, as well as equally delivered municipal services, such as education, garbage collection, road repair and sewage service.

In Israeli-occupied lands, the government usually does not give permission for churches to repair or expand their buildings, Father Christiansen said.  It’s also difficult for Christian-based medical organizations to operate in Palestine with the difficulty in obtaining supplies, he said.  Residents also have to deal with rebuilding their homes after Israeli shellings.  The Israeli Foreign Ministry encourages Christians to emigrate from the Holy Land, he added.

Although Jerusalem is the “center of the faith life” of Palestinian Christians, access to shrines there is often times restricted, Father Christiansen said.  Many Palestinian Christians love making pilgrimages to shrines in groups, but those gatherings have been few and far between, he said.

On Saturday evening at the foundation’s annual dinner, the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., won the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation’s Living Stones Solidarity Award for its work with the Catholic Church in Jerusalem.  World Vision of Federal Way, Washington won the other Living Stones Solidarity Award.

Foundation officials also recognized Father Christiansen for his work raising awareness about Arab Christians, as well as Rev. Donald Wagner, a Presbyterian minister, for his work as director of Mercy Corps International’s Middle East Program.  The foundation also announced that it has given $500,000 in aid to Palestinian Christians this year.

2016-10-24T07:35:32+00:00 October 31st, 2001|Categories: Uncategorized|