The Catholic Church of the Holy Land has always prided itself with its strong institutional presence and major contributions to the fields of education, health, and social services. Nothing is more evident that the ecumenical and interfaith contributions through Catholic schools serving with distinction all segments of society regardless of their religious background, nationality, political affiliation, color or gender. This beautiful mosaic is built around a value set that filters through every student, parent, and teacher that teaches respect, coexistence, tolerance, peace and love in a region that is often marred by violence and wars. Thus, sustaining this presence and contribution is sacred for us in the mother church.
Given the severity of the pandemic and its devastating effects around the world, the lack of strong health and economic structures in both Palestine and Jordan characterized by massive loss of jobs and income, most families turned to use available resources to meet basic needs. Thus, the ability of the parents of 12,456 students who still owe a tuition balance in our 38 schools in Jordan and Palestine became next to impossible. At the same time all schools turned to distance learning immediately after the lockdowns were imposed and teachers responded and continued the educational process from home under very challenging conditions. Ethically and morally they should be compensated for their services. The total owed to date is $7,194,264 which is a phenomenal amount.
While we expect some parents will find the means to pay and we are sure they will do the responsible thing and settle their amounts. However, the majority will not be able to do so which will leave a deficit that will shake the very existence of these schools, some of which have a tradition of over 150 years.
Our five schools in Israel are in a completely different category, where unlike the poor economies of Jordan and Palestine, Israel launched a stimulus package to support the unemployed and closed businesses and guaranteed that already made financial commitments to the schools will be honored. Thus, we do not anticipate any problems with those schools.
With this, we appeal to all our brothers and sisters around the world to provide urgent support for the needy families of the 12,456 students enrolled at the 38 Latin Patriarchate Schools in Jordan and Palestine to help them meet their financial obligations. This will allow them to use the other limited available resources to meet other urgent needs during this pandemic. This will indirectly help us keep our cherished institutional presence in education strong, well and alive. Given the global nature of the pandemic and realizing that the suffering is in every corner of the world, any amount regardless of its size will be greatly appreciated.
Your financial support is a life-giving, hope-filled expression of Christian ministry. As you reflect and pray on our very difficult situation, may the Gospel passage be a helpful guide: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Lk 6:38).
We sincerely thank you in advance for keeping your brothers and sisters in the Holy Land in your thoughts and prayers.
† Pierbattista Pizzaballa