It is the time of the year when Palestine celebrates Christmas with the world. The day in which our people celebrate the birth of the messenger of love and peace.
Despite all the challenges Palestine has been passing through, we have seen many Palestinian cities and villages raising our flag, lighting the trees, with choirs singing Christmas carols, in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Gaza, Ramallah,BietJala, Beit Sahour,Birzeit, Taybeh, Jifna, Zababdeh,Nablus, Jericho, and many others. This Christmas, like every Christmas, our people with the world look upon the annunciation, the three wise men and the Grotto.
Like every year, I will be present with the faithful in the Nativity Church and St. Catherine’s Church celebrating with millions of people the Midnight Mass. I just visited his Holiness Pope Francis; he was a source of support, for me, and for our people who suffer from injustice.
I related to his Holiness my people’s hope that 2019 will be the year of ending the occupation, and reaching our national aspirations of our statehood on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, to live side by side with our neighbours.
On this occasion, we call all believers and people of goodwill in the world to pray and work for justice, peace, love and equality among all, especially for our people who have been denied their rights to live in freedom and dignity for decades. It is our will to live in peace and dignity in our homeland and the land of our ancestors.
On the other hand, we are witnessing an escalationin Israeli racist policies and colonial settlement activities,especially in Jerusalem, through the systematic procedures to change its characteristics, identity and cultural message. We want it to be an open city for worship for all believers and followers of the monotheistic religions, Muslims, Christians and Jews, so that our people can exercise their right of freedom of worship in their Christian and Islamic sanctities, which we have been deprived of as a result of the continued occupation.
Through Israel’s consistent policy to weaken the Christian presence in the Holy Land, we witnessed this year –a worrying precedent in modern history- the closure of the Holy Sepulchre. The closure was a protest and rejection of Israeli policies that targets the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
These policies include the confiscation of land such as Cremisan and pushing for legislating through the Israeli parliament to confiscate lands and properties of churches, expanding settlements, demolishing homes,while revoking the identity cards of families and refusing to reunite them. All these policies should alarm the free people in our world. And here I wonder:Would the Christian world celebrate Christmas or Easter at a time when our Christian people, whom we call living stones in the Holy Land, are pushed to immigrate because of the grave situation and harsh life we experience as a result of the oppressive and arbitrary Israeli measures?
Let us work together to revive the message of hope that emerged from a humble Grotto in Bethlehem to work for peace and justice so that wisdom prevails in order to finally bring peace to the land of peace.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.”