a time for peace

– standing against occupation

christian economics…

An important aspect of the current situation in Palestine is the declining economic life, especially for the Christians. Until the middle of the 20th Century, Bethlehem was about 90 percent Christian, inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Yet, in recent years the size of the community has shrunk due to emigration. In 1998, the religious makeup of the city was 67% Sunni Muslims and 33% Christian, mostly of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations. In 2005, the total Christian population had decreased to about 20%.

Economically Christians are suffering more than others because it is mostly the Christians who own the hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, so the Occupation and protest Intifadas have had a huge affect them. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) reports that Bethlehem has the highest unemployment in the West Bank. There is 65 per cent unemployment rate largely due to the 2,000 bedrooms in hotels that are empty each night. 

“As Christians, we have no economic future here,” one business man says. “We are melting away. Next summer I will leave this country to go to the States. How can I continue?  I would rather have a beautiful dream in my head about what my home is like, not the nightmare of the reality.”

The Christian population is the well-educated, middle class of this area.  As they leave for better prospects in Europe and America, they are creating an even larger gap between the wealthy and poor, and Palestine is losing some of her best resources for the leadership that is needed so badly. 

And even more importantly, the “living stones” of Christianity, who give enduring witness to the Christian faith by their presence here, are losing their voice and influence.  Many are worried that soon, very soon, there will no longer be Christians living in this land we regard as holy. The descendants of Jesus will be completely scattered abroad.  While Christians don’t hold as closely to a “theology of place” as the Jewish and Muslim people, the events that happened here and the prayers of millions of people over the centuries have saturated this Holy Land with a sacredness that can’t be denied, and which continues to enrich the faith experience of every pilgrim.  

The Palestinian-Christians here need the support of their brothers and sisters around the world. They need them to come and visit this land, to buy goods produced here, to pray and work for the end of the Occupation by the Israeli’s, to act as advocates in their struggle for freedom. They are the guardians of the physicalness of our faith – The Church of the Immaculate Conception (above) and the Synagogue site where Jesus offered his first sermon (right) in Nazareth, among many others.  Our support will help them stand strong as living links for us, as they remain in the place Jesus called home.

peace/salaam – Pastor Pat

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
      are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
   for a ruler will come from you
      who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”  Matthew 2:5-7


October 24, 2008 Posted by | Christians, ELCA, Occupation, Palestine, peace | Leave a comment

lots of americans in palestine!

When I left for church last Sunday, I didn’t expect to meet up with any Americans, after all, I was going to Beit Jala, of which, I would guess, most people have never heard.  Imagine my delight to find not one but eight Americans, fresh from the US! Then I found out that not only were they American, they were sent from the ELCA for service here!

The ELCA has started a new program – Young Adults in Global Mission – in which recent grads from all over the country apply for one-year of service somewhere in the world.  These six young people and their Country Coordinator, Martin Shoffner, with his wife Suzanne, will be living in Beit Jala and Jerusalem while they work in Beit Jala, Bethlehem, and Beit Sahour at various schools and NGO’s who need their enthusiasm and energy.

  • Paul’s from Green Bay WI; he’ll work at al-Mahaba Kindergarten and the Boys Boarding Home connected to the Lutheran Church in Beit Jala
  • Marta’s from Gettysburg, PA; she’ll work at the Lutheran School in Beit Sahour
  • Meredith, from Marion Center PA, will serve at the Dar al-Kalima school connected to the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem
  • Kendra is from Berkeley CA and will do her work at the Environmental Center at the Talitha Kumi School for Girls
  • Chelsea (Monroe, MI) is going to help plan Alternative Tours for the ELC in Jordan and the Holy Land office in Jerusalem
  • Nikki, from Inver Grove Heights MN, is serving at Dar Anaddwa, the International Center in Bethlehem, connected to the Christmas Church
All of them are going to need our prayers and support as they serve people and make a difference in so many lives here!  They will be a blessing in so many ways – and I am proud that my church is showing active care for the people who continue to struggle to get a good education and the job opportunities that can make such a impact in their daily lives – and in the prospects of the future Palestinian state.
Please include these servants in your prayers and in your church’s intercessory prayer list, that the Holy Spirit would fill them to overflowing with the grace, love, patience, and strength they will need as they serve this year.
peace/salaam – Pastor Pat
Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.  – 1 Timothy 4:12

September 15, 2008 Posted by | ELCA, Occupation, Palestine, peace | 2 Comments