Christmas in Bethlehem
call for prayer
Reflecting on Palestine and the PC(USA), the Rev.
Fahed Abu-Akel, Moderator of the 214th General Assembly (2002), calls
for prayer for Palestinians and Israelis, and for the PC(USA).
|This Christmas ... plenty of room in
The inns are empty, but they couldn't get into the
town because Israel has closed it to all visitors.
Witherspooners Darrel and Sue Yeaney share this
picture of "the little town of Bethlehem" at the season of
Christmas, 2002. The author is a Palestinian Christian who visited the
Yeaneys in Iowa, and who arranged home stays for them in 1998.
Plenty of Room in the Inn
In a few weeks we will remember that Mary wrapped
Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was
no room for them in the inn.
If Mary and Joseph were carrying the pre-born Jesus to
Bethlehem today, they would find that there would be plenty of room in
the inn, but they wouldn't be able to get into Bethlehem, because it
would be under military closure and curfew. And if, by good luck and
sheer determination, they were able to skirt around the military
checkpoints and roadblocks by climbing over hills and through fields,
they would find the inn closed - not full, but closed for lack of
Christmas Eve will be a silent night, but not a holy
night. All is not calm; all is not bright in the not-so-little town of
Bethlehem. It hasn't been for a couple years. The city of the birth of
the Prince of Peace is abandoned and tense. War and violence hover over
the Church of the Nativity and the Shepherd's Field like the heavenly
host of angels once did.
The Christian Palestinians in Bethlehem, and in the
surrounding villages of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, might be allowed out
of their homes for a couple hours to walk to church on Christmas, en
sha'allah (God willing), but they most certainly will not be joined by
any Christians who live outside the immediate Bethlehem area. The few
Christians who still live in Palestine (or the West Bank or the occupied
territories or Samaria and Judea, depending on your political persuasion
and who drew the map that you are using) are separated and isolated,
divided by Israeli settlements and by-pass roads, and thus are kept from
moving about freely. An image that helps me understand this is that of a
piece of "swiss cheese." Bethlehem, Taybeh, Bir Zeit and the
other towns and villages in which there are Christians, are like the
holes in the swiss cheese that are kept from connecting with one
another. Even the Christians who live in Jerusalem, just a few miles
from Bethlehem, will not get to Bethlehem for Christmas, as the
Christians who live in Bethlehem were not able to get to Jerusalem for
May the Prince of Peace, himself born in the town when
it was under military occupation, be born anew in Bethlehem at
Christmas, so that his presence - along with our concern for the
believers and our efforts on their behalf - will bring peace through
justice in the land where Jesus first cried, where the angels first
sang, where the shepherds were first struck with great fear, and where
Christians first believed.
May there be good news of great joy for all people,
and on earth peace to those on whom God's favor rests!
Wisam T. salsaa
Tel-Fax:+972 2 277 3672 -Mobile:052 357 498
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly have now been acted upon by the presbyteries,
confirming most of them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.
We provided resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest have been:
which removes the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
Confessions. Disapproved, because as an amendment
to the Book of Confessions it needed a 2/3 vote, and did not
10-1, which adopts the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. Approved.|
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Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
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Voices of Sophia blog
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After fifteen years of scholarship
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