Christian Mayors Invite Pilgrims

Article excerpt

ALL THREE Christian mayors from the West Bank had the same message on Oct. 26 at the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation conference session entitled "Christian Mayors from the Holy Land: Towns Imbedded in History and Challenged by Realities of War and Peace." That message was simple but heartbreaking: The Christian population of the Holy Land is dying and their Western brethren must help before it is too late. Dr. Victor Batarseh, mayor of Bethlehem; Jannet Michael, mayor of Ramallah; and Hani Naji al Hayek, mayor of Beit Sahour were all passionate in their pleas.

"Through an opening in the [apartheid] wall and through a hot Judean desert I came to meet with you, to break the silence, and to tell you the story of occupied Palestine," Mayor al Hayek began. "It is the story of the shepherds and the kings, who, if they came today, would not have access to the crib where our Lord was born." He is not alone, he went on to say: five million Palestinians live with the same unbearable conditions daily.

Mayor Batarseh warned his audience of the great tide of Palestinian Christians emigrating from the region. "Today, their numbers living in the occupied West Bank is no more than 2 percent of the total population," Batarseh said. This is compared to the 20 percent of the total population of 1948 who were Christians. At that time, the Christian population was concentrated in the Bethlehem area, known as the Christian Triangle, and in the city of Ramallah the Christian population comprised 90 percent of the population. …