11/09/2005, 00.00
VATICAN – HOLY LAND
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Christian activist and Muslim painter from Bethlehem meet the Pope

In today's general audience the two Palestinians offered Benedict XVI gifts that are "symbols of the brotherhood of the two communities in the Holy Land".

Rome (AsiaNews) – A Christian activist and a Muslim artist met Pope Benedict XVI in today's general audience bringing a gift from Muslims and a gesture of brotherhood to show that Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land are part of the same people and want the same thing: Peace.

Samir Qumsieh, director of Al-Mahed (The Nativity) TV, the only Christian television network in the Holy Land, brought the Pope a crucifix made in olive wood. He was accompanied by Jalal Kamel, a Palestinian Muslim who gave the Pontiff a portrait of the Holy Father himself with the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity.

The painter told AsiaNews that "these are the symbols of the birth and resurrection of the Lord".

"My friend Samir encouraged me to do this portrait, and the Pope was visibly moved when he saw it and heard I was Muslim. He stopped in front of us for about five minutes but there were too many people to really talk".

Still, Jalal and Samir are pleased. "It is important to remind everyone that in the Holy Land Palestinian Christians and Muslims feel part of the same people. We live in harmony and in mutual respect. We can, with good will, become a model of coexistence for other countries". "This way," Jalal said, "I feel I can speak on behalf of moderate Muslims".

However, for portraying in his paintings, the suffering of the Palestinian people on the model of the life, passion, death and resurrection of Christ, Jalal has been insulted and threatened by Muslim extremists, but he has no intention of quitting.

"Many people appreciate what I do and for now I am not scared even though I don't know what the reactions of my community will be after this meeting with the Pope".

Samir Qumsieh gave the Pope a CD entitled Tour of the Holy Land, which is intended to "take the Holy Land to those who cannot visit it and maintain foreign Christians tied to the land of our Lord Jesus".

The director of the TV station known as the "voice of Christianity" is among the founders of the New York-based Christians of the Holy Land.

"The problems for Christians in the Holy Land are too numerous to enumerate them all," he said, "but with the support of the Pope and our brothers I am certain that I can continue my mission in favour of a Christian presence in the Holy Land".

 (Photo: the portrait by Jalal Kemal given to the Pope)

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