12/21/2006, 00.00
HOLY LAND
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The peace that Christmas announces lies in a rapprochement between the two peoples, says Mgr Sabbah

In his message, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem laments the endless violence, injustice and occupation. Bethlehem “lives in conditions of death, with the wall, and conflict in the land and in the hearts”. The future lies in coexistence, not separation, between Israelis and Palestinians.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Salvation, which for all the world comes in the announcement of Christmas, comes for Israelis and Palestinians “in rapprochement between the two peoples, not in their separation” because the “two peoples can live in peace and tranquillity”. This, as in previous years, the city where Jesus was born however “lives in conditions of death, with the wall, and conflict in the land and in the hearts”.

In his Christmas message Mgr Michel Sabbah, Latin patriarch in Jerusalem, expresses greetings of “joy, serenity and peace”, but also echoes of Holy Land’s pain, and a call for greater solidarity.

“On the one hand,” he writes, “they continue the occupation and deny liberty; on the other, there is fear and insecurity. Gaza remains a huge prison, a place of death and intra-Palestinian conflict. Even children get killed. And everyone, including the international community, is impotent to find the true path of peace and justice. Fear of the future extents to the whole region: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan. World terrorism is fed by these open wounds.”

“This is the vision of Christmas from Bethlehem,” Mgr Sabbah writes “And yet the message of Christmas is one of life, peace and justice,” he adds.

“In Bethlehem and in the region, life has become unbearable despite local shows of solidarity and from abroad,” his message notes.  “Yes, we need solidarity and we are grateful for all the messages of brotherhood that we get from the entire world. But our fundamental needs are peace, justice, freedom and an end to occupation. In face of this the world seems impotent. And yet we say that each one of us, including the military and political leaders, have a potential for love, salvation and life. But for this to happen they must convert, from death to life, from a vision that views the other as enemy and a killer to one where he is a brother and a giver of life.”

Quoting from the Gospel story about the soldiers asking the Baptist what to do, Mgr Sabbah said “that even our political leaders must ask the Baptist ‘And what is it that we should do” to reach salvation for ourselves and those who put their destiny in our hands?’ The answer would be the same: “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages’.”

Let them listen to the voice of the oppressed in this Holy Land, the voice of those who have gone and those who have remained, threatened with death and humiliation, those upon whom they think they must impose death and humiliation in order to ensure security on the other side”.

“Christmas brings joy to humanity and announces to all that salvation is at hand, especially to those who live in Bethlehem and the region, Palestinian and Israelis. ‘Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us’ (Lk 2, 15).”

“What does the wall tells us? What do the residents of Bethlehem tells us today? Let us come to Bethlehem to listen to the angels that announce peace on earth, peace for people of good will, peace for real brotherhood against all hatred and hostilities, to find, in the rapprochement of the two peoples, security, an end of the occupation and freedom.”

“For all, brothers and sisters,” Mgr Sabbah concludes, “I call on God that you may hear and live the message of Christmas, a message of peace, joy and new life.”

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