05/16/2022, 19.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Fr Ibrahim: Shireen’s death united all of Palestine

by Fr. Ibrahim Faltas

The Franciscan clergyman remembers the slain journalist. The UN Security Council condemns the murder and calls for an investigation. Latin Patriarch and the heads of the Churches issued a strong note. Ordinary Muslims and Christians, right-wing and left-wing politicians took to the streets to remember her. Her death fulfilled the dream of transcending divisions.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The whole of Palestine is mourning Shireen, taking “to the streets holding her picture: Muslims, Christians, politicians of all backgrounds, right, left. Today, her dream of a united Palestine, without divisions, came true,”  writes Fr Ibrahim Faltas, discrete of the Franciscan Custody and director of Christian schools in the Holy Land, in a piece written for AsiaNews on the death of Palestinian Christian journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh

For the clergyman, sadness and tears have filled the days since the loss of “a daughter”. Palestinian authorities have proclaimed three days of official mourning, and her funeral cortege took her along the 150 km that separate Jenin, where she was killed, from Jerusalem.

Fr Ibrahim strongly condemns the action by Israeli police during the funeral, which almost caused the coffin to fall, and sought to bar pallbearers from carrying it draped with the Palestinian flag (yesterday the Latin Patriarch and the heads of the Churches of the Holy Land issued a strong note condemning the violence of the Israeli police). Such "violent" actions saddened everyone. 

For him, the state funeral highlights the significance of her death, which brought together President Mahmoud Abbas, the cabinet, clerics, journalists and thousands of people, following the coffin wrapped in the Palestinian flag. "After Arafat’s funeral, I believe this is the first time this has happened,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian leaders continue to pin the blame for her death on each other. For its part, the United Nations Security Council has expressed its strongest condemnation and demanded that the circumstances of Shireen Abu-Akleh’s death be elucidated.

Fr Ibrahim remembers the slain journalist in what follows:

Shireen was the voice of Palestine that entered our homes. She was stopped by a bullet, which stopped a pure heart. With passion and dedication, she devoted her life to telling what was happening in Palestine, in distant villages that even Palestinians never saw or knew.

In an interview she said she chose journalism "to be close to people”. Although “it might not be easy to change reality but at least I can make my voice heard in the world,” she said.

We are sad and upset because her face was familiar to all of us, her reports among the people, in the streets, telling us what was happening in its harsh reality; she was like a family friend who kept us informed constantly. 

She was always ready and on time with the news, using simple words to tell the facts. But unfortunately, today she is the top news item – her life is the scoop, something no one ever wanted to hear.

An entire generation of young people grew up listening, through her reporting, to the stories of those who claim the right to live in their own land, the right to have a home, the right to live in freedom.

Shireen also told us about the beautiful face of Palestine, the beauty of the land and its holy places, the successes of young Palestinians in research, art, music – a way of encouraging young Palestinians not to abandon it, but to continue to live here despite the hardships, building a path of dialogue.

Shireen’s strength was her intellectual freedom, her passion to be among the people and to pass on news in real time. Through her voice she spoke lovingly about belonging to this land, helping us understand the news and view the facts which she reported.

Over the past few days, many women spoke about how much Shireen helped them, reciting poems that came from their hearts. She was a woman who served other women in difficulty.

A daughter of Palestine, she was a symbol for many young women and girls, passing on the passion for journalism, at a time and in place, the Middle East, that is certainly not easy for women. Because of this, she became an icon of journalism.

I first met Shireen 25 years ago, when we decided to broadcast Christmas Mass from Bethlehem. Since then, we developed a friendship and collaboration, that included interviews and discussions about the local Church in the Holy Land.

Exactly 20 years ago, during the siege of the Basilica of the Nativity, she rigorously reported on the 39 days of Bethlehem’s encirclement and occupation, a sad page that cannot be forgotten.

Today all of Palestine mourns Shireen. People took to the streets holding her picture: Muslims, Christians, politicians of all backgrounds, right, left. Today, her dream of one united Palestine, without divisions, came true. 

Without swords or rifles, she fought her battle, told the life of a people and the history of a land, day after day, preserving her faith; by embracing her, the Palestinian people do her justice. 

Shireen now lives in the arms of God the Father, but her spirit, her testimony, will always remain alive among us because her voice was our voice to tell the world about Palestine.

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