01/25/2019, 16.18
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Young people from the Holy Land with the Pope in Panama for peace in Jerusalem

A group of 41 young men and women, two volunteers and three priests left the Holy Land for Panama. For Fr Bashar, this is a "very unique experience" and an "opportunity" for the young people to "strengthen their faith" and share experiences in a different country. Rosaries made from olive wood of Bethlehem will be handed out. A young woman will bear witness.

Panama (AsiaNews) – Fr Bashar Fawadleh, vocation director and responsible for the youth ministry in Israel and Palestine at the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, heads a group of 41 young people and two volunteers who left the Holy Land and arrived yesterday afternoon in Panama to take part in World Youth Days (WYD).

Speaking about the event, the clergyman said that for the young men and women, it will be a "very unique experience in their Christian life" because they will find an environment that “is different than what they are used to in their country”. This will “provide an opportunity for them to strengthen their faith and experience it with those who share the same goal”.

Participants come from different places in “the Holy Land: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Haifa, Jenin and Ramallah.” They are university students and employees (aged 18 to 35) who, together with their friends who stayed at home, will also pray "for peace in Jerusalem and the entire world."

Following is the interview with Fr Bashar, shortly after his arrival in Panama:

How did you prepare for the WYD in Panama? Did you have some special occasion to gather and meet for prayers related to the event?

The preparation started by signing up online eight 8 months before. The whole group (41 young people and two volunteers) gathered four times to discuss the programme, the process and the visa procedures because our passports needed a visa to travel to another country. Each meeting, we had a morning Mass and a prayer to ease the whole process and to have peace in Jerusalem and the whole world. We also organised to get a special permission to help us fly through Tel Aviv airport as we do not have an airport (in Palestine).

Are some of the youth taking part to the event from the Holy Land? If yes, how many, what age and where do they come from?

We have 41 young people and two volunteers from the Holy Land; Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Haifa, Jenin and Ramallah. They are university students and employees (aged 18 to 35), and among them we have two priests along with me.

What are the main aspirations, goals, dreams for young Christians - male and female - from the Holy Land? At the same time, what are the problems and difficulties? And what kind of contribution can they give to that sacred and troubled land?

A decent living has probably become a dream. However, young Christians still dream of living in a peaceful and safe land; they dream of having a steady job where they can support their families as the parents have sacrificed to provide them everything they can. They believe that the power of change is in their hands and minds, and thus they are working hard to accomplish this positive change.

A major problem Christians in the Holy Land face is that the number of Christians is decreasing. People nowadays seek emigration as they believe that a better opportunity and a better future is ahead of them in another place.

Due to the occupation, life is getting harder in many different ways. For instance, people living in the West Bank need a permit with specific time and date, to visit the Holy sites. Unfortunately crossing the checkpoint using that permit is not easy and people in the West Bank are deprived of their dignity. They cross the checkpoint like a prisoner walking down the hall to reach the visitor’s room. Speaking about it might seem easy, but it is completely different when a person experiences it.

Another problem our land is facing is that the unemployment rate is very high. Many young people graduate from universities and either end up jobless or work in a field different from what he or she studied.

The aforementioned problems are only a few of many others; however, Christian youth tend to ignore all these problems and work on building a Christian community filled with love and joy. They believe that a prayer can do magic, but they also believe that together they can create a chain of magic work. Thus, the youth of the Holy Land are trying their best to keep their education as a helping-hand to create the right space for a change.

Events like WYD can be important and significant for the youth in the Holy Land. How can it help make their faith grow? 

Most of the youth here are at their first World Youth Day. This event marks a very unique experience in their Christian life as it is different from what they are used to in their country. I believe that having a huge number of Christians of the same age gathered in the same place will provide an opportunity for them to strengthen their faith and experience it with those who share the same goal. This opportunity will allow them to grow their faith in Jesus Christ and understand the spiritual power they have. It might also be a beginning of a change in their life.

For those who remain in Israel, Palestine, etc. there will special events related to WYD. Will you have some special prayers or gatherings in communion with Pope Francis and people in Panama?

Young people who couldn’t make it to WYD will pray for those who were able because they are aware of the faith and experience participants will gain and share with them back home. Participants will also pray for those who could not make it and for peace in Jerusalem and the entire world.

There are two young people (male and female) who will be speaking about the olive wood rosaries, which are made in Bethlehem. These rosaries will be blessed and distributed to all the youth at WYD as a gift from Pope Francis to share them with others back in their countries. In addition, during a vigil, another young woman will talk about her life and bear witness to living as a Christian woman in Jesus’ Homeland.

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