“We are doing this mass to pray [to] God, because nobody is hearing us. Just God can hear our prayers and He can change the mind of all the people who are putting injustice on the Palestinian people. We are losing our land, Americans are doing nothing for us, Europe is doing nothing for us, just God can help us change the mind of everybody to give us back our own land”.
It may surprise you, but these are not the words of some Islamist fanatic, looking to sweep the Jewish people into the sea and create a medieval Islamic caliphate in Palestine. These are the words of Father Ibrahim Shomali, the Catholic priest of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, as he celebrates an open-air mass in the beautiful Cremisan valley. His mass takes place every Friday, as a sign of protest against a planned extension of Israel’s separation barrier which will lead to the confiscation of yet more Palestinian Christian land.
In October 2012, the Foreign Secretary William Hague, a politician not known for his activism on behalf of the Palestinians (as his ill-judged statement on Palestine’s application for non-member observer status at the UN demonstrated), formed an improbable alliance with the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, to protest against Israeli plans to extend its separation barrier near Bethlehem. The extended barrier will run between Cremisan’s famous wine-making monastery and convent, separating the two establishments and cutting off the monks from the local Christian community in Beit Jala. It will also separate the convent and more than 50 families from land they own. Continue reading “Palestinian Christians: the forgotten faithful”