Two hundred Christians, from differing traditions, came together at ‘The Friends of the Holy Land’ carol service held at the Lichfield Cathedral on Friday 15th December. Standing shoulder to shoulder, and in the company of two bishops – one Anglican and one Roman Catholic – they prayed for peace and a greater understanding of the difficulties faced by Christians living in Bethlehem today. At Christmas time Christians across the world focus their attention on the ‘little town of Bethlehem’. Unfortunately, ‘peace and goodwill’ is not reflected in the harsh realities lived by many Christians in the West Bank and Jerusalem today.
Bethlehem’s Christians are increasingly fleeing what has become a virtual prison for their community. Faced with separation walls, water shortages, and an uncertain future for their children, many emigrate if they can. Those who remain face poverty and unemployment as travel restrictions make commerce almost impossible. There is little access to medical care and the traditional ways of life, such as farming, are often no longer available to them. The fields surrounding Bethlehem, where shepherds once ‘watched their flocks’, are barred to their descendants as large areas of land have been confiscated.
Maria McCaffery FHL Chief Executive Designate and worshipper at the Roman Catholic Church of St Augustine’s on Beehive Hill in Kenilworth said,
“We are so grateful to the Very Revd. Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, for making this service possible. In the last 12 months, we have supported over 2,000 named Christians families in the Holy Land. This includes help to over 100 Iraqi Christian refugees recently arrived in Amman in Jordan, forced to flee their homes because of their faith. In eight years we have raised over £3.1 million to support the neediest Christians living the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan. This carol service afforded an opportunity to give thanks for the generous donations of time and money we receive, and to underline our ecumenical approach. Through FHL UK Christians of all traditions can show their Christian family in Bethlehem that their situation is not forgotten or ignored.”
The Very Revd. Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, led the service and prayers were jointly led by the Rt Revd. Dr. Michael Ipgrave, Anglican Bishop of Lichfield, and the Rt Rev. David McGough, Roman Catholic Bishop of Birmingham. At the end of the service carol recordings, sung by the Olive Branches Choir of Bethlehem were played, and olive wood products, made in the workshops of Christian families living in Bethlehem, were available to buy.
FHL has a number of active supporter groups across the midlands and anyone interested in knowing more or becoming part of a group should contact the FHL office 01926 512980 firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate to FHL this Christmas to help their work supporting Christians living in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel Jordan please do so through their website www.friendsoftheholyland.org.uk or by clicking here.