During this blessed season and amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the daily occupation and the deteriorating economic circumstances in which the Palestinian people and the whole world find themselves, I cordially invite you to join me in a reflective virtual pilgrimage to Bethlehem, Palestine – the birth place of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As a human belonging to the global human family and as an Arab Palestinian Bethlehemite Christian Roman Catholic (Latin) believer, and as an interreligious educator and activist, please reflect with me on some of the transmitted knowledge, truths and spiritual meanings of Christmas.
Jesus Christ was born in my town. He taught and toured from one place to another in the Holy Land, died on the cross, resurrected, triumphed over death, ascended to heaven and sent His Holy Spirit to give me and others new life in abundance. God has been telling us to live with the blessed meanings and gifts of this great historical event: Christmas.
Christmas to me is living a new life of love for God, for my brothers and sisters in humanity, for myself as well as my beloved homeland. It is also about how to live God’s peace which He announced through the angels’ words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among people.” Jesus’ peace is different from our type of peace; it has not yet prevailed: “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives to you.” I believe that justice is the basis of this divine peace which we as Palestinians are struggling peacefully and steadfastly to achieve together with people of goodwill.
During Advent and Christmas, the good news of joy and gladness are granted. I hope and pray that the joy of this slogan will spread among all, especially our children and youth who always look for happier and more joyful days despite the present difficult challenges.
Christmas has a very special meaning to me and to others. It’s the time and season of mercy and compassion. As Arab Palestinians and as followers of Jesus, I believe that the Gospel’s parable of the Good Samaritan is a very typical and good model of compassion to apply during these hard times. Sympathetic, compassionate, merciful acts and initiatives can help those needy, lonely, elderly and infected people, especially our poor children.
I have also learnt that our Arab Palestinian Christian and Muslim culture and traditions, inspired by the Christmas message, calls upon us all to give in love and joy, to be generous and serve during this season. Jesus is our example; “I come to serve, not to be served.” Giving has many shapes and it’s not the quantity but the quality that matters such as in the Biblical story of the widow’s son.
Christmas means to be more faithful, more committed and more rightful in what we say and what we do. I believe that all Christmas blessings have to be based on a personal life of humility such that of the Virgin Mary in her Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord”.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters in humanity, to support and join AEI in its mission and work to translate and live joyfully and hopefully the Christmas meanings and values: love, joy, new life, salvation, generosity, humility, mercy, justice and peace.
May the Almighty God strengthen our sumud or resilience, unity, living together and bless our prayers and actions on our joint journey towards celebrating New Year full of a new peaceful life, freedom, human fraternity, reduction of poverty, success in combating the Covid-19 pandemic repercussions, stopping hate speech and extremism, and ending violence and occupation.
A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2021
Co President AEI