Today has been another busy day of touring and walking and looking and thinking in the Holy Land. Our destination was Bethlehem - we were driven to the check point by our tour guide to meet with representatives of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, who then drove us from the security point into the small city. Ramzey and Amami (who both work for the organization dedicated to helping Christians in the Holy Land through education, housing, and jobs) then gave us the tour of the Christian community in Bethlehem - we visited a school and talked to some of the students there, met with priests and a few of their parishioners, and finished with a visit to the Church of the Nativity.
One of the priests we met was Fr. Majdi al Siryani, whose connection to the Holy Land is as strong as the Bedouin coffee he served us (which, for clarification, was incredibly, incredibly strong). He wanted us to know that Christians are struggling in the Holy Land - and particularly, from his point of view, Palestinian Christians who cannot move in and out of the city of Bethlehem. They need permits, which are nearly impossible to acquire, and must endure security checks and feelings of instability and enclosure. One of my travel companions asked Fr. Majdi how this can change, and what needs to happen for the wall that divides Israel and Palestine to come down.
"The Church and journalists," he said, immediately and with conviction.
He went on further, explaining that the Holy Land needs to be aided by third-party people (that is, not siding with Israelis or Palestinians) who are pro-truth and without a political agenda. Both the Church and the media should work as listening ears and communicating mouths, presenting only truth to the world.
"When you tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, that is when we
will have hope," Fr. Majdi said. And that hope is needed for Catholic parishioners, for Palestinians, for Israelis... for all people of the Holy Land.
So - church and journalists. In his straight forward answer, one priest in the Holy Land has given us much responsibility. But from this one brief visit to the Holy Land, I have learned that it is a responsibility well worth accepting.