A voice from Bethlehem
Independent Catholic News offers this pertinent Christmas message from Canon Naim Ateek who is director of Sabeel, an ecumenical liberation theology centre in Jerusalem;
I think we need to challenge churches to be more courageous this Christmas; today more and more people have some knowledge about what's really going on in Bethlehem yet fear makes people keep quiet.
I think the message of Christmas is "Fear Not!"
It is at the heart of the message of Christmas. What is holding people back is their fear. People are unwilling to take a stand and I think the message of the angels is still very pertinent.
If we can tell our church members that as long as they are afraid they will succumb to the message of the oppressors. That is what the oppressors want them to do to be silent, to be afraid; they try to intimidate them. But the message of Christmas is "Fear not."
We have the good news, and the good news does not allow people to be encircled in a big prison. This is not good news. So it places greater responsibility on us to say, 'what is happening in Bethlehem today is bad news, not good news'. One of the first sermons of Jesus was about release of the captives, and in Bethlehem today they are all in captivity they are prisoners. If we do not speak up, who is going to speak?
How can we celebrate Christmas when people are in captivity -when Bethlehem is in prison?
And yet, in spite of all of this, I would stake my life and say my hope is in God. He is a God of hope. We are people of hope. Our hope begins with a birth in a stable at Bethlehem. Our hope helps us overcome our fear. And we will continue to address these issues prophetically - as often as we can - until freedom comes
Nobody claims there are simple answers to the complex issues in Israel/Palestine but it is hard to believe that recent initiatives have been other than one sided. It is our Christian duty to pray for all the children of Abraham and surely as we look to God's gift to the world that was given at that first Christmas, we need to listen to the voices of the living stones.