Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Amidst the tinsel and cheer elsewhere, stark reality faces Bethlehem this Christmas. The city is contending with economic stranglehold, a dispirited and diminishing population, and social disintegration as a result of an effective Israeli blockade. The beleagured Christian minority has been particularly badly hit. For some time civic, Christian and Muslim leaders have been pushing the international Open Bethlehem campaign - seeking to revive the city through tourism, and to change its socio-political situation through external pressure.

Today a group of senior English church leaders embark upon a pilgrimage there: one that they hope will draw attention to the plight of the city, and root our celebrations of the birth of Christ in the reality of a continuingly broken world. The Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams; Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian, and the Free Churches Moderator, the Rev David Coffey are undertaking the visit - which will be documented on a weblog.

Related information: Local churches urged to support Advent pilgrimage to Bethlehem; UK visit to Bethlehem welcomed by local church and civic leaders; Archbishop of Canterbury honours Holocaust survivor and educator; Christmas peace messages taken to Bethlehem; Archbishop urges Christians to visit Bethlehem; Bethlehem peacebuilding school threatened with closure; Bethlehem visitor drive thwarted by road blocks; US and Palestinian children break Holy City barriers. [Picture: Church of the Nativity]

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