Holy Land Ministries
Helping Holy Land Christians: Why Does It Matter?
In the time since many inhabitants of the Holy Land were evangelized by the Apostles and their successors, and following the incursion of Islam and the creation of the state of Israel, demographic and political pressures have made the Holy Land increasingly inhospitable for the indigenous Christian population.
The Dilemma of Holy Land Christians
"You feel like somebody is choking you and there is no way out," Rani Espionoli, a Christian from Nazareth, said. "You need to get out of here and find something else. From Jerusalem to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, Christians are leaving by the thousands.”
- 50 years ago the population in the Holy Land was 25% Christian…
Today it is about 2% at 160,000.
- Jerusalem Christians totaled 45,000 in 1940…
Today there are less than 10,000.
- In Bethlehem during the 1960's the population was 80% Christian – 104,000…
Today it is less than 10% - 26,000.
- 60,000 Christians lived in Ramallah in the 1970's…
Now there are less than 6,000.
- Nazareth is now two-thirds Muslim.
“About 160 Thousand Christians live among about 3.5 Million Muslims and 5.7 Million Jews. It’s a reality of suffering. The number of Christians is constantly diminishing.” —Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, Chairman of the Franciscan Custody in the Holy Land
Currently, 70% of all Christians have emigrated. Those who remain do so for their jobs, their property, or because they do not have anywhere else to go, or cannot afford the price to leave. Those who remain have cause to wonder whether anyone in the West cares? St. George’s Pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Fr. Kamal Farah’s exchange visit here have presented us with several opportunities to help improve the lives of the beleaguered Christian population that remains in the Holy land.
Both the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) and CBS have produced reports on the plight of Christians in the Holy Land. Click on the following links to view the programs.
What We’re Doing To Help
Helping Holy Land Christians
is an outreach initiative of St. George’s parish. Some of us met Fr. Kamal Farah (Anglican priest in the Diocese of Jerusalem and Arab citizen of Israel) on St. George’s first Pilgrimage in 2007 and felt a call to respond to his urging that “You need to spend time with us and we with you so you can learn what it’s like to live as a Christian in the Holy Land!” Subsequent Pilgrimages in 2008 and 2011 introduced us to this experience.
The purpose of the group is to provide tangible evidence that American Christians care about our sisters and brothers who live under significant duress in the Holy Land, and to encourage them and to support them in their struggle for survival. We’re doing this through:
- Scholarships given annually to Christian children whose families are in need. Read more.
- Commerce with Christian artisans and businesses. Read more.
- Pilgrimages and Clergy Visits to build first-hand knowledge of the problems and pressures confronted by Holy Land Christians. Read more.
Scholarships for Christian Children in Need
The St. George’s Scholars
The Rev. Fr. Kamal Farah, of Nazareth, heads a committee that has selected children for scholarship support based on their families’ severe financial need and the children’s academic promise. St. George’s Outreach Committee allocated funds for one scholarship for the 2010-2011 academic year, two scholarships for 2011-2012 and two scholarships for 2012-2013. Private contributions funded an additional two scholarships for 2010-2011 and three scholarships for 2011-2012. For 2012-2013, as in past years, additional contributions will be needed to completely fund all five children’s educational expenses.
During St. George’s third Pilgrimage in 2011, led by Fr. Leigh Spruill and our guide, Fr. Kamal Farah, some of the Pilgrims made special arrangements to meet several of the children-and their families-whose scholarships are being funded by St. George’s and generous parishioners. One of our children, Sausan Abu-Sinni of Nazareth, is now entering high school where other scholarship funding is available. Taking her place among The St. George’s Scholars is Ena’am Maher Hani Maayeh who is an 8th grader in Amman, Jordan.
Each scholarship costs between $2,700 and $3,000 for the school year. This includes tuition, transportation, uniforms and other activities. Please consider a gift of $20, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, up to a full scholarship of $3,000. Gifts of any amount will be gratefully appreciated.
Emil Peter Wahhab
Born April 1, 2002
4th grade, Bishop’s School for Boys, Amman, Jordan
He is a good student, making good grades. Emil is an only child.
Rosette Deeb Marchi
Born in Nazareth, October 16, 2004
3rd grade, Franciscan Sisters School, Nazareth
Rosette is doing well in school
She has 1 brother and 1 sister.
Reema Elia Nasr
Born in Nazareth, June 13, 2000
7th grade, Franciscan Sisters School, Nazareth
Reema is doing well in school
She has 2 brothers and 1 sister.
Elia Samer Aquiti
Born in Nazareth, January 8, 2000
7th grade, Salesian Sisters School, Nazareth
Elia has 2 siblings. He is very talented on the keyboard.
Ena’am Maher Hani Maayeh
Born in Amman, Jordan, June 9, 1999
8th grade, Rosary School, Amman
Ena’am is doing well in school
Commerce with Christian Artisans and Businesses
To help increase income directly for Christian families in the Holy Land, hand-crafted items are purchased for resale through St. George’s bookstore. These include beautiful and inspiring olive wood carvings produced by leading Christian artisans in Beit Sahour (the location of Shepherds Field, near Bethlehem), high quality, extra virgin olive oil from Christian farmers, and beautiful ceramic tiles produced by Armenian Ceramics of Jerusalem. During the 2011 Pilgrimage, a number of the Pilgrims visited the workshops of the olive wood carvers and met the owners and employees. The initial shipment of olive wood carvings from these same artisans sold out quickly. Both the olive wood carvings and the olive oil are now carried in stock in the St. George’s Bookstore. Future plans call for these, and additional items, to be available to other parishes in the Diocese of Tennessee for their congregations.
Pilgrimages and Clergy Visits
Understanding the struggle for survival by the Holy Land Christians is paramount to understanding why our support is so essential to them. The best way to understand their struggle is to witness it firsthand, either personally through a Pilgrimage or by being involved when visitors such as Fr. Kamal Farah of Nazareth visit Middle Tennessee and share their personal experiences and insights. Until a personal visit to the Holy Land is possible, the St. George’s library has compiled a goodly number of books and selected readings that will help provide insight into many facets of life in the Holy Land. The following slide show is a collection of pictures taken during various St. George’s Pilgrimages.
Pilgrimages to the Holy Land
St. George’s has now sponsored three Pilgrimages to the Holy Land; 2007, 2008 and 2011, with a total of 77 people participating. Future dates are being considered for a pilgrimage. To inquire about the next one, please contact Valorie Corley in the church office at 385-2150. The primary purpose of joining a Pilgrimage offers the opportunity of a lifetime to experience first-hand what it means to walk where Jesus walked and see what He saw. A pilgrimage also allows us to meet our Christian sisters and brothers and gain a better understanding about what it means to be a Christian today in the Holy Land. The phrase most often used by returning Pilgrims to describe their experience is “life changing.” Other Pilgrims have said, “After standing in those special places the Scriptures have a whole new meaning for me,” and “Now when the Scripture reading refers to a place I can see it in my mind—gives it a new reality!”
Our 2011 Pilgrims shared their experiences daily with friends and family at home through a blog. Visit http://stgeorgesholyland.wordpress.com/ to read their entries, view the itinerary, and see photos from the pilgrimage.
In the Spring of 2010 the Rev. Fr. Kamal Farah of Nazareth, an Anglican priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and a faculty member of St. George’s College, Jerusalem, visited Nashville for a week preaching and making presentations about the Holy Land to St. George’s parishioners and guests. Audio recordings of these are available on-line below. The information Fr. Farah shared helped to lay a foundation of knowledge that can be built on by additional exchanges with other clergy from the Holy Land and by Pilgrims who visit the Holy Land. Planning is underway to identify our next visiting clergy from the Holy Land for future years.
Visiting Priest, The Rev. Dr. Kamal Farah
Did you miss one or more presentations given by Fr. Kamal Farah? Listen to them here!
The Rev. Dr. Kamal Farah is an Israeli Arab Anglican priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. His special expertise includes Biblical and cultural contexts of the Middle East; monotheistic religions and ecumenical dialogue; human rights and Middle-East minorities; and 5 languages: Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, French, and English.
February 24, 2010
Wednesday Night Live
"Jesus in His Political Environment"
February 25, 2010
Prime Time Speakers Forum
"Jesus and the Religious Streams"
Hear the Lord's Prayer just as Christ taught it to his disciples, and in His own language, Syriac-Aramaic." Syriac-Aramaic one of the oldest, rarest language in the world. It is the ancient language of God. It is the language Jesus preached in. It is the root language of Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, and the alphabet for Farsi (Persian), Urdu (Pakistan/Indian), and Greek.
February 27, 2010
Open Church Forum
"Jesus in His Social Environment"
February 28, 2010
Sermon at all morning services
Guest Lecture at Rector's Forum
"How Can We American Christians Best Serve Our Christian Brothers and Sisters in the Holy Land Now"