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100 Christian community leaders back UN bid
Published Wednesday 14/11/2012 (updated) 14/11/2012 22:24
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Catholic clergy carry palm fronds during a Palm Sunday procession
in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun, File)
Palestine, the Holy Land, is our homeland. Our roots here stretch for centuries. We, Palestinian Christians, are the descendants of the first Christians. We are also an organic and integral component of the Palestinian people. And just like our Palestinian Muslim brothers and sisters, we have been denied our national and human rights for almost a century.

We have endured dispossession and forced exile since 1948, when two thirds of Palestine's Christians were forcibly expelled from their homes in the Holy Land. Our presence in our Holy Land has been under threat since then, choked by a snaking wall that has devoured our land and deprived our congregations of hope and peace in the land that was blessed with the birth of the Prince of Peace. We have persevered through 64 years of exile and 45 years of occupation, holding on to His message of peace. We, Palestinian Christians, say enough! Our message is simple: to achieve peace, the world must also say enough to occupation and the degradation of human dignity.

As Christian community leaders in Palestine, we are entitled to seek a just peace that will lead to reconciliation and the realization of our people's natural rights. The current status quo is untenable. On one side, there is a people under occupation and on the other, a belligerent occupying power that works tirelessly to distance us from the peace we seek and pray for. We Christians have a duty to confront oppression. In our Kairos document, we Palestinian Christians declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God.

Ending Israeli occupation is the only way for Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, to enjoy a life of prosperity and progress. It is also the surest way to secure continued Christian presence in this, our Holy Land. It is the way to preserve our history and help tear down the occupation's wall that disconnected Jerusalem and Bethlehem for the first time since the birth of Christianity.

We, Palestinian Christian leaders, part of the indigenous people of the Holy Land and descendants of the first Christians, have witnessed the changes of this land over the centuries. We have suffered the loss and have carried the cross for all these years. The occupation, oppression, exile and Apartheid, have made of every day a good Friday. We hope that your actions and prayers, along with ours, will help us get closer to the day of our own resurrection as a free nation.

We believe the PLO's initiative to enhance Palestine’s status in the United Nations to an observer state is a positive, collective, and moral step that will get us closer to freedom. This is a step in the right direction for the cause of a just peace in the region. We fully endorse this bid, just as we supported Palestine's application for full membership of the United Nations a year ago. That is why we call upon European governments to fully endorse the just Palestinian plight for freedom and independence.

The international community, and particularly Europe, have a historic responsibility toward Palestine’s rights. Europe has long championed the values of peace and human rights. Now, Europe can reflect this principled position by helping Palestine. We call on you to support our effort in bringing about a real peace by aligning their positions and actions with international law and UN resolutions and supporting Palestine’s UN bid. From the Holy Land, we call on you to take this peaceful, righteous, and collective step toward deliverance so that our halleluiah soon becomes a celebration of a peace we live and not a yearning for a reality we are unjustly denied.

Signatories:

1) Patriarch Emeritus Michael Sabbah – occupied Jerusalem
2) Archbishop Atallah Hanna – Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, occupied Jerusalem
3) Monsignor Rafik Khoury – Latin Patriarchate Seminary
4) Dr. Zoughbi Zoughbi – Director of Wi’am Center, Bethlehem
5) Vera Baboun – Mayor of Bethlehem
6) Hind Khoury – Vice President of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center and Ambassador, occupied Jerusalem
7) Fr. Faysal Hijazeen – General Director the Christian Schools in Palestine
8) Sami El-Yousef – Regional Director for Palestine and Israel, Pontifical Mission for Palestine, occupied Jerusalem
9) Reverend Alex Awad – Pastor of the East Jerusalem Baptist Church and Dean of Students at Bethlehem Bible College, occupied Jerusalem and Bethlehem
10) Fr. Aziz Halaweh – Parish Priest of Taybeh
11) Claudette Habash, General Secretary of CARITAS – Jerusalem, occupied Jerusalem
12) Mira Rizek – National Secretary General of YWCA Palestine, occupied Jerusalem
13) Hanna Siniora – Head of the European-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, occupied Jerusalem
14) Nabil Mushahwar – Head of the Palestine Bar Association, occupied Jerusalem
15) Afif Safieh – Ambassador, occupied Jerusalem
16) Fr. Jamal Khader – Dean of Arts, Bethlehem University
17) Fouad Kokali – Member of Parliament, Beit Sahour
18) Rifaat Kassis – Kairos Palestine General Coordinator, Beit Sahour
19) Yacoub El-Yousef – President of the Arab Orthodox Club, occupied Jerusalem
20) Dr. Bernard Sabella – University Professor and Member of Parliament, occupied Jerusalem
21) Fr. Ibrahim Shomali – Parish Priest of Beit Jala
22) Dr. Elias Iseed – Head of the Arab Orthodox Society, Beit Sahour
23) Khader Abuabara – Head of the Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Jala
24) Dr. Na’el Salman – Mayor of Beit Jala
25) Fr. Johnny Abukhalil – Parish Priest of Nablus
26) Hanna Karkar – St. Jacob's Orthodox Cathedral Board of Trustees, occupied Jerusalem
27) Antonian Society – Bethlehem
28) Hani Hayek – Mayor of Beit Sahour
29) Ibrahim Matar – President of National Christian Association, occupied Jerusalem
30) Ramzi Zananiri – Executive Director of Near East Council of Churches, occupied Jerusalem
31) Samia Khoury – Civil Society Activist, occupied Jerusalem
32) Fayez Saqqa – Member of Parliament, Bethlehem
33) Hanna Amira – Member of the PLO Executive Committee, occupied Jerusalem
34) Nader Abu Amsha – Director YMCA, occupied Jerusalem
35) Dr. Kholoud Daibes – Member of the Church of the Nativity Rehabilitation Committee, Bethlehem and former minister
36) Tony Khashram – Businessman, Occupied Jerusalem
37) Ziad Bandak – Adviser to the President, Bethlehem
38) Fr. Raed Sahlia – Parish Priest of the Holy Family Church, Ramallah
39) Lena Saleh – Educator, occupied Jerusalem
40) Edmond Shehadeh – General Director of the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation, Beit Jala
41) Simon Kouba – Engineer and Community Activist, occupied Jerusalem
42) Xavier Abu Eid – Adviser to the PLO Negotiations Team and honorary Member of the Papal Scout Troup, Beit Jala
43) Kamal Boullata – Artist and Art Historian, occupied Jerusalem
44) Salim Hodali – Head of Diaspora Section, Bank of Palestine, Beit Jala
45) Francis Tams – Civil Society Activist, occupied Jerusalem
46) Pauline Nunu – Spokesman for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel, occupied Jerusalem
47) Fr. Hanna Salem – Vice Director of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary, Beit Jala
48) Yusef Daher – Jerusalem Inter Church Center, occupied Jerusalem
49) Manuel Hassasian – Ambassador, occupied Jerusalem
50) Dr. Samir Hazboun – President of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, Bethlehem
51) Elie Shehadeh – Palestinian National Initiative, Bethlehem
52) Antoine Nesnas – Community Activist, occupied Jerusalem
53) George Lama – Center for Cultural Heritage Preservation, Bethlehem
54) Honey Thalgieh – Captain of the Palestine National Women’ Football Team, Bethlehem
55) Renee Bahu – Retired Teacher, Ramallah
56) Kamal Daibes – Member of Ramallah Municipal Council, Ramallah
57) Albert Hani – Head of Papal Scouts Group, Beit Jala
58) Saint Vincent de Paul Society – Beit Jala
59) Fr. Iyad Twal – Parish priest of Beit Sahour, Beit Sahour
60) Dr. Muna Mushahwar – Arab Orthodox Club, occupied Jerusalem
61) Fr. Johnny Bahbah – Latin Patriarchate Seminary, Beit Jala
62) Fr. Emcula Sema’an – Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Beit Jala
63) Diana Safieh – Dame of the Holy Sepulcher, occupied Jerusalem
64) Dr. Suleiman Abu Dayyeh – Head of Palestine Desk – Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty, occupied Jerusalem
65) Sister Hala George – occupied Jerusalem
66) Hania Persekian – Arab Orthodox Club, occupied Jerusalem
67) Issa Kassasieh – Arab Studies Society – Orient House and member of the Arab Orthodox Club, occupied Jerusalem.
68) George Bahu – University Lecturer, Ramallah
69) Diana Mushahwar – The Four Homes of Mercy, occupied Jerusalem
70) Fr. Yousef Hodali – Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Beit Jala
71) Tony Salman – National Christian Coalition, occupied Jerusalem
72) Antony Habash – Regional Director – Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Bethlehem
73) Nidal Abuzuluf – Manager of Joint Advocacy Initiative – YMCA, Beit Sahour
74) Mireille Ghnem – President of YWCA Jerusalem, occupied Jerusalem
75) Mazin Qumsieh – Professor Bethlehem University, Beit Sahour
76) Vivien Sansour – writer and photographer, Beit Jala
77) Yasmine Khoury – Kairos Palestine, Bethlehem
78) Michel Awad – Executive Director SIRAJ Center, Beit Sahour
79) Anton Hanna Siniora – The National Christian Association, occupied Jerusalem
80) Maher Sahlieh – Palestine Scouts Association, occupied Jerusalem
81) Usama Zoughbi – Civil Society Activist, Bethlehem
82) Ramzi Sansour – Assistant Professor and Consultant, Bethlehem
83) Ghassan Daoud – Head of the Association of Orthodox Housing Project, Beit Sahour
84) Fr. Boulos Alam – Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Beit Jala
85) Near East Council of Churches – Jerusalem, occupied Jerusalem
86) Issa Kassis – CEO Palestine Mortgage & Housing Corporation, Ramallah
87) Arab Orthodox Club – Bethlehem, Bethlehem
88) Fr. George Shahwan – Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Beit Jala
89) Dr. Varsen Aghabakian – Development Consultant – occupied Jerusalem
90) Haifa Baramki – Vice President – YWCA Palestine, Ramallah
91) Raed Abed Rabboh – Public Relations Director at Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) and Member Mar Mansour Christian Association, Beit Jala
92) Issam Moghannam – Head of the Holy Family Scout Troup, Ramallah
93) Wassef Daher – Head of Board YMCA – Palestine, occupied Jerusalem
94) Dr. Aghlab Khoury – President of the Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Sahour
95) George Rishmawi – Head of SIRAJ Center and Alternative Tourism Group, Beit Sahour
96) Mouhib Awad – Member of Parliament, Ramallah
97) Fr. Louis Hazboun – Parish Priest of Bir Zeit, Bir Zeit
98) Andre Batarseh – Secretary General of YMCA, occupied Jerusalem
99) Nizar Habash – Journalist and former head of Holy Family Scout Troup, Ramallah
100) Nora Karmi – Kairos Palestine, occupied Jerusalem

This letter has been endorsed by hundreds of priests, reverends and other community leaders in Europe.
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