Why Christmas was ‘canceled’ in Bethlehem

“We urge you to pray that this war is over. We urge you to work, to lobby, to advocate. All we want this Christmas is a comprehensive ceasefire”

Christmas celebrations have been cancelled in Bethlehem, the West Bank town where Christians believe Jesus was born.

It comes as British charity workers renewed calls on UK ministers to follow Australia and issue temporary visas to children and their families fleeing the war.

“I return to the UK not suggesting that we cancel Christmas, but that we take urgent action in the spirit of Christmas, extending compassion to those suffering before it is too late,” said Dr Krish Kandiah, of the Sanctuary Foundation, who visited both Bethlehem and nearby Jerusalem this week on a fact-finding mission.

“If our government were to start by providing a significant number of humanitarian temporary medical evacuation visas to children and their families, a few lives will be saved from the horrors of war.”

Bethlehem’s Manger Square, which normally sees a 20ft fir tree erected above an illuminated nativity scene, stands empty, locals say, in solidarity with people enduring the conflict just 46 miles away in the Gaza strip. Instead, Dr Munther Isaac, a Palestinian pastor at Bethlehem’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, created a manger scene depicting baby Jesus surrounded by rubble and concrete.

A pastor in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, built a nativity scene out of rubble.

“We did this for ourselves to emphasise that Jesus is in Solidarity with those who suffered,” he told Dr Kandiah.

“Jesus is with us in our pain, when we’re victims of marginalisation and injustice. This is Christmas to us. And I hope that you think of the true meaning of Christmas as you celebrate in your own ways in the UK.”

He added: “For there is a genocide taking place in our land. We’re broken. We’re praying every day for this to end. We’re heartbroken by images of children being pulled from under the rubble on a daily basis. So many people have died. Enough, enough, enough, we say. We urge you to pray that this war is over. We urge you to work, to lobby, to advocate. All we want this Christmas is a comprehensive ceasefire.”

Australia recently issued emergency visas to 800 Palestinians and 1,700 Israelis, granting them temporary visitor status and allowing them to stay in the country for a year.

In October, a coalition of charities and groups drew up proposals for a refugee scheme that would accept thousands of Palestinians from Gaza into the UK, based upon the Ukraine refugee programme.

The UK government currently has no programme for accepting refugees from the conflict in Gaza.

It’s no wonder no-one felt like celebrating Christmas

There is no Christmas tree in Manger Square in Bethlehem this year. The 20-foot fir tree bedecked with lights and the huge, illuminated nativity scene that nestles beneath it are missing. None of the stars on Star Street are lit. The shops that are filled with candy and gifts crafted from olive wood are all boarded up.

The people of Bethlehem have cancelled Christmas celebrations this year in solidarity with those suffering in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Just 46 miles away, tens of thousands of children, women and men have been killed in just eight weeks.

SOURCE: Irish Mirror

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