ACN News — COVID-19
Christians in the Holy Land paying a heavy price (1)
by Christophe Lafontaine, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web April 6, 2020
Because of the COVID-19 epidemic and confinement measures, pilgrims are staying away from the Holy Land which will undoubtedly leave the streets of Jerusalem empty at Easter. ACN International looks at the situation and relays the calls for prayer for local Christians. The cancellation of pilgrimages will have serious repercussions on the tourism industry on which many Christian families in Israel and the Palestinian Territories depend.
The coronavirus in the Holy Land has forced thousands of pilgrims to leave. Clearly, “many Christians will suffer from this, especially in Bethlehem, because they are employed in the tourism sector,” laments Brother Ibrahim Faltas, in charge, among other things, of relations with the Palestinian Authority and Israel for the Custody of the Holy Land.
“Without pilgrims, no one works,” he added. This reality has taken hold all the more because everything is interconnected in the economic ecosystem of Christians in the Holy Land: revenues from tourism fund social and pastoral works carried out by Christian institutions through parishes, shrines, schools, hospices, retirement homes and thus providing many Christians with “a worthy job” to support their families, as Cardinal Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, said recently.
At present, “with the forced closure of all hotels, bars and restaurants, most of our employees are at home, out of work. The same happened in the past at the time of the *Intifadas. We do not know how we will be able to pay everyone for a long while,” said Brother Alberto Joan Pari, also of the Custody. He explains that all the Casa Nova guest houses run by the Franciscans in the Holy Land are now closed. Souvenir and craft shops, as well as transport companies (taxis, buses, car rentals) are teetering on the edge. The small family-run businesses are not solid enough to withstand such a shock. In the past, when the Holy Land experienced wartime conditions, some managed to temporarily find an economic niche outside tourism. Now with the pandemic, all business sectors are affected, everything is closed, and it is impossible to take the risk of moving to another place to do something else.
Calls to pray . . . and Good Friday collection postponed
“We have already started to support the neediest families,” said Brother Ibrahim. “For us too, the local Church,” he admits, “it will be difficult to help people.”
When asked by ACN International how they can be helped, Brother Ibrahim said: “Undoubtedly, your prayers will provide great support, so will encouraging pilgrims to come back to this land as soon as possible,” he added.
* Intafadas: The Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, beginning in 1987
Read more in the second part of this feature story:
An unprecedented Easter in the Holy Land
ACN approved 40 projects in the Holy Land in 2018 and 2019 for a total of more than $1,012,500 dollars