”Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”
There is lots of good news to share this month, but unfortunately also some bad news… The bad news is that there was again an attack on a church in the Holy Land. Last December the church in Getsemane suffered an attack, early February the Romanian Orthodox Church in Musrara was vandalized by Israeli radicals. Video footage shows the assailants attempting to gain entry by smashing a lock to the front gate of the church and destroying its CCTV cameras. His Beatitude, Theophilus III, Patriarch of Jerusalem described it as an event “that reflects the extent of the Israeli extremists’ hatred for the Christian religion in general, and the Orthodox Church in particular”. It is important that the Christian community comes together to present a unified voice in condemning such actions More bad news is that the measures combatting Covid19 are affecting the Christian community in the Holy Land. The lack of income and social security leave many families in dire conditions.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), of which ICoHS holds the secretariat, invited church leaders in Jerusalem on February 25 to inform Parliamentarians in the UK on current issues in the Holy Land. We offered a platform to engage with one another and ask questions on how the local church is advocating for Christians during this time of pandemic.
The International Community of the Holy Sepulchre started to distribute the funds raised from the Bethlehem Star event among 7 schools, 2 institutions and 3 different projects from different local churches (Latin, Orthodox, Lutheran and Syriac) in the Bethlehem area to support with tuition fees, medical needs and food packages. Local volunteers helped with the distribution under the supervision of Father Ibrahim Faltas of the Custody of the Holy Land.
More good news is that Georgia Kamberi joined our ICoHS Team in London. Georgia will be assisting with communications and events. Eoin O’loghlen will continue to be involved with us through the Good Faith Partnership.
Last time we mentioned our plans for a meeting in London and Washington DC. The prolonged (travel) restrictions of the global pandemic forced us to re-evaluate our plans. ICoHS is now planning to organize high-level meetings in London and Washington DC in September – most probably it will be a hybrid event (small group of people meeting physically and making the event available virtually for a larger group). We hope to present an interesting report on Christianity in the Holy Land and will share soon more about this exciting opportunity.
This month we also started with our new live-stream series on “Feasts of the Holy Land”. If you missed the live-stream on February 16 – please watch the YouTube video below:
As we prepare for (Latin) Easter, we are creating a special “Holy Land Pilgrimage” which will be available daily on our website and on Premier TV during Holy Week as part of our series “Feasts of the Holy Land”. We invite you to share this virtual pilgrimage with your church community, family or friends.
Thank you for your continued support and prayers. If you are not yet an ICoHS-founding member, please visit our website at www.icohs.org and sign up as founding member allowing us to continue to bring the Holy Land “closer to home” and encouraging the Christians in the region.
“By the power of the Holy Spirit may you abound in hope” Romans 15:13
Much of the pessimism which blighted 2020 has continued into the beginning of 2021. In spite of our continued lock downs in different parts of the world, including the Holy Land, we must not forget the intolerable plight of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, especially at the end of the Christmas period which is often a time of great joy and energy in the birthplace of Jesus.
Without the custom of pilgrims and little government support, Christian businesses have struggled to remain open. This has exasperated the divisions in the area and continues to cast doubt over the future of Christians in the Holy Land. In response to this, ICoHS has directed $30,000 raised through your generosity in the Bethlehem Star event to assist struggling Christian families, helping them with school tuition and medical needs.
We are excited to share our plans for the coming year which has not been deferred by the pandemic. We will be holding our Summit this September in Westminster Abbey, bringing together leading voices on Christians in the Holy Land. This will be followed by a similar event in Washington DC in the United States of America.
As the only organisation to receive a mandate from all 13 churches in Jerusalem, we are pleased to announce the start of our “Feasts of the Holy Land” series. We will start with the Feast of St. Simeon with a live-stream on February 16, the day before Latin Ash Wednesday leading into lent and Holy Week.
This series aims to bring Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant communities together to celebrate these ancient traditions that are often less popular in modern times.
Looking forward to virtually meet you during our live-stream on February 16, in which we will share interesting facts about Saint Simeon, give you an opportunity to meet clergy from the Holy Land, roam the streets of Jerusalem with Bassem (a tour operator) and visit the Monastery of Saint Simeon in the Qatamon area.
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” Isaiah 40:31
At the end of 2020 we look back with mixed feelings on the past year. The International Community of the Holy Sepulchre started this year with exciting plans to strengthen churches in the region and support them as they extend their ministries and enrich local communities in the Holy Land.
Due to travel and other Covid19 restrictions, many of our planned activities became virtual. We were happy to connect with many hundreds of people around the global through our digital events.
During these events we felt it important to highlight the impact of the pandemic in the Holy Land.
Covid19 brought life in the Holy Land to a stop. Since no pilgrims can visit the region, many Christians have lost their livelihoods. Thank you for supporting them through ICOHS’s Hope for the Holy Land Campaign around Easter and the virtual Bethlehem Star Event last month through which we were able to raise funding to support the local church and to contribute to the daily needs of many families in the Holy Land.
As our International Community of the Holy Sepulchre grows, we are happy to welcome many members from South America and therefore, this monthly newsletter is now also available in Spanish. We plan to translate our website in Spanish too in the coming months to enlarge our engagement.
In 2021 we hope to travel again to the Holy Land. We are making plans to organize an ICoHS Summit in September in the UK, Brussels and US and will inform you accordingly.
While we cannot travel yet, we want to continue sharing information about the realities on the ground for the Christians in this part of the world. We hope to share every month a virtual experience of one of the Feast of the Holy Land to connect our international community with the local churches.
Thank you again for your prayers and support during 2020.
On behalf of ICoHS, I wish you a blessed New Year.