Wi’am Christmas Message 2011

Is there room for the Palestinians in the Inn, the UN INN?

The essence of Christmas is warmth and security for the afflicted, the homeless, the marginalized and all the downtrodden. This is the Spirit of Christmas, as Christ recited from the prophesy of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has annointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.”

There is room in the Inn: everyone is welcomed in the warm cave of our Lord Jesus. Christmas is a call for every human being to enjoy home as a safe haven and, thus, Palestinians are not a lesser nation.

Christmas is a celebration for every Christian family. We are reminded that Christ was born to a humble woman in a Bethlehem cave. Yes, I believe in the miraculous birth of Christ. However, I also believe I cannot celebrate without remembering the deteriorating socio-economic and political conditions across the entire world and particularly in Bethlehem, Palestine. If the baby is to be born in the flesh today, what will He find?

The Magi will not be able to visit Bethlehem because of the annexation wall. This Apartheid Wall, which is five times the length and twice the height of the Berlin wall, will stand in their path. Mary and Joseph will not reach Bethlehem in time (if ever) because of at least 500 checkpoints that prevent them from moving freely.
Should they arrive, they will find many of the caves as well as houses demolished, especially in Jerusalem. These demolitions, under the guise of “security,” are actually a vehicle for ethnic cleansing. Will the Holy Family find an alternative!? There are no more shepherds in the fields because 87% of the land in Bethlehem area is either under Israeli government or settlement control, confiscated to build settlements and bypass roads or to erect the Apartheid annexation wall. This fall 900 new units were announced for Har Homa and 1100 for Gilo settlement. In addition 20 dunams of land were confiscated near Bethlehem checkpoint. Furthermore, a new settlement between Gilo and Har Homa will be constructed soon and thus 7000 dunams of Bethlehem land transferred to Jerusalem Municipality.

Rachel is not crying alone in Ramah but joined by more mothers across the world who lose their children to violence. The Holy Family will not be able to seek refuge in Egypt, especially with the entire middle-East in turmoil or what is known as the Arab Spring, since Palestinians find no easy welcome. The number of Palestinian refugees has increased to five and half million in Egypt and other countries where refugees continually experience ill-treatment.

Still, we will not allow the Grinch to steal Christmas!!!  Christ is born. Alleluia!! Despite the occupation, hope is rekindled and the spirit is uplifted. The Romans, as with all kinds of occupations, ultimately verified the truth and belief in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whether they like it or not, tyrannical rulers cannot halt the dissemination of the Good News. The transformation has started and no power on Earth will stop it. As Martin Luther King Jr. said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward Justice”. Verily, some leaders can postpone the inevitability of justice for a while, but not forever.

Our hope is still alive. Hope for us is a form of nonviolent struggle. Born with Christmas and reborn with the Resurrection, this hope is based on Faith, risks and casts out fear, anxiety and paranoia, yet. “Do not be afraid,” said the angel to the shepherds, “for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.” (Luke 2: 11) So let us not be afraid: angels, shepherds, and all, for we are to be equipped with hope and armed from toe to head with love. Let us raise our voice to the glory of God.

Despite all this bloodshed, the massacres carried out in many places and the agony of
the crucifixion, the resurrected Christ is alive among us and he will be born in the cave of our hearts. Our hearts are spacious, enough to house all the children born today regardless of their oppression, suppression and depression.
The Grinch will never steal Christmas because all of you will warm our hearts, with your goodness, to prepare our caves for every refugee. The child of the cave will be nourished by your prophetic voices and acts of Justice.

Many have told me several times they will not be able to celebrate Christmas without sending messages of love and agapé to the children of Bethlehem. Your calls to adopt BDS are a blessed message of nonviolence, resisting the ugly violence of the Occupation to bring the occupiers to their senses. Christ is always struggling for restorative, not punitive Justice. Therefore we, as followers of Christ and the children of the Holy Land, look to redress injustice rather than avenge it.

Our apologies to the baby Christ: Forgive us our shortcomings since we are not able
to learn the lessons of the past; forgive us for not being able to shun violence; forgive us for the sins committed in the name of religion; forgive us for not honoring the message of peace and justice that you carried into the world when you were born.

Are you not the person who made Nazareth Declaration, saying that “whatever you do for
the least of my brothers and sisters you are doing it to me”? Are you not the person who acted and commanded us “to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”? Luke (4:18-19)

Let me assure all of you that the essential message of Christmas is that we opt for life. We love to celebrate life with others in the Middle East and everywhere. Though we believe in life after death, we are determined to live life before death.

Angels are searching desperately for good news to tell the world. There is an increasing doubt they can succeed!!! Leaders like Herod, more and more oppressive and ruthless, are increasing their influence in the world.

As Saint Paul said:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ?

Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or
sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long” For I
am convinced that (nothing) in all creation, will be able to separate us from
the love of God”
(Rom. 8: 35, 36, 39)

I FEEL the Christmas message could echo the words of my teacher, John Paul

Reach out to those you fear 

Touch the heart of complexity

Imagine beyond what is seen

Risk vulnerability one step at a time

The ultimate goal is about what God has entrusted us to do in this world: the incarnation of His love that we practice in our daily life. May the blessings of God prevail on all the people irrespective of race, color, nationality or ethnicity.

May the ray of God lead us to the road of justice, reconciliation, goodness and salvation.
Merry Christmas!

Christ is born! Alleluia!!!

Zoughbi   Zoughbi   and colleagues