21 July 2014
Velma Harasen, left, and Betty Anne Brown Davidson of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada meet with the mayor of Bethlehem, Ms. Vera Baboun. (photo: CNEWA Canada)
We had an amazing visit to the Holy Land recently, joined by members of the Catholic Women’s League. I’d like to share with you some stories of our visit.
On 3 July 2014, our group was privileged to visit and speak with current mayor of Bethlehem, Ms. Vera Baboun. She is the first female mayor of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Our group was mainly composed of women leaders from the Catholic Women’s League in Canada, so it was a unique experience to visit the mayor, herself a Catholic woman and a leader.
Ms. Baboun is a passionate woman of faith. She shared with us a quote from a homily by the former Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, James Beltritti, that touched her personally during a tough time in her life and resonated with all of us: “Blessings and grace only reside in the womb of suffering. Learn how to give it birth.”
As a widow and mother of five children, Ms. Baboun has experienced great hardship in her own life. But this perspective helped her to focus on the blessings that come from and with such difficulties.
She discussed with us Bethlehem’s unfortunate status as a gated city. As part of the West Bank, it is under occupation by Israel and surrounded by a separation wall. And, metaphorically speaking, she shared that the faith is now walled as well:
“The wall breaches the path of faith between the moment of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the moment of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. We have a young generation in Bethlehem now who do not know the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, [which is] ten minutes away by car. …
“It is not only Bethlehem that is walled, but the message of our faith, our Lord, and love and peace is walled as well. I’m terrified for this fact. It’s a walling of the message, not only the walling of a city.”
She also spoke about different injustices that the Palestinian people face due to the conflict with Israel — for example, water shortages, ongoing confiscation of property and limits on people’s movement. As a minority group, Palestinian Christians are also often caught in the middle of conflicts between Jewish and Muslim populations.
We can keep the Star of Bethlehem burning by sharing the story of the “living stones” — the Christians of the Holy Land. They keep the faith alive and bear their cross every day. She urged us to please carry the cross of Bethlehem with us wherever we go. We left inspired and touched by her words.
Tags: Holy Land Christians Bethlehem CNEWA Canada Women West Bank