People attend the lighting of the Christmas tree on Manger Square in Bethlehem, West Bank, Dec. 5. CNS photo/Abed Al Hashlamoun, EPA

Christmas wishes

  • December 17, 2015

For centuries pilgrims have arrived in Bethlehem at Christmas to celebrate where Christ was born at the site of the present-day Church of the Nativity. But this will be a December of modest crowds and muted celebrations due to an autumn of violence in the West Bank.

Dozens have died in clashes, including deadly confrontations in Bethlehem. In response, authorities have scaled back public Christmas celebrations in a quest for peaceful streets and silent nights.

The towering Christmas tree is lit in Manger Square and two nearby streets are decorated but, otherwise, the lights and wreaths that typically adorn most downtown streets are absent. Hotels are half empty, pilgrims are few. It won’t be a dark Christmas, because no decree can dim the light of the Saviour’s birth, but Bethlehem shines less brightly this year.

Still, the mayor is determined that church bells across Bethlehem will ring out on Christmas. She calls the bells a declaration “that we exist despite all the catastrophes.” We all should hear the message of those bells.

To exist as a Christian in Bethlehem or Damascus or Baghdad, or most major Middle East cities, is often inviting catastrophe. So once again at Christmas we pray for Bethlehem and for Christians in nearby countries where many must mark Dec. 25 in silence to avoid persecution.

Peace and dignity for Middle East Christians is just one intention on The Register’s Christmas wish list. We also pray for:

o A successful new beginning for the more than 25,000 Syrian refugees who will start a new life in Canada in the coming year.
o Quick and resolute action by politicians on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Report to finally redress the historical injustices that have inflicted so much suffering on Canada’s aboriginal peoples.
o Wisdom and backbone for lawmakers and the courts to cease the mad march towards assisted suicide and euthanasia or, if they persist, at the bare minimum for Parliament to severely limit access to assisted killing and also to ensure that health care workers retain the unqualified right to refuse to become even peripheral participants.
o Forgiveness and compassion in abundance throughout the Jubilee Year of Mercy as Pope Francis encourages kindness in our world.
o A just and lasting solution to the wars in Syria and Iraq that have caused millions to become refugees as they flee the wanton butchery of Islamic State terrorists.
o Vigour and resolve for world leaders to meet the ambitious objectives of the recent Paris climate conference so they may begin the long process of undoing decades of damage inflicted on creation.
o Peace and blessings to all our readers during the Christmas season and throughout the New Year

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