A child points at candles Dec. 19 in the Church of the Nativity, where tradition holds Christ was born, in Bethlehem, West Bank. CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters

Editorial: Christmas prayers

  • December 22, 2017
For much of the past two decades, Christmas celebrations in the birthplace of Christ have been muted. Recent Decembers, however, have seen Bethlehem start to become a more joyous place and the annual Christmas tree lighting last month in Manger Square was said to be the most festive in years.

But those lights are now dark. Days after the tree was lit, the small city that is cut off from the rest of the Holy Land by Israel’s vast security wall pulled the plug and instead began some joyless days.

Bethlehem is among many cities that erupted in violence when American President Donald Trump brashly recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Several world leaders, including Pope Francis, quite rightly denounced a rash decision that has harmed an already faltering peace process.

In Bethlehem, Christian city leaders opted for the symbolic protest of unplugging the huge tree outside the Basilica of the Nativity. The basilica marks the birthplace of Jesus, the cradle of joy and hope, and it is where pilgrims congregate to celebrate Christmas and to pray for a peace settlement that, today, seems even more distant.

So we join them in prayer that peace will find Bethlehem at Christmas and that the pursuit of a just peace for the region will survive this latest setback. We pray also for:

• A spirit of compassion for Canadian, American and Mexican leaders so they will remember the poor and vulnerable and negotiate a NAFTA agreement founded on social justice and which emphasizes building bridges, not walls.

• Restraint on the Korean peninsula as the North rushes forward with its nuclear weapons program and the South prepares to host the world at the Olympics in February.

• Continued progress on the path of reconciliation between Canada’s First Nations peoples and the rest of the country, a path which may even bring Pope Francis to Canada to offer an in-person papal apology on behalf of the Church.

• Peaceful but forceful international intervention to compel the Myanmar government to end the persecution of the Rohingya people so that some 620,000 refugees can return safely home.

• A sense of urgency among Canadian politicians to implement a national palliative care strategy and also to guarantee the right of healthcare workers and institutions to reject euthanasia and assisted suicide.

• Healing and comfort for the victims of all types of verbal and physical abuse, and a moral awakening for those who inflict this terrible harm.

• A return to a time in Canada when faith-held beliefs were accorded respect and accommodation, not shunted from the public square or ridiculed even by the Governor General.

• Peace and blessings to all our readers during the Christmas season and throughout the New Year.

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