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Christmas Messages from the Holy Land
National Catholic Reporter
December 19, 2003

Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders are American Presbyterians working in the Palestinian Christian village of Zababdeh at the invitation of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Their documentary film, ďSalt of the Earth: Palestinian Christians in the Northern West Bank,Ē follows peopleís lives in places such as Zababdeh, Jenin and Nablus. For more information about the film, visit

Greetings from the land of Christ.

Our appointment in Zababdeh finishes at the end of 2003, and we are filled with mixed emotions about leaving this beautiful, suffering land. Amid our sadness and relief and fear and anticipation, we are mostly filled with a feeling of worry for our friends and neighbors here, that they will face even darker days ahead as the conflict continues to spiral and the wall [security wall/fence being built by Israel throughout the Palestinian Territories] continues to expand.

Let us remember that the most hopeless, unlikely situation -- a humble birth in a lowly stable, for example -- can be the context of miracle. And let us pray that the Prince of Peace bring much-needed succor to this land at this most unlikely time.

In addition to our own greetings, we also want to convey messages from a few Palestinians to Christians in the West, particularly those in the United States. As part of our documentary, we asked our film subjects if they wanted to say something to their American brothers and sisters in Christ.

Some of their messages follow.

Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders
Zababdeh, West Bank

Sylvia, sophomore in college
I want to say to all Christians in America that our lives are hard and the circumstances of the intifada have become more and more difficult in terms of our studies, our lives and being far from our families. I hope that my generation can explain to older generations and to generations to come that there are Christians in the Middle East. I hope that all Christians in the world would come to see Christmas and Easter in Palestine. Come see Christmas in the land of Christmas!

Saíed, electrician
The only thing I ask of people in the West is that they speak to their decision makers and explain the truth to them so that they would have a just view of this place. I want them to understand what an Arab is, what a Christian is, what a Palestinian is. Many people seem to think that Arab means terrorist. On the contrary, many Arabs love peace and are friends of peace. I want people to know that there is something called an Arab Christian. We put our faith in Jesus Christ.

Afaf, retired schoolteacher
To Christians in America, first of all, go step by step with Jesus, because everything will vanish and disappear except the Word of God. America is a very rich and powerful state with many educated people with good minds. I pray that these work for peace.

Elia, boy in sixth grade
Life in America is a lot better than here because there are no military incursions or tanks, no shells or missiles or gunfights. I want to live in America or another place outside of Palestine. Here is nice, but we have curfew and shells and the whole town is damaged -- demolished buildings and broken glass everywhere from tanks and huge bulldozers.

Yvonne, grandmother
This land weíre living in, it is the best land in the world because it is holy. Christ was born here, lived here, died here and rose here. He came to forgive our sins. We have to believe that God is here. These days, we are living -- but we are not living. We canít do anything here. Someone canít leave his house and go to the city -- from Arab town to Arab town. Why? This is our land and we canít go from here to there. We want everyone to see how we are living and help us have a better life, because this is not life. We want people in America to feel for us, to help us get our freedom and independence.

Toímie, priest
We are the living stones here in the Holy Land. We donít want dead stones. You can remove and replace a dead stone. But a living stone -- how can you replace it? You support me in the West and I support you in the East. But if you donít support me as a person, then Iím gone -- finished. Christianity is buried.

Hossam, priest
One of the things that make us so special as sisters and brothers in Christ throughout the world, not only as Americans or Palestinians or Israelis or wherever we are from, is that we all belong to the same body of Christ. All of us have so much to offer each other, so much to help each other.

I would like to extend my greetings here from Nablus, a Palestinian city, from a Palestinian congregation, Christians who worship and love the Lord. I want to tell you that we are here and we are going to stay here and we expect to have your support; not so much material support as prayers and advocacy and spiritual work. There are living stones in this area. There are Christians who need your support and who care about you as Americans, who pray for you and love you. Donít think that Americans are hated in a way that you hear about in the media. Itís not the case. We still love each and every one whom God created, but especially we think about our fellow Christians all around the world. We are here for you and hope that that you are there for us.

The Sandersí daily journals and monthly reflections, links and other resources are available at