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December 3, 2003

Advent greetings from the land of Christ.

As many of you know, our appointment in Zababdeh finishes at the end of 2003, and we are filled with mixed emotions over 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 continues to expand.

Feeling worried and sad and afraid, we invite you to remember with us that now is the season of Advent, a time when the miraculous hope of incarnation reigns.  Let us open our hearts and minds and spirits to the astounding message carried by the Word becoming Flesh.  Let us know – really know – that God knows the depths and details of our darkest fears and pains, that God not only knows these feelings, but feels these feelings.  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 would 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 U.S.  As part of our documentary (details below), we asked our film subjects if they wanted to say something to their American brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here are some of their responses:

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.

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.

Jeries lives in at an entrance to the Old City of Nablus, the site of heavy military attacks during this intifada
Elia, schoolboy in 6th 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.

Jeries, schoolboy in 9th grade:
I want to tell people we're living amid dangers and in terror and fear. Pray for us to live in security, free from troubles.

To'mie, priest:
We are the living stones here in the Holy Land. We don’t 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 don’t support me as a person, then I'm gone - finished. Christianity is buried.

Yvonne lives in Zababdeh with her extended family, including this, her most recent grandchild.
Yvonne, grandmother:
This land we're 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 can't do anything here. Someone can't leave his house and go to the city - from Arab town to Arab town. Why?  This is our land and we can't 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.

Sa'ed, 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.

Sawsan, secretary:
People in America see everything on TV and they must know the situation of the Palestinian people.  We ask that they pray for us, that they would pray that God would protect us, and that they help us by making Bush bring about peace.

Hossam, priest:
One of the things that makes 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.  Don’t think that Americans are hated in a way that you hear about in the media.  It's 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.

Our documentary, Salt of the Earth: Palestinian Christians in the Northern West Bank, follows people's lives in places such as Zababdeh, Jenin, and Nablus.  It gives voice to brothers and sisters in Christ who are rarely heard from but have powerful stories of faith and courage.  We encourage you to visit, where you can find our 2004 itineration schedule, information about the film, and downloadable video clips.