Tuesday, 8 July 2003

Bethlehem (Fides Service) – The town of Bethlehem is living again hopes for peace. The Christian community and all Bethlehem people are confident. Franciscan Father Ibrahim Faltas, superior of the Nativity Church tells Fides Service: “After three years of violence and hatred people have had enough. Israelis and Palestinians cannot take any more: everyone wants a better life. The announced cease fire offers a glimpse of hope which we must not let go. This is an opportunity for peace not to be wasted”.
The people of Bethlehem see their town once again under Palestinian police, Israeli army control has been withdrawn. Father Faltas continues: “Everyone is happy and we hope this will continue. We are confident that the Road Map will lead to peace. Of course life is still difficult especially trade and tourism and it is still impossible to move freely around the town. But we hope that gradually there will be an improvement and a return normality”. The Franciscan is looking forward to Christmas in Bethlehem. “I hope that Christmas 2003 will truly be a Christmas of peace with intense prayer like the Christmases before the outbreak of the Intifada ”.
Bethlehem university has resumed its activity to the great joy of the students. Brother Vincent Malham, of the Brothers of Christian Schools, Rector of Bethlehem Catholic University tells Fides Service: “This would seem to be a small hopeful step towards peace and security which we trust will not be stopped with new violence. We have resumed activity at the college. Yesterday, 7 July, we began our Summer Courses to help students make up for time and work lost because of the violence when the campus was closed for several months. In July some of the students will receive their degrees: another sign of hope for youth in Bethlehem, dispirited after months of military occupation”
Brother Vincent Malham says the people of Bethlehem still need a lot of support. “If on the one hand we are happy that the Israel troops have withdrawn, difficulties in daily life persist; many people are still out of work, it is almost impossible to go anywhere, we hope for more steps towards peace and security for all”. PA (Fides Service 8/7/2003 EM lines 38 Words: 478)