By Emilie Ng
PALESTINE’S “anti-Christian climate” has Southport parish priest Fr Jan Bialasiewicz saying extra prayers for residents in the region’s only Christian city.
Fr Bialasiewicz took 23 people to Taybeh-Ephraim, 25km north-east of Jerusalem and Palestine’s only Christian village, while on pilgrimage in October last year.
He said Catholics in the village were living in “misery, pain and suffering” from the powerful Israeli Government’s continued efforts to force them out of work and education.
“There is no work, no support and no education for Christians in this Palestinian village,” Fr Bialasiewicz said.
But small handcrafted doves are becoming the town’s saving grace, generating work and income for Christians. Some of the doves sit proudly on shelves in the homes of Southport Catholics.
When Fr Bialasiewicz returned to Australia after the pilgrimage, he ordered 175 of the village’s handmade dove-shaped lamps to sell in the parish.
He and other priests in Southport blessed the handcrafted lamps last Sunday, April 26, in conjunction with the parish’s Anzac Day commemorations.
Parishioners lit the lamps and offered a small prayer for peace in the war-torn regions of the Middle East.
“What we’re doing is a little drop in the ocean, but the Israeli conflict doesn’t bring a bright future to Christians in Palestine,” he said.
Parishioner John Wintour felt Palestine’s “tense” atmosphere while on the parish pilgrimage last year.
Mr Wintour said he was “concerned” about all Christians being “pushed out” by the Government.
Several volunteers in Palestine had confirmed with him and the Southport pilgrims that the Government was “trying to get rid of Christians by stealth”.
“They really need prayer, because people are struggling and suffering,” Mr Wintour said.
Christians make up less than three per cent of Palestine’s population, and about 1500 live in Taybeh-Ephraim, with numbers steadily declining.