As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Advent and Christmas in the security of their homes and communities, they are invited to pray for justice, peace and security for Palestine and Israel - and to send a prayer or a peace message to Bethlehem.
Once again this year, Christmas celebrations will take place in a difficult climate for people in the Holy Land. However, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, is still first and foremost a city of peace. And even in these trying times, many individuals and groups living there refuse to give up hope. They continue to search for non-violent ways to voice their rights and work for a peaceful and just future for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Since December 2000, a new Christmas tradition has been taking shape: sending peace messages to people in Bethlehem. Once again, individuals, communities, churches and congregations, organisations and partners from across the world are invited to e-mail Advent and Christmas wishes and prayers for justice and peace to Bethlehem. This year, the project is being carried out in collaboration with the World Council of Churches and its Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF).
Wishes and prayers will be printed and handed out as personal messages, educational materials (e.g. at schools), and in the context of interfaith prayers (in places of worship) and in the newly established peace house of the Arab Educational Institute opposite the Israeli "separation wall" at Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem. The wishes and prayers could also include ideas for non-violent actions. The action will be launched at the beginning of Advent.
Sending a wish or a prayer by e-mail is an important way of communicating with many people who long to hear a word of hope. People in Bethlehem greatly appreciate receiving wishes and prayers from people outside the region, both as personal and spiritual gestures of comfort and hope on the occasion of Christmas. These messages are one way of breaking through the isolation they live in.
Please e-mail your Christmas messages and prayers for peace before 25 December 2008 (Western Christmas) and/or 7 January 2009 (Eastern Christmas). While English is the preferred language, non-native English speakers may also send wishes and prayers in their mother tongue. Messages can be e-mailed to the Arab Educational Institute at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read all messages at www.aeicenter.org and www.paxchristi.org.uk