Members of the British Section of Pax Christi will take part in a Pax Christi Peace Pilgrimage to Bethlehem this Christmas. The purpose of the visit is to offer solidarity to the minority Christian community in Palestine at the feast of Christmas and also to meet with members of the Muslim and Jewish communities who are working for peace and human rights in the region. The group will be made up of Pax Christi members from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK. They will meet with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, who is also the International President of Pax Christi. They plan to attend the midnight Mass at the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. In recent years, Bethlehem has been under curfew at Christmas and the Church of the Nativity was involved in a siege in Bethlehem in 2002. Pax Christi has a history of supporting peacemaking initiatives in the region. Hosts of the pilgrimage are the Arab Educational Institute, a Bethlehem based group working to bring together Christian and Muslims to explore their common heritage of peacemaking and develop practical actions for peace. The group will be staying with families connected with the AEI during their time in Bethlehem. A number of internal pilgrimages have been organised for the visit. The group will take part in nonviolent peace pilgrimages to places of division and violence such as military checkpoints and the separation fence/wall in and around Bethlehem. They will also take part in interfaith gatherings for prayer and discussion in Hebron. Pat Gaffney, General Secretary said: "We hope that our presence will be a small sign of hope and encouragement to the people we meet. In recent years, so many parts of the West Bank have been closed to tourists, pilgrims and visitors the people can feel forgotten by the outside world. Our visit is one of solidarity with the Christians and Muslim communities at this time of Christmas when we celebrate the birth of the one who came to bring peace to the world." Those taking part are Anne Dodd from Abingdon, Ann Farr from Coventry, Sheila Simpson from Manchester, John Harkin from Derry and Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi. They leave for Israel on 21 December and return on 30 December. * Pax Christi's annual Advent service and Christmas Fair takes place at 7.30 this evening at St Aloysius Church in Euston. All are welcome. Pax Christi is an international Catholic movement for peace, founded in 1945, with sections in five continents. It has a vision of the world where people can live in peace and without fear of violence, in all its forms. Pax Christi works to ensure that the message of peace is heard by the Church, by decision makers and those working in our communities. In 2004 Pax Christi launched its "People of the Holy Land need Bridges not Walls " campaign to raise awareness of the impact of the separation fence/wall on the Palestinian community. For more information visit: www.paxchristi.org.uk
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