Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron is calling on supporters around the world to join with them in forty days of prayer for the people of Bethlehem through to October 10, 2004. Bethlehem continues to be the Palestinian city with the largest Christian population. The Christians and Muslims there have, for the most part, lived peacefully side by side. On the outskirts are three Palestinian refugee camps, dating from 1948.
In 2000, the Israeli army invaded the city, and many people sought sanctuary in the besieged Church of the Nativity. Since then as the Intifada has continued, unemployment has soared to 60 or even 70%. Now the infamous Wall is beginning to encircle Bethlehem and cutting its people off with an eight meter high concrete barrier. Karin Boyidgian, now living in Jerusalem, lived in Bethlehem for 20 years, until 1998. She has many friends there and continues to go there every week, where she is part of a group of Intercessors for Bethlehem. She speaks of the amount of depression, trauma and high levels of stress in the city.
There is a sense of hopelessness among the young people, who can see no future for themselves there. Prayers are being urged for the orphanages and schools - for love and perseverance for the caregivers and teachers, for hope and a sense of purpose for the children, for healing from the trauma they continue to undergo.
Prayers are also being said for the political prisoners from Bethlehem in Israeli jails, on hunger strike, for an end to the abuses they are subjected to, for their families, refused any visits for 'security reasons', for those held in 'administrative detention' without being charged, for faith and courage in their ordeal.
Another focus is those under stress from unemployment, and from the disruptions to ordinary life, and those cut off from families, work, places of worship, hospitals and medical care, and from their land, by Israel's 'Separation Wall'. Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and Quakers) with support and membership from Catholic and Protestant denominations.