Palestine, the Holy Land, extends its warmest seasonal greetings to the peoples of the world on the holy occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him.
In Bethlehem, more than 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born; a Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions around the world. As we Palestinians strive for our freedom two millennia later, we do our best to follow his example. We work with hope, seeking justice, in order to achieve a lasting peace.
We celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem under occupation. Decades of attempts may have changed Palestine’s landscape, but not its identity. We remain steadfast on our land, our cultural and national identity as strong as ever. This Christmas Eve, our hearts and prayers will be with the millions who are being denied their right to worship in their homeland.
We are thinking of our people in Gaza, trapped under siege, and of those who are prevented from worshipping in Bethlehem. Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Al Dbayeh Refugee Camp in Beirut, along with all of our Palestinian refugees- Christians and Muslims uprooted from their hometowns in 1948 and who, since that time, have suffered the vicissitudes of a forced exile.
Our prayers are with the churches and mosques of Jerusalem which remind the world of the Arab identity of our occupied capital. We pray for the people of Beit Jala and particularly we pray that the 58 Palestinian Christian families of Cremisan have strength in their peaceful struggle against the annexation Wall, which is stealing their land and dooming their future. We reassure them that their struggle goes beyond the borders of Palestine: their prayers and actions have prompted many world leaders to raise the Cremisan issue in our meetings. Israel has been pressured on this issue and many other issues raised through civil society campaigns, a very good example of the merits of nonviolent resistance.
On this occasion, we are reminded of the sad fact that more Bethlehemites will be lighting their candles in Santiago de Chile, Chicago, San Pedro de Sula, Melbourne and Toronto than those in Bethlehem. To them we say that Bethlehem is their town and Palestine is their country. We will continue working tirelessly to give them the freedom to decide where to spend Christmas
Christians are not a minority here: they are an integral part of the Palestinian people. Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Assyrians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Copts, Melkites, Protestants and others are all part of the rich mosaic of this free, sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Palestine we aspire to have and as established in our declaration of independence and draft constitution.
As we begin preparations for the visit of H.H. Pope Francis I next year, we call upon pilgrims from all over the world to come and experience Palestine and our Holy Sites. We hope the visit of H.H. Pope Francis I will be a good opportunity for Christians from all over the world to become closer to their sisters and brothers in Palestine, and for His Holiness to spread the message of justice and peace for the Palestinians, as for all peoples of the world.
We are in the middle of a negotiations process with Israel, and we are committed to bring a just peace to the region, including ending the occupation of the Holy Land with the establishment of a fully independent and sovereign Palestinian State on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital.
This year we celebrate Christmas with the Nativity Church inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, being renovated under my auspices and with work coordinated by a Presidential committee working closely with heads of Churches on the matter. I call upon our friends worldwide to contribute to the restoration of this holy place.
On behalf of a people struggling for justice that will lead to peace, we remember the birth of Jesus Christ in a humble grotto in Bethlehem. His message, for us, as for millions around the world remains as pertinent as ever. “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill”. This is a message of hope for our people’s daily struggle, from the child that was born here over 2000 years ago.
President of State of Palestine
Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization