The Mayor of Bethlehem, Vera George Baboun, delivered this years’ Christmas message of peace and justice during the annual official Christmas tree lighting ceremony, held on December 4th, at the Manger Square in front of the Church of Nativity in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
The ceremony was carried out with the participation of many officials, scout troops, religious and social figures and thousands of locals.
Baboun said that the Christmas tree was lit this year after being decorated with gold colors and bright festive lights, “to send a message in letters of gold to the entire world about Palestine, and the struggle for independence.”
She added that the participation of children in these official celebrations and ceremonies to light the tree was meant to embody the real message of Christmas, a message that compassion and mercy are the spirit of Christmas.
“Pope Francis said that children are a true diagnostic of the world; if a child is hungry it is an adult who did not feed him, if a child is homeless, it is an adult who made him homeless, and if a child dies on the shore [trying to emigrate], it is an adults who didn’t save him,” Baboun said, “If a child laughs, it is an adult who drew that smile on his face, and if the child lived his childhood in peace, it is an adult who provided it; let’s make a better future for the children, to become leaders who build courage, who don’t destroy.”
Video By Elias D’eis – Project Manager at Holy Land Trust – Bethlehem
The celebration started with the lighting of the tree, while local scout troop bands played the Palestinian National Anthem.
Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Rami Hamdallah, and many officials, social and religious figures, and thousands of Palestinians, and tourists, participated in the celebrations.
It is worth mentioning that the Oslo Philharmonic Choir, and a choir of nuns from Malta, in addition to various local artists, played Christmas music, and sang religious songs and songs for peace, during the ceremony.
Dr. Hamdallah said that the Israeli occupation is denying the Palestinian children the right to a peaceful childhood, and added that Israel is still holding captive more than 350 children, in addition to keeping its deadly siege on the Gaza Strip and engaging in ongoing violations, including attempts to remove the indigenous Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem.
Patriarch Moran Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, the head of the Maronite Church, said that the star of Bethlehem will always shine, and the Christmas tree in the city is an invitation to all to light the candle, the flame, of faith, of peace and justice.
He called on the international community to act and lift the injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people by the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation.
The Mayor of Lourdes – France, Bourdeu Josette, who attended the celebration sent a message of peace from her city, and spoke of the sister-city relations linking Bethlehem with Lourdes, and the joint message of peace and love.
Prior to lighting the tree, Prime Minister Hamdallah and Mayor Baboun released balloons carrying the message of peace from Bethlehem, while church bells rang in the city, and in every part of Palestine.