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Rome Reports

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“Conflicts in Holy Land push local Christians to leave”


Jerusalem is the Holy City for the world's three largest religions that venerate symbolic places for their faith in it. It's a cultural melting pot and a unique city with a special vocation for peace, as Pope Francis assures. 

Therefore, the U.S. president's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is especially concerning. 

MACARENA COTELO
Projects Director, Social Promotion

“It's going to equally affect all Palestinians. I'm receiving messages from Christians who are worried about their future, but it's the concern that has dragged on for all these years. There's a lot of uncertainty about what will happen now. In that sense, I'd say Palestinian Muslims and Christians share the same problem and challenge. This is obviously not going to help any in terms of coexistence with Jews because it's mixing politics and religion again in a dangerous way.”

Macarena Cotelo is the projects director for the Social Promotion Foundation – one of the few organizations that have worked constantly for 90 years to promote coexistence and strengthen the Christian presence in a land in which it's increasingly difficult to do so. 

MACARENA COTELO
Projects Director, Social Promotion

“The immediate effect that conflicts have in the Holy Land is that they push Christians to leave. Palestinians have family abroad and it's relatively easy for them, although painful, to leave again. They are really the ones in the most sensitive situation, being the minority.”

To prevent that diaspora, the organization collaborates in education and development projects which give value to the Christian presence among Muslims and Jews. For two decades, it has been promoting the establishment of Christian schools where children of different faiths study. 

MACARENA COTELO
Projects Director, Social Promotion

“We always thought it was a wonderful model of support because, on the one hand, they are spaces of peaceful coexistence where children learn to grow up together from the time they are very young. Muslims and Christians are together and, at the same time, these centers strengthen the Christian presence in the Holy Land.”

They try to provide real solutions to problems between Palestinians and Jews – such as the water issue, a critical point in the Arab-Israeli conflict, or the lack of energy in areas like Gaza, where 2,000 Christians remain. 

MACARENA COTELO
Projects Director, Social Promotion

“Christians still remain. There's a parish and two Latin patriarch primary schools. One old one, which we helped renovate, is now a complex that protects the congregation of the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa, who have a small convent where they help the disabled. It's a place of security for Christians. Another bigger school has been a place of refuge for entire families during the latest conflicts.”

The work done by this foundation reminds that peace in the Holy Land is very fragile and that any sudden decision can erase the efforts of those who strive to guarantee a future of coexistence in the region.