Holy Land: Peace begins with getting along with your neighbor
Jerusalem is the city three times holy. Regardless of the time of year, or if it's hot or cold, there's a presence. For centuries, it has attracted multitudes who consider it the spiritual cradle of their faith. That's how it has remained while other things come and go, including time, civilizations, wars and political tensions that still threaten to divide or control it.
From the Mount of Olives to the Holy Sepulchre, its streets are full of pilgrims. It's a place where three large cultures coexist and where each visitor finds what he or she is searching for.
MSGR. RAMÓN ARGÜELLES
Archbishop emeritus of Batangas (Philippines)
“When you come here... your faith increases.”
“It's undescribable. Actually, it's a dream fulfilled, a dream come true. I've always dreamed of coming to walk where Jesus walked because I'm very close to Jesus and Mother Mary. I really want to have that experience of where Jesus and Mary lived.”
“I really feel so blessed. I had breast cancer last year and was treated for that, but I really felt I wanted to go to the land of our Lord and still ask and pray for His total cure. I can really feel His presence and the presence of the Blessed Mother here. I'm so thankful to be here.”
Pilgrims and locals assure Jerusalem is a safe city that opens its doors to everyone and has room for them.
MARÍA LAURA DOMÍNGUEZ
“I haven't felt any fear of danger. The opposite, actually. I'm comfortable here, safe, much safer than in Argentina.”
“What's absurd is that this place should be the center of peace and not of war. It's such an important place for all of the religions, and we can all coexist. In reality, the people coexist. Politics is what creates conflicts.”
For Christian, Jewish and Muslim business owners, the constant influx of pilgrims is crucial for building a future in their homeland.
“A lot of people, a lot of pilgrims come here to visit this very important place, and it's so important for the whole country, because tourism is part of the economy.”
It's a nation to which a growing number of immigrants are arriving, especially in coastal areas like Yafo, part of Tel Aviv. Their presence adds to the already difficult challenge of truly making the land of Christ one for everyone.
Polish priest Fr. Apolinary has been living in the Holy Land for 26 years. Far from losing hope, he believes peace is possible.
FR. APOLINARY SZWED
“I think we can all live together in peace. Small steps are necessary. I, for example, can do it with my neighbor, not with everyone because I can't get to everyone. I think everyone's experience here tells us its possible. If I can be close to someone, it means others can also do the same, but it's necessary to do it.”
This is the only way to enable a future of peace and coexistence in the Holy City that includes every inhabitant and those who make the pilgrimage in search of the roots of their faith.