A new visit of the parishioners from Marcq-en-Barœul to Ramallah

Published: May 11 Fri, 2018

A new visit of the parishioners from Marcq-en-Barœul to Ramallah Available in the following languages:

RAMALLAH – From April 21 to 30, 2018, parishioners of Marcq-en Barœul went for the seventh time to the Holy Land to immerse themselves in a country dear to their heart and visit their friends from the parish of Ramallah. The twinning of the two parishes that recently celebrated its fifteenth anniversary was marked by the presentation of the silver medal of the Holy Sepulcher to the association of the Friends of the Holy Family in Ramallah. It is as always with great happiness that the parishioners and members of the Association of the Friends of the Holy Family in Ramallah – the association which administers the twinning – arrived in the Holy Land this Saturday, April 21st. After a short stay in Galilee and Jerusalem, they joined their friends from Ramallah with whom they continued their visit to the holy places of the West Bank. For more than fifteen years, these Christians of the North of France organize visits to the parish of the Holy Family of Ramallah, where the joy of reunion is associated with a spiritual joy.

Fifteen years of friendship and solidarity

In 2002, Father Arnauld Chillon heard the call of HB Patriarch Michel Sabbah to encourage parishes in France to establish contact with parishes in the diocese of Jerusalem. The parishioners of Marcq were ready and the first visit took place in February 2003. This is the beginning of a long history of friendship and solidarity, punctuated by reciprocal visits. On April 26, 2018, Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo welcomed the group of fifteen Marcquois to the Latin Patriarchate to salute this great initiative which brought many fruits. “You know that the Palestinians you meet in your twinning are descendants of the first Christian community: the original source! “Recalled the bishop who then explained the origin of the word Palestine, a creation of the emperor Hadrian, in 135 who named a territory comprising several peoples.

The bishop later hailed the support of the association for supporting many young people at the Al-Ahliyya Patriarchal College in Ramallah. “The Latin Patriarchate is committed to promoting the good training of young Palestinian Christians: if they are well trained, they will find work more easily and will not be tempted by exile, so your help is of great help.”

To mark these fifteen years of friendship and solidarity, Bishop Marcuzzo presented the association with the Silver Medal of the Holy Sepulcher: “Your association is a testimony of hope for the Palestinians who show great patience in the hope of recovering a dignified life, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, by this medal, thanks you and encourages you to continue your work “.

Not a pilgrimage but a visit

In the interview of Thursday, April 26, Bishop Marcuzzo also recalled the sanctity of the status of pilgrim. And yet this status is only half-suited to Marcq’s parishioners: “It is out of the question for us to only visit the Holy Places! We are thirsty for a real meeting with the people of the country” says Beatrice, co-organizer of the stay. To do this, the group meets at each place actors of peace: “We are touched by the difficulties of our friends in Ramallah in their daily lives, we need to understand and see despite everything that we can believe to the improvement of the situation. For this we meet local associations that work for peace and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians,” said Chantal, the president of the association. For some members of the group this visit was far from the first, but for those in love with Palestine each visit allows new encounters and new opportunities to strengthen ties with the parishioners of Ramallah. “Every visit gives me the desire to always be more witness to what is really happening here,” says Anne-Marie, an active member of the twinning. “Once back to France, we are eager to tell what we have seen and which is not shown by most French media. Little or no mention is made of the Palestinians who have to endure the Separation Wall and all the constraints brought by the conflict. Neither is it shown to those who fight with the weapons of dialogue and collaboration to envision a common future. So we organize gatherings, we publish a small newspaper and we go to schools to witness and encourage support for Christians in the Holy Land. ”

Witness and share

But the Friends of the Holy Family do not just organize these trips to be witnesses. For several years now, they have become true actors of solidarity. They first decided to facilitate the arrival of parishioners of Ramallah in France, for a week, to discover another culture and allow people who, for the most part do not have the administrative and financial possibility to leave the Palestinian territories. Taking in charge a large part of the expenses, they organize for them various cultural outings including two days in Paris. Then the question of a real financial support arose and the idea naturally came to help children in Ramallah by financing their schooling at the Al-Ahliyya Patriarchal College. Each year the Friends of the Holy Family sends between five and eight thousand euros to the college of Ramallah, a sum that gives the opportunity to significantly reduce tuition fees for families in difficulty. These efforts are carried by the whole parish, which is solicited once a year in a special quest to finance the various projects. Historic donors also continue to support the association each year.

Young people embarked on the project

The passage for several years of the association to testify to the daily life of the Palestinian Christians in the fifth class of Marcq Institution, the Catholic institution next to the parish, has one day given birth to a project of exchange between the two institutions. This has materialized in recent years by visits between the two institutions. Here too, the mutual welcome and the solidarity are in order. An exchange that particularly interested one of the participants of this visit, Isabelle: “it is a little with the hope of setting up a similar project that I joined Marcq’s group”, explains the young woman, in pastoral responsibility at Baudimont d’Arras high school. “Our school already offers pilgrimages to the Holy Land for high school students, but I would like us to be able to integrate the dimension of the encounter and daily life of our Christian brothers in the East.

The joy of reunions in Ramallah

On Thursday, April 26, the group was expected with great emotion in Ramallah. Five families volunteered to welcome Marcq’s friends to their homes, among them two new families, the others having already hosted at previous visits. “Some of us were in France last June, to find here, at home, those who welcome us at home is really moving,” says Lucy who coordinated the reception of the marcquois. In the days that followed, the parishioners of Ramallah proposed visits to Bethlehem and Jericho with the same principle not to stop at the holy places of these localities but to share the Palestinian realities: the refugee camps but also the organization of a barbecue in the heart of Jericho!

For Father Jamal Khader, who discovered this year the Franco-Palestinian friendship when arriving in the parish of Ramallah, this twinning is a true grace: “these visits, these times of prayer that we each do in our parishes but at times these bonds of friendship that bind us are signs of a communion in the Body of Christ which is the Church.” To mark this friendship again, Marcq’s parishioners handed Father Jamal a painting commissioned from a local artist representing one of their parish churches.

The separation was difficult but all will remember the great joy felt during these four days of life together. As always, the Marcquois left their friends with the growing desire to witness to the life of the Christians of the Holy Land, such as “the shepherds of Bethlehem who saw the Holy Family”, as proposed by Father Jamal. The two parishes will now remain faithfully united by prayer until the next visit which should take place in France.

Cécile Klos