PRESS RELEASE

Three hundred delegates at The Friends of the Holy Land’s first public meeting

Fhl/13/05 25th March 2013

Three hundred delegates at The Friends of the Holy Land’s first public meeting

Although the charity Friends of the Holy Land has never before organised a large public meeting, its first ever, held in Westminster Cathedral Hall on 19th March, attracted nearly 300 delegates.  ‘It was very heartening to find so many people with enough concern and interest to attend our very first public meeting in what has turned out to be a very busy week’, said Peter Rand, FHL’s National Vice-Chairman.  ‘Although most of our efforts are directed towards the practical help of Christian people and communities in the Holy Land, one of our other objectives is raising public awareness of the difficulties they face, and this meeting was a big step forward for us in telling more people about the issue and getting their support for our future projects.’

Entitles Christians in the Holy Land – Improving their Lives, three highly qualified speakers addressed the meeting - Sir Vincent Fean, HM Consul General in Jerusalem, Bishop Christopher Chessun, the Anglican Bishop of Southwark, just back from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and Laila Asfoura, one of FHL’s leading representatives in Bethlehem and herself heavily involved in supporting her community at the grass roots.  Archbishop Vincent Nichols, one of FHL’s Patrons, had agreed to chair the meeting, although he was in Rome that day to attend the Installation Mass of Pope Francis, so he sent the meeting his warm good wishes and a blessing.

 ‘In our fourth year of raising funds to help our fellow Christians in the Holy Land the time is right to raise the issues more widely and discuss ways of addressing them’, said Peter Rand.  ‘The problems of the Holy Land don’t go away, and in many respects the situation is as bad as ever, with a lack of jobs and housing and expensive medical care encouraging many young people to emigrate.  In turn that creates problems for elderly people left behind without their traditional support network, the family.’

‘We were very lucky to have such good speakers.  As the senior British diplomat in Jerusalem, as Consul General, Sir Vincent Fean works with all parties on the very difficult and sensitive issues of the Palestine Occupied Territories and Israel, and he knows better than anyone how carefully we must approach the many problems of the region if we are to give real help and support without exacerbating difficult relationships’, said Peter Rand.

‘FHL believes strongly that Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a very effective way of giving help.  It shows our fellow Christians there that we care about them and their lives and are concerned about the problems they face, and it increases the knowledge and understanding of the pilgrim.  Bishop Christopher Chessun shares these views, and regularly leads pilgrimage there, so his approach, through the eyes of the pilgrim, reminded us of this very important aspect of our relationship with the Holy Land and its people.  And from Laila Asfoura, one of FHL’s dedicated representatives in Bethlehem, we heard a really up-to-date and vivid account of the facts – the falling numbers of Christians remaining in the region, the very high levels of unemployment, the difficulty of finding housing for young families, the high cost of medical care, all key issues for the Friends of the Holy Land as we work to increase the resilience of Christian people and communities there.’

The Friends of the Holy Land, founded in 2009, has support groups across the country, increasing awareness of the difficult circumstances of Christians in the region, encouraging prayer, raising funds and promoting pilgrimages to the Holy Land.  The collection at the meeting raised £2,300, all of which will go towards FHL’s work among Christians in the Holy Land. END

Further  information from John Bradshaw, 07733 543309, or Peter Rand, 01926 852163

Note to Editors

The Friends of the Holy Land (FHL) was established in 2009. It is a registered charity and assists Christian people and communities in the Holy Land. 

FHL’s objectives are to raise awareness of the difficulties local Christians experience, to encourage prayers for their intentions, to generate and channel financial resources to provide them with a sustainable future, and to encourage visits to the Holy Land to meet local Christians.

We provide financial support to parishes, schools and families within the Christian community to enable them to live a fruitful and rewarding life in their homeland. We have the backing and blessing of Anglican and Catholic Bishops in England & Wales.

FHL is non-political.

FHL, 2 Station Road, Kenilworth CV8 1JJ Registered Charity Number 1130054

Telephone 01926 512980 Fax 01926 850946

Email; friendsoftheholyland@btconnect.com

Website;  www.friendsoftheholyland.org.uk