The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has urged Christians throughout the world to make efforts to visit Bethlehem as a place of pilgrimage and to remember the 'struggling' town in their prayers.
In a letter presented to Dr. Victor Batarseh, the Mayor of Bethlehem, marking the feast of the Epiphany, Williams expressed his concern for the fate of the area.
"I am aware of the severe hardship which many are suffering; the decline of tourism, the difficulties of access and movement and the struggle to sustain the economic and social life of the city," the letter said. "I am distressed to hear that the current situation has prompted so many families, especially Christians, to leave the city and seek security and stability elsewhere. I have raised these concerns directly with the Israeli authorities."
Williams said that Christians throughout the world could play their part.
"I urge Christians worldwide to support your community, to visit you whenever possible and to pray for the people of Bethlehem that they may not be forgotten," he said. "We pray for the day when a just and lasting peace will be established in the region which will bring freedom, dignity and security to all the people of Bethlehem."
The letter was presented to Batarseh in Bethlehem on Friday, January 6, on behalf of Williams by an Anglican delegation from the U.K. led by the Bishop Brian Castle of Tonbridge.
[This article is one in the ongoing ENS series "Listening, Learning & Epiphany" continuing through February 28.]