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Msgr. Kozar Uplifted by Faith of Middle East Christians

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem conducts a blessing as he arrives at the Basilica of the Nativity for Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in Bethlehem on 24 December. Msgr. Kozar stands directly behind Patriarch Fouad. (Photo: CNS/Reuters) 

29 Dec 2011 – By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) — Christians in the Middle East show “overwhelming faith,” but many also express fear, said the president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

“I have been uplifted by their demonstration of faith,” Msgr. John Kozar told Catholic News Service near the end of his three-week trip to Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Faith “is the only thing that makes sense — how they manage to maintain themselves in this overwhelming situation,” he said.

Msgr. Kozar, making his first trip since taking over his post in mid-September, said he met with people at all levels of society because he wanted his trip to be more than business meetings.

In a meeting with university students in the Christian West Bank village of Taybeh, he said, he sensed young people’s need to carve an identity for themselves as Christian Palestinians within the complex situation in which they live.

“There is the temptation to bolt, to emigrate ... there was a lot of that in Lebanon, less so in Jordan,” he said. “There is a yearning to bridge the reality of being Palestinian, Arab and Christian.”

Because of the violence often associated with the region and with Palestinians, Christians often feel alienated from their surroundings, he said.

He said Christians living in border areas that have experienced wars in the recent past expressed fear about the current volatile political situation in the region. Many Christians live along the southern border of Lebanon, which is controlled by the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, and their villages were in the middle of the fighting between Hezbollah and the Israeli army several years ago.

“There was fear in many places,” Msgr. Kozar said of people he met.

“In Lebanon it is a very tense area; in Jordan the king seems to be not only accommodating but also much more tolerant of different faiths, but at the same time in this part of the world there is great concern about what is happening in Syria and in Egypt,” he said. “The Church and CNEWA try to reach out and support the people with our accompaniment.”

While in the past the church was able to financially provide for a wide variety of needs — including food packages and paying for school fees and health care for the population — the current economy calls for a different and perhaps more viable approach to assistance, he said.

“We don’t have the money to build huge edifices or underwrite costly projects. But we can help with planning, with public relations, or medical advice to modernize hospitals,” said Msgr. Kozar. “The sentiment here is: We don’t want charity ... we want you to help us with the technical aspect and maybe small seed money.

“They really want to develop themselves and to develop their future. They just want a little help,” he added.

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Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Holy Land Msgr. John E. Kozar