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“It’s going to take grace,” he said. “The worst destruction has been from within. As people in Jenin told us, ‘What you see is nothing compared with what has been destroyed in our hearts.’”

Being There. The town of Beit Sahour, just five miles south of Jerusalem, is the traditional site of the “Shepherds’ Fields,” where angels once sang: “Glory to God in the highest! Peace to his people on earth! ” But residents of this largely Christian town near Bethlehem have known precious little peace for the past two years. In December, Father Guido visited a house whose Christmas decorations said it all.

“It was a large, majestic house. Children had set up a big Christmas tree in the middle of it. But the tree was decorated with bullets and shells; the house had been burned and gutted by tank fire.”

Father Guido and his staff have personally delivered emergency funds to residents of over 300 Palestinian homes similarly damaged by bullets and rockets.

“Of course, people appreciate any financial help we can give from our small budget,” he said. But as one father in a shelled village told the priest: “It’s not the money that makes me most thankful. It’s the fact that you came to be with us in this disaster.”

Hanging on the wall of Father Guido’s office in Jerusalem’s Old City is a large piece of Palestinian embroidery. One of his most cherished possessions, it comes from Ayoub Rabah, the Arab Christian mayor of Ramallah. Mayor Rabah made the arduous journey through checkpoints and back roads last December to deliver personally the gift to Father Guido.

“Thank you for the moral support you have given us,” reads a phrase on the accompanying plaque.

Expressions of solidarity are important to the Palestinians, who feel overlooked by the world community, according to Father Guido. Palestinian Christians, in particular, wonder why so few Christians in other countries have little awareness of their existence, let alone understand the challenges facing the church in the Holy Land.

“My greatest hope is that God will help us to support people here in the midst of the darkness and brokenness,” Father Guido said.

“Ultimately, this goes beyond meeting needs for food, shelter, psychological counseling and other terribly important things. It means having faith in God, who alone can heal deep wounds and enable us to forgive and love enemies.”

Conflict Resolution, God’s Way. To be a missionary of pardon and peace in a volatile land, where just driving to the office means being assailed by countless distressing sights and sounds, is not easy.

“Everywhere, there are soldiers in combat gear, carrying guns. Settlers walk down the street with rifles slung over their shoulders. You hear church bells and the Muslim call to prayer, but also constant loud, aggressive noises like sirens, the honking horns of armored jeeps, or police on loudspeakers pulling Palestinian transit vans over to check on the passengers.”

And, every day brings its challenges. Another suicide bombing, some conflict at a military checkpoint, inflammatory statements from political leaders, anxiety about friends caught in the fighting, a visit to a terrified child or a distraught breadwinner who has not found work in over a year.

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Tags: Palestine Occupation Second Intifada