Thursday, 22 March 2007

Abouna Yousef

Wed eve: Went to St John's church to meet Father Yousef of the Greek Catholic Melakite church. He is an elderly and wise man who told us how his work as a priest is dominated by the siege of Nablus. His congregation cannot travel to work and so unemployment and poverty are widespread. Many of his congretation has emigrated to Jordan though employment there is also difficult.

Personally, F. Yousef has difficulty travelling to his flock in Tulkarem because of the checkpoints. Even though he has a certificate showing he is a priest he told us that some soldiers ask him "what does it mean to us that you are a priest?" and one of them even threw his certificate on the floor to indicate that it is worthless.

When he goes to Jerusalem to meet his bishop he has to pass through many checkpoints and yet it is sometimes only when he gets to the last one that he is told that Jerusalem is closed to people from Nablus. So he has to return.

The Christian congregation in Nablus is declining and is about 650 people of all faiths including those in outlying districts such as Tulkarem. This is despite the good relations between the various faiths in Nablus - it is the poverty and the siege which are the main factors.

But F Yousef is a warm and friendly man who asked us in very simple words to help to tell the world that the Palestinian people are suffering and that the culture here in Nablus is being affected by the restrictions.

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