|Palestinian Challenge girls light candles at the chapel of the Dormition of Our Lady.|
July 29, 2010. Jerusalem, Israel. This past July 5 -10,
a group of 33 Palestinian girls, 7 team leaders, and
2 mothers participated in a Challenge day camp aimed
at fostering a deeper experience of Christ in the holy
places where his earthly life unfolded.
The camp ran every
day from 8:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M., and was based
out of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, which is
just outside the Old City walls. Every day, the girls
had excursions to recreational places like parks and swimming pools
as well as to different holy sites, such as the
Cenacle, the Church of the Dormition, and the Franciscan Chapel
of the Cenacle in Jerusalem to various places in Galilee,
including Capernaum, the Church of the Primacy of Peter, and
the Sea of Galilee, where the girls enjoyed a boat
ride. They also had a sleepover in Bethlehem on the
final night of the camp.
Although these girls and their
team leaders live in the Holy Land, the camp awakened
a new spark of faith, helping them to see the
holy places through new eyes.
At the end of the
camp, a girl from an Armenian family spontaneously took the
microphone at the closing activity and thanked the team leaders
and the consecrated women for helping her gain a deeper
insight into her faith.
|The Challenge campers walk to the Cenacle in Jerusalem's Old City.|
A nine-year-old camper was so determined
and excited to get to the camp that she got
up at 4:00 every morning to ride to the Notre
Dame of Jerusalem Center with her father, who works there.
Because of the military checkpoints, he has to get up
early every day to make it to work on time.
Most little girls are not keen on getting up before
the crack of dawn, but her father commented on how
eager she was to get to the camp, and how
joyfully she made the daily sacrifice.
Collaboration with Canção Nova
the highlights of the camp were captured on a YouTube
video published by Canção Nova, which is a Catholic charismatic
movement founded in Brazil in 1978. Members of Canção Nova
are active in Jerusalem and are often present at religious
events, including events at the Notre Dame Center.
with Canção Nova actually began last year, when the consecrated
women asked them if they could record the girls’ skits
at the holy sites.
“The idea of the skits was
|Mass in the Franciscan Chapel of the Cenacle.|
to make the visits [to the holy sites] more dynamic
so that they would have a deeper impact on the
girls. And then we thought that if we could record
them it would help the girls to give it more
importance, to take it more seriously and to give it
even an apostolic touch. So we thought about suggesting it
to the people of Canção Nova,” said Lorli Pregl, a
consecrated woman who helped organize the camp.
She presented the idea
to a member of the Canção Nova community, who was
interested in the project and immediately agreed to it. Since
part of Canção Nova’s mission in the Holy Land is
to help inform the public about religious events and the
lives of the Christians in the Holy Land, it was
an excellent opportunity for synergy between the two movements.
year, Canção Nova produced a video of the girls performing
their skits at St Peter Gallicantu Church in Jerusalem. This
year, the collaboration continued with another video on their visit
to the Cenacle in Jerusalem, where the Last Supper was
celebrated. Although the videos have a voice-over in Portuguese and
the girls are speaking Arabic, the footage is self-explanatory.
last year’s St Peter in Gallicantu video here.
this year’s Cenacle visit video here.
Remembering the Local Christians
a country dominated by the Jewish and Muslim presence, Palestinian
Christians are an oft-forgotten minority living in the crossfire of
religious and cultural tensions. In total, Palestinian Christians make up
|The Challenge campers and the consecrated women with a Franciscan priest.|
only 1.7% of the total population of Israel, and half
of them are Greek Orthodox. Catholic Palestinians constitute only one
tiny fragment of a population whose life is burdened by
a 20-foot wall around Palestinian territories—a wall that makes ordinary
life difficult for many people.
As Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal observed,
Jerusalem is a city that both unites and divides believers,
and those who pay the highest price are often the
“It is a pleasure from one side to see
these people coming to visit the holy places, and on
the other side it is painful to see the local
church, the local Christians who cannot even visit these holy
places,” he said in an interview on February 7,
2010. “A parish priest from Bethlehem cannot bring his faithful
for a pilgrimage to these holy places. The same situation
in Ramallah, and Jordan, and other parishes; they cannot move
easily with so many checkpoints and the wall separating them.”
Challenge camp for Palestinian girls was one more effort to
do something to minister to the local Christians. After the
first summer camp in 2008, many families responded with interest
to the proposal of a Challenge Club for their daughters.
The club has been running since, helping the girls to
learn more about their faith and the virtues, with monthly
and bimonthly activities for the entire family.
“One thing they especially
like is when we take them to the holy sites.
Most of the local Christians barely visit them; they know
the Holy Sepulcher and maybe Gethsemane, but that’s it,” said
“Our great desire is to help them build
a deep security in their faith. It is not easy
to be such a minority in a country that lives
in constant tensions. They need to become more aware and
courageous about the mission that they have as Christians in
this Land which needs the presence of the Christian spirit.”
out how you can help Christians in the Holy Land
and in the suffering Church around the world at www.wheregodweeps.org. (Where God Weeps is a weekly television and radio
show produced by the Catholic Radio & Television Network with
the support of the international Catholic charity Aid to the
Church in Need.)