At the annual Friends of the Holy Land (FHL) garden party in Kensington, His Grace Bishop Hovakim Manukyan, the Armenian Primate of Great Britain, made a plea for more pilgrims to travel to the Holy Land, to see the places where Jesus was born, preached and died on the cross.
Bishop Hovakim, recently back from his third visit to the region, where the Armenian quarter in Jerusalem is amongst the oldest established communities, informed the audience that in his tradition, every Christian was expected to make at least seven visits there in their lifetime.
His Grace explained: ‘Jerusalem is a wonderful city where you can see the meeting of different cultures, religions and people. But it is not just a geographical location, it is a spiritual place which is in the heart of every Christian’.
He did warn, however that ‘Christians are leaving this place to seek better lives abroad and, unfortunately, Christianity there has become a minority religion. It is important that life becomes better for them so that they will stay there. Every single Christian can and should help us with this challenge’.
Maria McCaffrey, Friends of the Holy Land’s Director of Development, reiterated the shocking statistics which tell their own story: ‘Some sixty years ago, one third of the Holy Land was Christian. Today the Christian population there is down to 2%. Our aim at FHL is to give hope and assistance to that tiny, yet still dwindling, minority.’
Today many Christians there live in poverty, with restricted mobility and the stress of uncertainty. The garden party, sponsored by Latymers estate agents, raised £4,860. ‘This,’ commented Mgr James Curry, parish priest of Our Lady of Victories Church, ‘will help us to support the “living stones” of the Holy Land, the community of faith who trace their roots, and ours, back to the first Christians.’