Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal sends a Christmas Letter from the Holy Land





Salaam and peace from Nazareth, the Hometown of him whom we celebrate his birth these days to come, the one born in Bethlehem, Jesus.

Whether you reside in Britain, Brazil, Africa, or the Land of the Holy One, the past two years have struck and shaken us all. Gigantic waves of unprecedented events have brought significant unrest to the shores of our lives. From China to Greece, from Gaza to Syria and Yemen, to the collapse of Notre Dame in Paris and the reconversion of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople: floods and flames. The list goes on!

Turning a blind eye would only result in disastrous hand-over to the coming generations. Yes,” we are in the same storm “, as British writer Damian Barr said. Perhaps on different boats. Who will sink and who remains afloat, is not a question of destiny! It is our responsibility. It is a sacred obligation.

The death toll is still climbing bringing more chaos to an already chaotic situation. The speed at which Covid-19 travelled has shocked and locked the entire planet. At such magnitude, it tore the rich-poor gap a lot more apart. Isolating the ill, limiting school activity, prohibiting social events, led to extreme increase in inflation, violence, addictions and broken homes.

Climate changes, ethnic and religious segregation, and Covid-19 and so on are but a consequence. The imposed political and economic models of today are causing severe damage to the social, health and educational wellbeing of humanity at large. Inequality, injustice, racism, supreme capitalism, occupation, domination, and yes, denominations, are the real corrupting pandemic of our era.

Learning from other cultures is not only enriching. It adds volumes to human wisdom. It humbles and unites mankind. The word CRISIS in Chinese is composed of two characters: the first stands for danger; the second for opportunity. As sad and bad news continue to mercilessly open fire, perhaps shooting more at the less privileged, the opportunity window is wide open for us, servants of Christ, to lift the suffering from the thorns of death to the throne of life.

If this is not the message of Christmas, what else?

“Where is your faith?!” Awakened from His sleep, amidst the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Christ asked the disciples. Threat, doubt and fear have become part of our daily life.

Worry ends where faith begins. At such alarming countdown, science and technology do not offer a safe enough lifeboat. Life on Mars, legalization of toxic substances, and virtual reality concepts, modern and exciting as they may sound, are also dangerously diluting, hypnotizing, and alien to the depth of our being.

Serenity is not freedom from the storm but peace amid the storm. Hence, the hierarchical pyramid of priorities must be portioned, reprogrammed and replanted deep and anew in our mental and spiritual logic, to be implemented with humanity at its spire!

Coming together this Christmas is another beginning. Staying together is progress. And working together is success. I urgently call upon you, flock of Christ, to join hands, vaccinate the world against evil, infect others with goodwill and tranquillity, and compose a full-blown, highly transmissible, unprecedented contagious symphony of peace, joy and love.

Let justice rise. Let truth shine. Let peace abide. Let bells ring. Let choirs sing. Let children live.

May the raging waves in your life kneel in obedience, the storms of your doubts be hushed, and the calm and everlasting peace of Christ prevail in your lives this Christmas and throughout 2022.


In Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal


13th Anglican Bishop Jerusalem & the Middle East