Keeping the Flame of Faith Alive

Holy Land Christians face many challenges.

Keeping the Flame of Faith Alive

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“Why did you convert to Christianity?”I am often asked this question during my frequent trips to the United States and Europe, and it always amuses me.

Although my Arabic name could pass for Muslim—or, indeed, for Jewish—I am and have been a Christian all my life. In fact, I belong to one of the thirteen oldest Christian families in Jerusalem.

Hundreds of years ago, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem commemorated our centuries of continuous presence in the Old City. He placed thirteen banners—each bearing the name of one family—in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which houses the sites where Jesus died and rose from the dead. Once a year on Holy Saturday, a representative from each family carries its banner in a procession for the Holy Fire celebration. I have had this honor for some forty years now.

In the crowded, darkened church, we process three times around the chamber that marks Christ’s burial place. The patriarch then enters the tomb and prays alone…

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