The Palestinian territories, composed of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, have been an area of concern for CNEWA since the founding of Pontifical Mission for Palestine by Pope Pius XII in 1949. 

Today, the needs of the Palestinian people are unrivaled. Since Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October 2023, Israel’s military response has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, more than one-third of whom were children.  

Immediately after the 7 October violence and Israel’s retaliation, CNEWA shared the statement of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem calling “on the international community, the religious leaders in the region and in the world, to make every effort in helping to de-escalate the situation, restore calm and work to guarantee the fundamental rights of people in the region.”

Palestine, a state officially governed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. The Gaza Strip has been ruled by the militant Islamic group Hamas since 2007. The West Bank is currently divided into 165 Palestinian enclaves that are under partial Palestinian National Authority (PNA) rule; the remainder, including 200 Israeli settlements, is under full Israeli control. 

Currently, there are about 9,000 Christians in Jerusalem, or just over 1% of the city’s population, compared with a quarter of the population a century ago. 

Christian-based organizations do not receive any funding from the government and continue to experience serious financial problems. For this reason, there exists a strong dependency on international donor funding to maintain facilities and equipment, fund programs or cover operating costs. 

Accompanying the Church

CNEWA’s office in Jerusalem concentrates its efforts on investing in lay leadership through the local Palestinian Scout movements, Christian youth centers and catechism programs, which are crucial for the protection of the Christian presence and preparation of future leadership for the Christian-based organizations. These institutions provide essential services for the population and offer employment opportunities for Christians. 

CNEWA supports the efforts of the local Church in preparing faithful, committed, and capable young leaders. This begins at an early stage through the catechism program that serves children ages 6-12 years old. Then, students are selected and provided with special training in Christian leadership and religious education, so that they become leaders in the Catechism programs of the various parishes. 

CNEWA is helping to repair parish facilities, provide support for catechesis formation and pastoral care programs, and support pastoral initiatives for youth, catechesis and Bible camps and bible competitions, which will continue to be a priority in the coming period.

Sister Piera Carpenedo of the Sisters of St. Dorothy tells a story to her hearing-impaired students at the Ephpheta Institute in Bethlehem, just one institution CNEWA is proud to support through the generosity of our donors. (photo: Steve Sabella)

Responding to Human Needs

CNEWA supports a network of Christian-Based Organizations that are active in the fields of education, health and social services. Through these organizations, CNEWA has funded the installation of green energy solar panels to reduce electricity expenses, rehabilitate existing rainwater cistern to provide clean and free water supply, in addition to the installation of hydroponic systems that produce organic vegetables as alternative food sources. In addition to reducing overheat costs, this intervention responds to Pope Francis’ call upon us all to care for our planet.

CNEWA supports an educational counseling program for 10th graders of Jerusalem-area Christian schools in collaboration with a local organization. Specifically, the training received during the project period will focus on personal skill-building, identifying personal interests and abilities and matching those abilities towards a career, vocation, or higher education, eventually choosing between the humanities, and the scientific streams or vocational training at the end of the project.

Summer camp session for young adult Christians near Ramallah, Palestine. (photo: George Jaraiseh)

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