- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2000

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Because of the ongoing violence in and around Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, many tourists have canceled planned visits to the Holy Land.

But not all: A choir of 20 young people from the Bruderhof, a pacifist Christian group with Anabaptist roots, left Tuesday to give several concerts in Israel and Palestinian territories. One highlight will be their concert at Manger Square in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.

"All the media reports focus on the violence," said Lydia Greenyer, 21, "but we also know there are many people longing and working for peaceful solutions to the conflicts. As Christians, we feel called to stand in solidarity with suffering people everywhere."

This year's Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem were slated to be the most festive in years. The city had built new hotels and cleaned up the area in anticipation of crowds.

The young people say they are well aware of the dangers they may face on this trip. A Christian communal movement, the Bruderhof has settlements in western Pennsylvania and New York, and the countries of England and Australia.

"Jesus was born in a time of great suffering, but his birth was a sign of God's light breaking into the darkness," said Kent Wright, 20. "The message of the angels was a message of hope, not a message of fear. We want to stand together with everyone who longs for light and hope, especially the people of the Holy Land, who have suffered so much through the centuries."

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