Holy Land, 10 July 2019 -- Have you ever visit the Holy Land of Jesus? Every year two million Christians (and another 2 million members of other religions) from all possible countries around the world visit Israel - Christians, Muslims and Jews alike. It is also striking how large is the presence of Christian pilgrims from many EAO countries.
First of all, there are more than 30,000 legal Filipino overseas workers, mainly Filipina caregivers living in Israel. Our Ratisbonne community is involved in the pastoral care of these people with Eucharistic celebrations, sacramental care and accompaniment of their families. Indeed the Republic of the Philippines was among the first countries in the world to recognise the new State of Israel in 1948.
Among the almost 4 million pilgrims to the Holy Land we find many young families from Korea, Vietnam, China and the Philippines. Also among the 300 members of the Franciscans (OFM) who have custody of Holy Land there are also Friars from many EAO countries. At any one time you might find Korean Protestant theology students praying in the Nazareth Basilica of Mary, US-based Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement members praying on the Mount of Olives, the Chinese community from Barcelona praying in the Grottoes at Bethlehem and Korean Presbyterian pilgrims sailing on the Lake of Galilee - all these are the daily faith witnesses in the Holy Land, the land of Jesus.
In some significant places, like on the Hill of the Beatitudes, we find a wonderful memorial stone - witness to the ‘following of Beatitudes’ the Filipino people who welcomed hundreds of thousands Vietnamese boat people in Palawan and Bataan (1975-1995); as gratitude for thousands of Vietnamese refugees rescued on the Pacific Ocean after April 30,1975’. As the memorial stone states ‘according the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ about 200,000 – 400,000 Vietnamese boat people died at sea.
In the shrines of the ‘Our Father’, ‘Magnificat’ or ‘Benedictus’ (Ain Karem) we can find Scripture words on stone or ceramic tablets in a large variety of EAO languages: Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Illongo, Pamapangan, Burmese, Samoan, Indonesian, Cebuano or Pidgin English of PNG.
Last but not least, there were many EAO Salesians who studied theology at the Salesian Theologate in Cremisan (1965-2004) or now in Ratisbonne, Jerusalem (2004-) and during the 2018-2019 school year 5 EAO students (MYM, VIE, THA, FIN), or who have served as formators in the Holy Places (Fr. Andrew Wong). Also there are a few EAO missionaries in the Holy land – Fr. Joseph Thi (since 2008) and Rev. Rodil Lladones (since 2015).
The Land of Jesus is the Birthplace of the community of Jesus' disciples and everybody who comes as pilgrim, student, formator or migrant worker experiences salvation history in a special way touching the places of Jesus and his fellow countrymen. We pray that many of our young Salesians and Salesian Family members might be able to become pilgrims in the Land of Jesus!