Palestine – a coexistence of religions
We have international students at the IUBH coming from over 110 different counties. As we approach Christmas, we asked some students about Christmas traditions from their countries of origin.
What most people know about Palestine is limited to what they read in the international news column. Only a few are familiar with Palestinian life beyond the conflicts. In everyday reality however, people who follow different religions live together peacefully and amicably – and not just at Christmas time.
Get to know and respect each other
A teacher of one of my Muslim friends once asked all his students to bring a friend who follows a different religion to their mosque, or to their church, to show each other how they pray as Muslims or Christians. After my friend took a Christian classmate to her mosque and showed her around, in return she went to her classmate’s church of worship. Since Muslims cannot receive Communion in a Christian church, the priest replaced the host with a date, and blessed it for my friend. I think this small example clearly illustrates how mutual respect and tolerance can make peaceful coexistence possible. We do not all have to be the same; we simply need to deal openly with each other.
Whether Muslim or Christian: Chains of light and festive decorations are part of the celebrations
At Christmas time, it is particularly clear to see how closely everyone comes together, regardless of religion. Starting at the beginning of December the whole country is decorated in red and you see chains of light everywhere: it is no longer possible to tell the difference between a Muslim and Christian home. There are decorations along all the main streets and side streets, there are Christmas trees in all the shops - the whole city is festively decorated! There are Santa Claus costumes in the shops and children who excitedly look forward to the festivities. The Municipality puts up a Christmas tree and decorates it. At this ceremony Muslims and Christians light up the tree together, sing Christian and Palestinian songs, and the traditional Palestinian dance “Dabka” is a set part of the programme. After all, Christmas is for all people, whether Christians or Muslims.
In Palestine sweets, exchanging seasonal greetings and visiting each other are an integral part of all Christian and Muslim celebrations. Love and peace are also an integral part, and that is what unites us in the end.