Raed Abu Sahlieh is as charistmatic a figure as we met in all of Palestine. He is the priest of St. George’s Church in Taybeh and he is an outspoken proponent of peace and justice in this beleagured region of the world. He spent almost an hour with us and one gets the feeling he barely finds time to sleep.
‘I am an Arab, a Palestinian, a Christian, a Catholic and a priest,’ he began good naturedly. ‘It’s complicated, but this is who I am. I have studied violence because I want to understand it. Because when you have peace in Jerusalem, you will have peace all over the world.
‘This village is entirely Christian–the only such one in Palestine. But our population is leaving to all parts of the world because of economic hardship. Many go to your country, to other places. Even if you go to the moon you will find some people from Taybeh,’ he laughed. ‘Every time I hear a family is leaving to the United States, I tell them to stay. They say to me, Father, give us a job.
‘Don’t be afraid for us. We’ve been here for 2,000 years ande we’ll be here when He comes. Here, you have to live a life that is not easy, but difficult. We have no place here for weak people.
‘My appeal to you is to come and bring visitors to Palestine–come in big numbers and don’t leave us alone.’
The ruins of St. George’s Church in Taybeh are still used for worship and sacrifices by Christian believers.
Raed Abu Sahlieh is an energetic advocate for peace and reconciliation in Taybeh.