There was no Christmas tree or traditional festivities in the place of Jesus Christ’s birth this year in response to the thousands killed in the conflict in the Holy Land.
Instead, the focus in the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square in Bethlehem will be on praying for peace.
Amid the rubble and ruins, a poignant voice rises to declare that the light of hope will persist in the small West Bank town where the Christmas story unfolded.
Youstina Safar, a resident of Bethlehem and a student at Bethlehem University, has collaborated with London-based band Ooberfuse to deliver a powerful message through their Christmas song, Hear Angels Cry. The song resonates with the belief that hope for a better future, born in the hearts of humanity.
Pope Francis has not only heard about the song but has sent a message to Cardinal Vincent Nichols commending it for drawing attention to “the sublime significance of the city where Jesus Christ was born”.
Communicated by the Holy See’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis’ message holds up the Holy Land as the place that was home to Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and called to be a place of encounter, dialogue and hope for all.
The Holy Father wrote of his hope that the song “will inspire many people this Christmas to pray for a new flourishing of fraternal solidarity, reconciliation and peace in the Holy Land”.
Youstina hopes Hear Angels Cry will provide a shard of light in the darkness.
He said: “Our song stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of hope in Bethlehem. While the traditional Christmas displays may dim this year in remembrance of lives lost in Gaza, our voices unite to affirm that hope will never succumb to darkness.”
Cherrie Anderson, from Ooberfuse, added: “As we embarked on this music project in June, we never anticipated the cancellation of Christmas displays in Bethlehem. The dimming lights in Manger Square honour those who tragically lost their lives in the Holy Land.
“Hear Angels Cry embodies Jesus’ message of love, prevailing even in the face of hopelessness. All proceeds from the song will directly benefit those suffering in Gaza, particularly the children reconstructing the fragments of their lives.”
John Handal, a music producer from Bethlehem, and owner of RJ Music, has played a crucial role in bringing this collaboration to life. His commitment reflects a shared vision of using music as a beacon of hope and healing in the region.
“It’s an honour to be part of a project that transcends borders and brings together artists from Bethlehem and London,” he said.
“Hear Angels Cry is a testament to the enduring power of music to convey messages of peace and resilience. Through our collaboration, we aim to shine a light on the indomitable spirit of Bethlehem and support those affected by the conflicts in the Holy Land.”
Hear Angels Cry is a heartfelt plea for unity, compassion and the enduring power of hope, even in the most challenging circumstances.
Proceeds from the song will go to Friends of the Holy Land, a UK charity which is also registered in Palestine. Through its office in Bethlehem, it is well-placed to get urgent, personalised aid to the families most in need in Gaza and the West Bank and will make sure the most in need are helped quickly by the proceeds from the song.