Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Helping Palestinians Take Charge of Their Lives

http://worldchristianchurches.blogspot.comJERUSALEM —After a year that included dealing with the fallout of the Israeli-Gaza war, Sami El-Yousef is ready to begin with focusing efforts on the projects aimed at helping the Palestinians take charge of their lives.

El-Yousef has spent nearly a year as regional director of the Pontifical Mission's of Jerusalem field office.

"I see our role as (helping) get people back in the charge of their own affairs and getting on the right track. We are starting to think what's next, what's the next phase," said the Jerusalem native and a former vice president for the finances and planning at the Bethlehem University.

With the almost-constant cycle of violence and crisis in the area, it has been a challenge for the mission to move them forward with society-building projects, he said.

"We were starting to think of the income-generating projects, youth projects that would put these people on their feet, and then the war (happened) and our attention (went) back to the war and emergency aid and for rebuilding ... going back to the charity mentality," he said.

Now, he added, as things have stabilized to a certain extent, he would like to see the projects implemented that will help the Palestinians control their own lives.

"They don't want handouts; they say they are losing their dignity and it is not good for the spirit of (their) children," said El-Yousef, who received his bachelor's degree from the University of the Massachusetts, Amherst, and his master's degree from the University of the Pittsburgh.

Pope Pius XII created the Pontifical Mission for the Palestine in 1949 as a temporary mission to aid the Palestinian people, but 61 years later the mission is still providing subsidies and the other aid for Palestinians. The mission, which falls under the direction of the Vatican's Catholic Near East Welfare Association, has regional offices in the Jerusalem, Beirut and Amman, Jordan.

After the 1967 Six-Day War, with the blessing of the Pope Paul VI, the Pontifical Mission began to build and support a network of the institutions, including the Christian Brothers-run Bethlehem University, the Pope Paul VI Ephpheta Institute for the deaf and the Near East Council of Churches' mother and the child clinics in the Gaza Strip.

El-Yousef said his office is considering a proposal to help the young Palestinian college graduates by helping them find jobs at public or the private institutions for a specific period while the Pontifical Mission subsidizes their salaries.

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