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Franciscan priest to make 85th Atlantic crossing this March seeking support for Christians in the Holy Land

(FFHL) Amidst growing persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land (FFHL) president, Fr. Peter Vasko, OFM, travels to the United States in March to raise support and awareness for Christians facing discrimination in the Holy Land.
 
The flight between New York and Jerusalem lasts an average of ten hours. He is about to make his eighty-fifth crossing.
 
For more than twenty years, Fr. Peter Vasko, ofm, President of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land (FFHL), has made the roundtrip journey across the Atlantic in order to visit the United States. He does it at least twice per year, if not more. Four trips for twenty-one-plus years means that this traveled Franciscan has made more than eighty-four trips to the Holy Land and back. He hasn’t kept exact count.
 
Why does this native New Yorker and Jerusalem resident of twenty-seven years do it?
 
He says, “in the hopes of raising support for the Christians in the Holy Land who have been forced to leave their homeland in order to find jobs and better living conditions.”
 
Once a majority in Bethlehem, Christians make up less than 10% of the total population of the town where Jesus was born, according to the FFHL, a foundation Fr. Peter helped found in 1994. Christians now make up less than 2% of the total population of the Holy Land, an alarming statistic to those who know the importance of safeguarding the Christian presence in the land of Jesus.
 
“We are turning back the tide of Christians leaving the Holy Land,” he says, “by providing university scholarships that help educate the Christians and give them better job opportunities.”
 
The FFHL has fourteen programs in all that help meet the needs of Christians in the Holy Land.
 
“It’s slow work,” says Fr. Peter. “We’re turning the tide but it is one family, one individual at a time. The important thing is that we do something and that we do it well.”
 
After a visit to his family in New York and his Franciscan community in Washington D.C., Fr. Peter will begin the first of his 2015 official visits in the California. Visiting Anaheim, Upland and Sacramento from March 16-22, he then travels to Texas, stopping in Dallas and San Antonio. Florida, Alabama and Ohio round out the rest of his visits before returning to New York and leaving for Jerusalem again on April 21.
 
Fr. Peter is a compelling spokesman and public speaker. Years of experience, coupled with his passion for the Christians in the Holy Land, produce a dynamic, first-hand perspective of the discrimination Christian Arabs face in the Holy Land.
 
His perspective is particularly relevant in these days that the persecution of Christians is so present in the news media due to the violence being done by terrorists factions in the Middle East.
 
Fr. Peter will be available to conduct interviews in-person or by phone. For further information or to schedule an interview, please contact Chris Weldon at cweldon(at)ffhl(dot)org or visit our pressroom at www.ffhl.org/pressroom.aspx.