The second Ministerial to Advance Religious freedom was hosted by Secretary Pompeo in Washington D.C. July 16-19. The Ministerial’s mission is to promote international religious freedom. In attendance were government officials, religious leaders, organization stakeholders and civil activists representing communities from all over the world. Challenges were discussed pertaining to religious freedoms and solutions sought for religious discrimination and persecution.
The Terra Sancta Museum’s mission is to make the importance of a Christian presence in the Holy Land apparent to the world. It does this through modern displays of Franciscan art and archaeological objects. While the museum has not always been open to the public or especially tourist friendly, a recent remodel has allowed the museum to provide unique insights to visitors more easily. One of the newest exhibits opened at the museum in 2018, is entitled “Daily Life at the Time of Jesus.” While the Holy Sites visited during journeys of faith focus on grand and miraculous acts with spectacular views and design, this exhibit paints a much more subdued picture of what Jesus’ life was like.
The 2019 Ministerial was the largest event of its kind in the world, a positive step toward change. Secretary Pompeo’s opening remarks stated,
“Religious freedom is a foundational American value. It is a universal and unalienable right that should be afforded to all, not just a privileged few. I’m proud to launch today’s Ministerial because the Trump Administration is committed to making this ideal a reality worldwide… I want to thank everyone here who has committed a part of their life to helping those who are persecuted and to defending the unalienable right to practice one’s religion and follow their conscience and to take care of their soul. Thank you all for that.”
Also held in Washington D.C. during the Ministerial, were smaller gatherings and discussions between stakeholders. This included an event sponsored by the International Community of the Holy Sepulchre and the Hudson Institute’s Working Group on Christians and Religious Pluralism in the Middle East. The event, Christian Holy Sites and Holy Places in the Middle East, addressed Holy Sites being more than just pilgrimage destinations.
Speakers focused on the importance of Holy Sites not only for those who travel there to experience the Spirit of Christ, but also the daily importance to Christians who live and worship there. Addressing attendees of the event, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem said, “Our Holy Sites tell the stories of God’s history with us… Few can deny that this region, the place of divine-human encounter in sacred history, is in fact the center of the earth.”
Also discussed was the vulnerability of some Holy Sites and the tactic of attacking Christianity by vandalizing or imposing unlawful policy upon Holy Sites. Patriarch Theophilos III called for support “to keep the pilgrim route open to all, and to maintain the historic, multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious fabric of our great city Jerusalem.”
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Thank you and God bless.
Some of the items featured in the exhibit include hairpins, hygiene products, cooking utensils, money and tombs. All of the items featured were recovered by the careful work of Franciscan Friars. The objects are not extraordinary in nature, but help visitors experience what Jesus’ life was like each day. Displays are accompanied by a Bible story when appropriate, connecting the use of the objects featured with the teachings of the Lord. For example, fishing net weights are on display that were discovered at Peter’s house in Capernaum.
The exhibit helps visitors learn not only of Christ’s life, but of the Holy Land’s past. It is the hope that an understanding of the past can help better the present and future of the Holy Land.