Fr. Peter Vasko, OFM, President of the FFHL, recently traveled from Jerusalem to the United States. The goal of the journey was to raise awareness of the plight of Christians in the Holy Land, and to raise funds in support of the Foundation’s many programs that aid Holy Land Christians.
Reflecting on the history of the Franciscans and the work of the FFHL, Fr. Vasko commented, “This year the Franciscans celebrate our 800-year presence in the Holy Land, and during this time we have faced many challenges. Today, however, the Church is facing a great challenge, and that is the on-going exodus of our Christians from the Holy Land, which is the cradle of Christianity.”
Christians have long been a minority in the Holy Land, but their numbers have dwindled even further in recent decades. Christians now make up only 2% of the population, with an estimated 300 Christian families leaving the Holy Land each year. Current estimates indicate that the Christian presence could cease to exist within the next 60 years.
“If this persists,” Fr. Vasko stated, “we will be left with empty religious monuments and museums with no living, worshipping community. As Franciscans, we are committed to maintaining the Christian presence in this land called Israel and Palestine.”
Fr. Vasko’s eight–week long visit included fund–raising dinners in Columbus, OH, Indianapolis, IN, and Washington D.C., as well as stops in Texas, California, and Florida, to name just a few. He met with current and potential benefactors in an effort to increase awareness of the plight of Holy Land Christians, and to generate support for the efforts of the FFHL.
A native of New York, Fr. Vasko has lived in the Holy Land for 30 years. These visits serve as an important bridge between his missionary work in the Holy Land and the constituents who support that mission from the United States.