Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Blog

Today, UNESCO voted to place Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity on its “List of World Heritage in Danger.”

The church, believed to be the site of Jesus’s birth, has suffered from structural decay and damage that is largely attributed to the Israeli occupation. Recently, holes in the timbers have caused dirty water to leak into the church onto the priceless artwork and artifacts inside.

Palestinian representatives, newly-admitted to UNESCO earlier this year, submitted an emergency petition to include the site under UNESCO protections, and begin the repair and retrofitting process as early as possible.

"It's time for the UN and its organizations to take a political, legal, cultural and moral stance to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people, and prevent the risk posed to its cultural heritage due to the actions of the Israeli occupation," said Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Other states, including Israel and the U.S., expressed concern over the decision. David Killion, the US ambassador to UNESCO, agreed that “the site clearly has tremendous religious and historical significance” but was “profoundly disappointed” by what he referred to as an attempt to “politicize” the body.

Palestinians, on the other hand, expressed joy for the global recognition of one of their most treasured cultural landmarks. “One of my favourite memories is carrying my then two-year old daughter into the Church of the Nativity,” said Palestinian General Delegation Represenative Said Hamad. We bent below the ancient wooden beam into the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born. During my time in Palestine I had the privilege of visiting the church several times and can still taste the musty air thick with history...Christians everywhere should take some comfort in the fact that such a holy site is finally being considered for universal recognition after 40 years and 900 other world heritage inscriptions.” 

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