Muslim Professor Explains Christian Mosaics to Children
25 May 2013
Khalid Hamdan is the young Muslim who reveals the story of the mosaics in one of Jerusalem’s Christian churches.
Originally from Bethlehem, Khalid has a degree in art history and now explains the mosaics of the nation's Gethsemane Basilica to schoolchildren in Jerusalem. Most of the students are Muslims and have never been in a church. Helping Muslim children to know where they live and especially the Christian story creates a bridge between cultures. The hope is that Khalid’s initiative will stimulate reconciliation and the desire to get to know each of the three peoples of the Holy Land: Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The mosaics of the Basilica of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives have become a bridge between different cultures and religions, thanks to the passion of a young Muslim professor. Khalid Hamdan, a Palestinian from Bethlehem, has a degree in art history and has been working as a volunteer for ATS Pro Terra Sancta, a non-governmental organization of the Custody of the Holy Land. For several years the association has launched a program of restoration of mosaic works involving six young Palestinians from the Mosaic Center of Jericho who are restoring the domes of the Gethsemane Basilica.
As Khalid confesses to AsiaNews, it was his love of art and the beauty of the mosaics of the basilicas that led him to encounter the religious traditions of ancient Palestine: "In order to live together Christians, Muslims and Jews must know each other, it's the only way there can be any dialogue among people". With this desire, since last November, he has been explaining, the art of mosaic and their decorative function in the Basilica of Gethsemane, also called the Basilica of the Nations to school children, mostly Muslims, in East Jerusalem.
"In schools - says Khalid - students know little about the traditions of other religions in the Holy Land." The majority of Muslim scholars have never entered a church. "Some - he adds - think they cannot because they are Muslims, I respond that is not true, the churches are a public place everyone can come and enjoy them. Churches and mosques have lived together for centuries."
Until now, Khalid has brought 12 as many as schools, with mostly Muslims students, to the Basilica of Gethsemane. "We started our project - he explains - to reveal and explain the story of the mosaics of the church. The aim is to make known, places and traditions that for centuries have lived in the same place to the inhabitants of Jerusalem."
In the Holy Land many different languages are spoken. Christians and Muslims speak Arabic, foreigners English, Jews Hebrew language or of the nation to which they belong. Schools are often divided by religious or linguistic lines, so many Jewish children do not speak Arabic or only a little, and at the same time many young Arabs don't understand Hebrew. In addition, a kind of isolation is imposed by a political system which encourages division and clashes. Khalid tells a story of his life: "As a teenager I worked as a waiter in a hotel reception in Jerusalem, and often came to wonder about Jewish clients. My colleagues told me that these were never kind to us. I knew a bit of Hebrew and tried to communicate with them in their language. My attention to their culture, which is also mine, amazed them and they began to look at me in a different way. "
For Khalid this project to bringing school children to know the origins of their culture could over time become an instrument of reconciliation between the three peoples who live in the Holy Land: Christians, Muslims and Jews. "We live one beside the other - he explains - and we can not ignore each other. Governments are the ones who want this and focus on this division, which is primarily ideological."
To see the video on the restoration of the Basilica of Nations created by the Franciscan Media Center click here.