On Friday, October 29, 2021, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in partnership with the Institute for Community Partnership (ICP) / Bethlehem University, held a meeting at the Latin Patriarchate School in Taybeh to launch the project of “Afaq”, a project that aims to empower christian youth and women in Palestine.
The meeting which was hosted by Fr. Bashar Fawadleh, parish priest of Taybeh and Chaplain of the Youth of Jesus’ Homeland – Palestine (YJHP), was attended by Mr. Sami El-Yousef, Chief Executive Officer of the Latin Patriarchate, Br. Peter Bray, Vice-Chancellor of Bethlehem University, Fr. Iyad Twal, Executive Vice President at Bethlehem University, Dr. Irene Hazou, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Bethlehem University, Fr. Yacoub Rafidi, General Director of the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine, Rafi Ghattas, General Secretary of YJHP, as well as several Christian school principals in the West Bank.
At the beginning of the meeting, Fr. Bashar welcomed everyone present, hoping that this visit would not be the first and the last, but that “it would be followed by multiple visits in order to be one body working for the common good, in the heart of our society and our Church, the Church of Jerusalem, Jesus’ homeland”.
For his part, Br. Peter said: “At Bethlehem University, we are very aware and conscious of the challenges that many of our graduates face once they graduate, and so we are very keen to be involved in preventing, or at least restricting the barriers to entrepreneurship and to employment”.
“In cooperation with various Christian institutions, this program aims to help young people and women who seek to start their own business. It also helps others to obtain jobs by providing suitable qualifications opportunities,”explained Mr. Sami El-Yoused, who added: “None of this would be possible to achieve without partnering with parish priests, parish councils and youth groups, and cooperating with school principals to develop the necessary career guidance programs”.
Ms. Nisreen Mansour, Project Coordinator at ICP, gave a detailed presentation of the “Afaq” project which is entitled “Christian Youth and Women Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Employment in Palestine”. This project aims to promote economic empowerment and improve income for Christian women and youth in Palestine, in order to integrate the entire Christian community into Palestinian society, and to prevent the migration of young people in search of a better future.
The “Afaq” project is expected to be implemented in 13 parishes in the West Bank; namely Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Birzeit, Jifna, Aboud, Ramallah, Ein Arik, Taybeh, Rafidia, Zababdeh, Jenin, and Jericho. It is also expected to target the small Christian communities in Burqin, Tubas, Kafr Qud, Jalameh, and Deir Ghazaleh.
For the success of the project, the Institute for Community Partnership, in cooperation with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, will conduct a survey of Christian institutions in the West Bank in order to develop a website that includes them all, hold awareness workshops on the subject of career guidance and entrepreneurship, provide grants and loans to support selected entrepreneurial businesses, as well as provide paid programs for internships.
At the end of the meeting, the attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions, which were answered by Mr. Mousa Rabadi, Director of ICP, Ms. Nisreen Mansour and Mr. Sami El-Yousef. After the meeting, everyone was invited to a simple reception.