December 21, 2012
Roundup of Christmas Pilgrimage News in Bethlehem
Good news for Christians in Malaysia, Gaza, and Nigeria.
Malaysia has eased restrictions on Christian pilgrimages to Bethlehem and other Holy Land locations, removing an imposed limit on pilgrims (700 per year) and extending the approved length of visits (from 7 to 21 days). The news, just in time for the Christmas season, was welcomed by Christians in the predominantly Muslim nation.
Closer to home, Israel announced permission for 500 Palestinian Christians in Gaza to travel to Bethlehem in the West Bank for Christmas celebrations, joining an anticipated 75,000 tourists from foreign countries.
Among those tourists are a sizable number of Nigerian pilgrims. While the state-sponsored pilgrimages are currently undergoing government review, an estimated 30,000 Christians took advantage of the opportunity this year to see Bethlehem and other locations—though 300 were recently stranded at the Jerusalem airport due to logistical problems.