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Holy Land Festival unites Muslims, Christians in hope for restored peace


  • Father James Gardiner, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement, dances with Gaithersburg, Md., members of the Al-Amal Dabkeh Troupe during the annual Holy Land Festival in Washington July 15. The celebration was held at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. (CNS photo/CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)
  • Leen Alghouj and Amani Tarek, members of the Al-Amal Dabkeh Troupe in Gaithersburg, Md., perform a dance at the annual Holy Land Festival in Washington July 15. The celebration was held at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. (CNS photo/CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)
  • Jordan Denari Duffner shows a young boy what his name looks like in Arabic at the annual Holy Land Festival in Washington July 15. The event was held at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. (CNS photo/CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Along the western banks of the Jordan River, the place of Christ's baptism and today known as Qasr al-Yahud, numerous churches and monasteries of different religions sit vacant and silenced due to the dangerous landmines that lie beneath them.

For almost 50 years, Qasr al-Yahud has been empty due to the landmines installed during the 1967 Six Day war between the Arabs and the Israeli people.

Halo Trust, a nonprofit organization, has worked to remove the landmines in the Qasr al-Yahud area since 2012. The group is dedicated to providing save environments for those living in areas surrounded by landmines through landmine removal, as well as assisting in local community rebuilding in the aftermath of war.

Their work has brought together various religious denominations in efforts to preserve the sacred churches, such as the Coptic church, the Franciscan church and the Syrian church, that all sit on the site of Qasr al-Yahud.

"We've got agreements with the eight churches, we've got agreements with the Israeli government, and we've got agreements with the Palestinian authorities," said Adam Jasinski, executive director of Halo Trust, in an interview with Catholic News Service July 15.

Jasinski spoke about the Jordan River landmine removal in a seminar at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America as part of its fourth annual Holy Land Festival held July 15.

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