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‘Let us pray for love’: Filipino Christians keep Gaza in prayer as Simbang Gabi begins in Dubai – News


KT Photos: Shihab

Published: Saturday Dec 16, 2023, 8:22

The traditional Simbang Gabi, a nine-day devotional series of pre-Christmas masses, began on Friday, and thousands of Filipino expatriates have once again begun attending Christian service at various churches in the United Arab Emirates.

Aside from communal prayers and thanksgiving, the call for peace (particularly an end to hostilities in Gaza) is among the personal pleas of pious Catholics, who shared their thoughts with Khaleej Times.

Romer Mendoza, 41, a long-time resident of Dubai, was among the thousands of Filipino Christians who attended the first day of Simbang Gabi at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Oud Metha. “I am also praying for peace in Palestine,” he said, adding: “Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago, but now, in Palestine, innocent children are dying because of the incessant fire”. Israeli bombings.”

“We need to pray for peace and none other than Pope Francis asks us to do this,” Mendoza added.

‘Yes to peace’

On Wednesday, Pope Francis, leader of the world’s more than 1.3 billion Catholics, said: “No to weapons, yes to peace,” as he renewed his call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the liberation of all the hostages there.

“I continue to follow the conflict in Israel and Palestine with great concern and pain. I renew my call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire: there is a lot of suffering there. “I encourage all parties involved to resume negotiations and ask everyone to urgently commit to bringing humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza,” added the Catholic Pontiff.

Pope Francis’ call comes after the overwhelming approval of the UN General Assembly resolution demanding an urgent ceasefire in Gaza, as more than 18,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed and 50,594 more injured in the Israeli attack, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

Prayers for peace

With her eyes closed and her palms in prayer, Bernadette Barnabas, 32, also pleaded for peace in Gaza. She said after the mass: “I have included in my prayers that reconciliation and harmony will reign in Palestine.”

Her compatriots Evelyn Tabaque, 44, and Divina Tagle, 53, also said the same prayers. With smiles on their faces and brandishing the peace sign, Tabaque and Tagle, both church volunteers, said, “The message of Christmas is hope and loving one another. It is a time of compassion, giving and sharing. As Christians, we implore our Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters to let peace reign in their land.”

Filipino student Vincent John T. Apelan, 15, who is also an altar boy, added: “We all support the call for peace. Let us pray for love, understanding and tolerance.”

Christmas carols

Meanwhile, in the spirit of joyful celebration, the customary singing of Christmas carols preceded the mass and St. Mary’s Catholic Church as priest Fr. Leny Escalada encouraged everyone to bring small gifts to share at the following masses.

Simbang Gabi is a Filipino Christmas tradition that began in the late 17th century during the Spanish colonial era. Filipino Catholics brought the tradition to the UAE in the early 2000s, but unlike the Philippines, where Simbang Gabi is celebrated at dawn, mass in the UAE is usually celebrated at night.

According to Father Chito Bartolo, around 20,000 parishioners attend each Simbang Gabi at St. Mary’s Church in Dubai.


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