The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine removed from the WHC list of “World Heritage in Danger”

July 12, 2019

The World Her­itage Com­mit­tee (WHC) held its 43rd ses­sion in Baku, Repub­lic of Azer­bai­jan, from the 30th June until the 10th of July 2019. Each year, the Unit­ed Nations’ Inter­na­tion­al Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Nature (IUCN) experts attend the annu­al ses­sion of the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee, and make rec­om­men­da­tions on all mat­ters relat­ed to nat­ur­al World Her­itage. The Com­mit­tee dis­cuss­es and makes deci­sions based on these recommendations.

The IUCN announced on Tues­day that it was remov­ing the Birth­place of Jesus Christ — The Church of the Nativ­i­ty and the Pil­grim­age Route, from its List of World Her­itage in Dan­ger due to the exten­sive restora­tive works which were com­plet­ed on Bethlehem’s Nativ­i­ty Church, in Pales­tine dur­ing the past 6 years.

The Pres­i­den­tial Com­mit­tee for the Restora­tion of the Church of the Nativ­i­ty was estab­lished in 2008 to car­ry out a restora­tion pro­gram. An inter­na­tion­al bid for the assess­ment study and the estab­lish­ment of the restora­tion pro­gram was launched in August 2009 and the con­tract was award­ed to an inter­na­tion­al con­sor­tium of Ital­ian uni­ver­si­ties and research cen­ters (the uni­ver­si­ties of Fer­rara, Siena, Roma-La Sapien­za and Naples; and CNR-Ival­sa) led by CFR-Italy and sup­port­ed local­ly by the Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment Group (CDG), Bethlehem.

Fol­low­ing the pro­gram launch, the late Mr. Said Khoury, Co-Founder of Con­sol­i­dat­ed Con­trac­tors Com­pa­ny (CCC) and founder of the Beth­le­hem Devel­op­ment Foun­da­tion (BDF), spear­head­ed the efforts and was the first to fund the need­ed stud­ies for these restora­tions in 2011.

In 2011 the late Mr. Said Khoury launched the Beth­le­hem Devel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive with the aim to trans­form Beth­le­hem and sur­round­ing area into a vibrant inter­na­tion­al spir­i­tu­al des­ti­na­tion. To imple­ment this vision, a group of Inter­na­tion­al and Pales­tin­ian phil­an­thropists estab­lished the Beth­le­hem Devel­op­ment Foun­da­tion (BDF) as a non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion in May 2012. BDF’s mis­sion is to cre­ate a sus­tain­able econ­o­my and infra­struc­ture for Beth­le­hem, and to enable the Holy City to sparkle as a peace­ful bea­con and unique spir­i­tu­al cen­ter of the world for pil­grims of all faiths.

BDF Board of Trustees is now chaired by Mr. Said Khoury’s Samer Khoury.

In 2013 and beyond, BDF was able to secure a gen­er­ous dona­tion of $1M from the Arab Fund for Eco­nom­ic and Social Devel­op­ment to fund the restora­tion of the exter­nal facades and inter­nal plaster.

Mr. Samer Khoury estab­lished the Amer­i­can Friends of the Beth­le­hem Devel­op­ment Foun­da­tion (AFBDF) was estab­lished in Novem­ber. AFBDF was for­mal­ly launched in a gala din­ner at the Willards Inter­con­ti­nen­tal in Wash­ing­ton DC in Feb­ru­ary 2018 as an Amer­i­can non-prof­it to sup­port the efforts of BDF. AFBDF seeks to estab­lish finan­cial assis­tance, grass­roots sup­port, and recog­ni­tion for the devel­op­ment of the city of Beth­le­hem. Two fundrais­ing events took place in New York City on the 10th of Octo­ber, 2018 at the New York Ath­let­ic Club and a din­ner was host­ed in Hous­ton on the 8th of Octo­ber, 2018 at the Post Oak Hotel.

Since the com­mence­ment of the restora­tion works in 2017, AFBDF man­aged to secure a grant from the Lev­ant Foun­da­tion in 2018. The Foun­da­tion have agreed to adopt the restora­tion of 11 out of a total of 50 Corinthi­an columns in the cen­tral nave of the Church. AFBDF man­aged to secure fund­ing close to $1M from the USA and Chile which enabled the com­ple­tion of restora­tion works.

BDF also held a fundrais­ing char­i­ty event on the evening of Tues­day, the 11th of Decem­ber 2018, at the Palaz­zo del­la Rovere in the Vat­i­can, head­quar­ters of the Order of the Holy Sep­ul­cher, under the patron­age of Car­di­nal Leonar­do San­dri — Pre­fect of the Con­gre­ga­tion for the Ori­en­tal Church­es and Patron of the Vat­i­can fundrais­ing event, to present the sta­tus of the restora­tion works of the Nativ­i­ty Church in Bethlehem.

A total of 30 gov­ern­ments, reli­gious insti­tu­tions and pri­vate groups have helped finance the ren­o­va­tions. Proud­ly, CCC, BDF and AFBDF joined a long list of donors form all over the world who made this project hap­pen. Final­ly, vis­i­tors are able to once again admire mosaics that have been hid­den from pub­lic view for hun­dreds of years.