The Terra Sancta Education Trust has been flourishing for several years now and has brought happiness and encouragement to many young children and their families throughout the Middle East. The Holy Land, the land of our redemption, the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, is a microcosm which is the image and projection, in good and evil, of the global situation. This is a land of many human contradictions, a paradoxical and incredible – scandalous – triumph of violence, domination and fundamentalism, but always the land of God more than any other.
The Terra Sancta Education Trust focuses its work on scholarships for students between the ages 4-18. The trust promotes education as its main objective, not only academic studies but also cultural activities that enrich the mind and trigger the spirit, such as recent field trips to the Jerusalem zoo and the flora and fauna nature trip to the Judean desert organised by the Palestinian Wildlife Society and the Catholic Near East Welfare Agency. As the trust in its cradle stages, it has begun with some of these cultural and recreational activities and aspires to run many more. Its focus is to help the Christians throughout the Holy Land who at the moment are living in very difficult civic and economic conditions. Nonetheless, I am happy to inform you that the trust has supported over 50 students by granting them scholarships and hopes to be able to support many more in the years to come. Despite the difficulties in communication between the various religious groups in the Holy Land, the Terra Sancra Education Trust is constantly seeking ways to bring different tribes together. We seek universals, such as sports, music, food, that can be shared by all in a spirit of harmony. In 2007, the trust burst onto the scene through participation in the Bethlehem-Jerusalem Interfaith Peace Marathon, raising over £5000 to commence our scholarship fund.
The work of the trust is about “building bridges not walls”. To this end, the trust organises an annual “pilgrimage of solidarity” including not only the main cultural, historical and religious sites of interest in the Holy Land, but also meals in the homes of our scholarship children and their families and visits to religious sites revered by our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters. We have respectively attended worship at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem and at the Mosque of Abraham in Hebron and taken tea with Muslim families in Deheishe Palestinian refugee camp as well as sharing Shabbat dinner with Jewish families living in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem’s most Orthodox neighbourhood, creating a network of friendship built on trust, respect and our shared values. We have broken the Iftar fast with our Muslim friends during Ramadan and shared happy moments under the sukkah during the Jewish festival of Succoth. The trust’s next project is a cookbook of Middle Eastern recipes…stay tuned for more information. After 5 years of commitment to strengthening the future opportunities for some of the most disadvantaged children within the Middle East’s Christian communities, Dr. Lancaster’s work was recognised with her nomination, by the Catholic Women’s League in the UK, as “CATHOLIC WOMAN OF THE YEAR 2010”. She received this distinguished award from Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, at a ceremony in London in October 2010. Read more