#ShortNews: Holy Land tourism up 14% in 2018

Holy Land tourism, including religious tourism, has hit “unexpected levels” this year. The flow of pilgrims “has topped forecasts”, especially the many visitors “from Asia – in particular, China, South Korea, India – many of whom are Christians,” said Sobhy Makhoul, of the Maronite Church of Jerusalem and administrator of the Christian Media Center.

Some 3.8 million tourists visited Israel in the first 11 months of this year, 14 per cent more than in the corresponding period last year. The goal is to exceed four million. “In October alone, there were 483,000 tourists, 40 per cent over the same month in 2017,” Sobhy Makhoul said.

Bethlehem is one of the places that is benefitting from the tourist boom with hotel occupancy expected to exceed 95 per cent by the end of December. Bethlehem businesses also said they were benefiting from a surge of visitors to Israel for its 70th anniversary year.

Read full article here: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Christian-leader:-Pilgrims-and-Asian-tourists-boost-Holy-Land-tourism-45722.html

#ShortNews: 250,000 Syrian refugees could return home next year: UNHCR

“As the situation in Syria improves some of these refugees are making the journey home,” Amin Awad, UNHCR director for the Middle East and North Africa, said. “We are forecasting, in what we call phase one, up to 250,000 Syrians go back in 2019. That figure can go up and down according to the pace with which we are working and removing these obstacles to return.”

The UNHCR appealed to donors for $5.5 billion on Tuesday to support neighboring countries in providing health, water, sanitation, food, education, and psycho-social support to Syrian refugees.

“Their living conditions have deteriorated as their existence in exile prolongs. They have been borrowing money, they are indebted and a lot of them are living below the poverty line, 70 to 80 percent of them are living below the poverty line in their host communities or countries,” Awad said.

Read full article here: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-us-gulen/turkey-says-trump-working-on-extraditing-wanted-cleric-gulen-idUSKBN1OF0BM

#ShortNews: 19 years after initial evangelization, Indian village builds parish for 2,000

In a small village in the district of Changlang, in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, north east India, the largest church in this Indian state was recently blessed and consecrated. Fides was told that in Neotan, a village in Arunachal Pradesh on the border with Myanmar, in the Catholic diocese of Miao, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, presided on December 5 a solemn Mass for the blessing and inauguration of the church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The concelebrants included Bishop George Pallipparambil of the diocese of Miao, and other bishops with the participation of 2,000 faithful, all seated inside the spacious church building .

The village welcomed the first seed of the Christian faith 19 years ago and today the local Catholic community rejoices for a new church, which took two years to complete and was built thanks to the voluntary labour and sacrifices of the faithful.

Full story: http://www.fides.org/en/news/65223-ASIA_INDIA_A_remote_diocese_in_the_North_East_now_has_the_largest_church_in_the_whole_of_Arunachal_Pradesh