Pro Terra Sancta has brought us the story of Father Mario Hadchiti and his school in Jericho. He is a Franciscan of Lebanese origin, parish priest of Jericho. Since 2013 he has directed one of the most important schools of the Custody of the Holy Land in the Palestinian territory: the Terra Santa School of Jericho. The school is attended by 900 students, of which Christian boys are a minority (the Christian population in Jericho is less than 1%) and Muslim boys the majority. It’s a Christian school from kindergarten to Tawjihi, the final exam of high school, where boys and girls study together in a serene environment and with a high level of training.
While he makes us sit in his office, around the desk there are two professors, of physics and mathematics, a Christian and a Muslim one, a parent of a pupil and the governor’s secretary. They discuss the situation of a student struggling with academics. For Father Mario the key to everything is listening and collaborating. His teacher – in this – is always Jesus. “He knew the suffering and the problems of man and so I try to do,” says Father Mario. The recipe is simple: “I tried to put Jesus’ teaching into practice, I listened to people and asked them what they needed.”
And so the results came. Abuna Mario is much loved and respected by the local community: “I gave them order, discipline and beauty, receiving respect in return. Respect towards Christians, towards the dress I wear and mutual respect among individuals“, he explains. “I learned from my service at Mount Tabor the importance of beauty,” continues Abuna Mario, “because beauty arouses responsibility. I have prepared a beautiful school because the children are worthy of living in a beautiful environment, but they must learn to keep the environment clean for others too, respecting others”.
The Custody of the Holy land, besides being in charge of the protection of the Holy Places and other social assistance projects, has built various schools in the territory where it operates, as education is a pillar of the Franciscan charism. Right now, they have fifteen schools with around 12,000 students, who are having some economic difficulties due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.