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Let Us Build a Just Peace

By Sister Beatrice Hernandez

As Wheaton Franciscans, we condemn the Hamas attack on Israel which targeted innocent Israeli citizens.  We also condemn the decades-long occupation and siege of Gaza by Israel, accompanied by many human rights violations that have contributed to the violence of the present moment in this part of the world. Settlement building, land confiscation, child arrests, home demolitions, as well as recent incidents of settler and military violence against Palestinians have fanned the flames of hatred, mistrust, and loss of hope for the future. This has driven some of the people living in Gaza and the West Bank to see violent resistance as the only answer to their suffering. 

We also recognize that there are many people living in the Palestinian territories and in Israel who oppose this never-ending cycle of violence and violent retaliation. They have repeatedly urged both sides to stop settlement building in the Palestinian territories, and to sit down together and begin to develop a path to justice and peace in the region. It is clear that war solves nothing and leads to greater suffering and to yet another generation traumatized by violence, fear, anger, hatred and mistrust. 

The killing and maiming of innocent civilians whether by Hamas rockets and gunmen, or by Israeli airstrikes, is unjustifiable. A ground invasion by Israel into Gaza threatens to annihilate the over 2 million people living there, literally killing thousands in a relentless march to the sea. The US naval ships sent to the coast of Israel and Gaza may be successful at stopping other countries in the region from joining the fray, but this will not mitigate Israel’s stated goal of massive retaliation against Hamas, with innocent civilians in Gaza caught in the crossfire with no safe place to hide. We call on the US government to work with Israeli officials to get humanitarian aid into Gaza and to provide needed food, water and medical supplies to the civilian population.  We urge all of us to ask the UN to send diplomats to the area to urge all involved in this war to agree to a cease fire immediately, in order to begin the hard work of seeking a just and lasting peace through listening and dialogue. 

Rabbi Nachman’s Prayer for Peace (Translation by Rabbi Deborah Silver. The quotations are: Leviticus 26:6, Amos 5:24 and Isaiah 11:9)

May it be Your will,
Holy One, our God, our ancestors’ God,
that you erase war and bloodshed from the world
and in its place draw down
a great and glorious peace
so that nation shall not lift up sword against nation
neither shall they learn war any more.

Rather, may all the inhabitants of the earth
recognize and deeply know
this great truth:
that we have not come into this world
for strife and division
nor for hatred and rage, 
nor provocation and bloodshed.

We have come here only
to encounter You,
eternally blessed One.

And so,
we ask your compassion upon us;
raise up, by us, what is written:

I shall place peace upon the earth
and you shall lie down safe and undisturbed
and I shall banish evil beasts from the earth
and the sword shall not pass through your land.
but let justice come in waves like water
and righteousness flow like a river,
for the earth shall be full
of the knowledge of the Holy One
as the waters cover the sea.

So may it be.
And we say: