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Seek peace in the Holy Land

Flags for dead children in foreground; vigilers in background--Photos by Ann Suellentrop

By Kristin Scheer

The Holy Land Peace Coalition held a vigil, “Peace in the Holy Land,” at Theis Park in Kansas City, Mo., on Dec. 14. Thirty people gathered on that cold afternoon to mourn those killed in the violence in Israel and Gaza since Oct. 7 and to call for a ceasefire. White flags planted nearby had written on them the names of a few of the many thousands of children killed—an estimated 35 Israeli children and more than 9,000 Palestinian children.

Margot Patterson chats with Pat Marrin after the vigil.

Margot Patterson of Citizens of Justice in the Middle East (CJME), the lead organization in the coalition, welcomed those gathered. She said decades of irresponsible US policy had contributed to the current crisis, which the US is deepening by arming Israel’s war against the civilian population of Gaza and obstructing efforts in the United Nations to end the war.  

Ian Munro of CJME read a statement issued by Rabbis for Ceasefire (https://rabbis4ceasefire.com/statement/) expressing grief at the loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives. They recognize, “there is no military solution to our horror.” The rabbis say, “The US and Israeli governments are using our grief to justify genocidal violence directed against the people of Gaza.” They call for an immediate, complete ceasefire as the only way to prevent more death and destruction. The 200 rabbis who have signed the statement urge the engagement of the international community towards a just and lasting peace in Israel-Palestine. They say, “The voice of the Jewish people, now more than ever, must be clear and united: Never Again is Now. Never again for anyone. Not in our names. Ceasefire now!”

Ira Harritt of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council read the Council’s statement (https://www.kcinterfaith.org/the-longest-journey-begins-with-a-single-step). The Council “grieves the loss of life in Israel and Palestine,” the Council says. “We each pray … for those held hostage, injured, and killed.” Harritt said the faiths represented by the Council “call upon us to value human life, to show compassion for people on all sides of conflict.” Harritt added that the Council “believes that to be devastated by the brutal killing of loved ones never justifies the killing of others. … We believe a path to peace is possible.” Harritt added the final words of the statement: “Our faiths teach us to seek the light in times of darkness and that even the longest journey begins with a single step.”

Ghassan Elkhatib of CJME said, “I am a Muslim American. Palestinians were told they needed to leave their home. They left with the summer clothes they were wearing on their backs. Look around and imagine. We are all wearing jackets. They are wearing T-shirts and shorts in the cold, in the rain. They need essential goods.” Elkhatib called on Israel to lift the siege. He urged the US to impose the same measures on Israel that were imposed on apartheid South Africa.

Chris Overfelt of PeaceWorks KC and Veterans for Peace spoke powerfully as a “soldier of empire.” He said, “Israel has dropped 15,000 US-made bombs and missiles on Gaza. That’s 500 bombs a day. Each missile costs tens of thousands of dollars, some $100,000—all paid for by our tax dollars.” Overfelt added, “Over one million Gazans were ethnically cleansed from their homes. We stand in solidarity and witness.” He then read a poem of Palestinian scholar and poet Refaat Alareer, killed Dec. 7 after posting his poem, “If I Die, Let It Be a Tale.” For the poem and Overfelt’s testimony, see https://peaceworkskc.org/american-empire-is-perpetrating-genocide-says-vet/.

Father Jerry Waris, left, stands with Pat Marrin before the vigil begins.

Father Jerry Waris spoke of the challenge of making peace in a society devoted to war. “Some,” he said, “don’t believe peace is possible. But that’s only because it’s never been tried!” He added, “I won’t let my voice go silent.” He quoted Isaiah 2:4: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall never train for war again.”

Pat Marrin, formerly at the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and currently drawing the NCR comic strip about Pope Francis, said both the cartoon and the real pope are calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. And Marrin said the cartoon and Pope Francis echo the appeal by Pope Paul VI at the UN in 1965, “No more war!” and carry Pope Paul’s message, “If you want peace, work for justice.”

Henry Stoever of PeaceWorks KC spoke about the United Nations’ nonbinding resolution for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. On Dec. 13, 153 nations voted for a ceasefire. Ten nations (including the US and Israel) voted against the resolution, and 23 nations abstained. Stoever said, “We must speak out, for we are implicated. The US is aiding and abetting the criminal actions of the Israeli government.” Stoever called for an immediate, permanent ceasefire.

Jane Stoever of PeaceWorks pledged to call her Congressional representative, Sharice Davids, to tell her to sign onto House Resolution 786, calling for a ceasefire in the Middle East. We heard other voices pledge to call Reps. Emanuel Cleaver II and Mark Alford.

We heard that 18,000 people are now reported killed in the conflict, more than 9,000 of them children. We planted flags and lit candles for our brothers and sisters lost to violence, and we prayed. We heard prayers for peace, prayers for the dead, prayers for those suffering in Gaza, prayers for enlightened leadership among world leaders. We heard a prayer for a “Road to Damascus” moment for the president of the United States.

We heard, “No more war!”

—Kristin Scheer is a Board member of PeaceWorks KC and an environmental activist. © 2023, Kristin Scheer, Henry Stoever, Jane Stoever, Father Jerry Waris, Ira Harritt, Chris Overfelt, Margot Patterson, Pat Marrin, Ghassan Elkhatib, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.

3 Responses

  1. I didn’t see any reference to whether there was an appeal to Hamas to surrender in order to end the violence they started.

  2. We must press our congressional representatives to affirm House Resolution 786, calling for a ceasefire in the Middle East. And, we must act now and continue to act, until this is a done-deal!

    For those who are followers of Christ Jesus, both those with much fairth and those with little faith, we are always called to be peace-makers in our relationships, in our communites, in our country, and in all of God’s creation. That is our sacred obligation. God help us all to act now! Hallelujah and amen!

  3. American citizens must STOP Biden in support israeli wild zionists in KILLING INNOCENT UNARMED CITIZENS IN PALESTINE, STOP IT RIGHT NOW❗☝️😠

Man hanging origame peace cranes.