by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA 2023 Teacher of Peace

So many issues press in on us this week: The disarray in the U.S. House of Representatives and what it augurs for our democracy. The Synod in Rome as a possible New Pentecost, coupled with mean-spirited misunderstandings of Pope Francis’s great dream for the Church. The lessening of commitments of assistance for Ukraine in its struggle for survival.

Above all our attention returns constantly to Israel/Palestine and the shocking turn of events there in all its horror and ominous possibilities for the entire Middle East and beyond. 

Most of us receive the news about that tragic situation from secular media, which thanks to brave reporters come to our newspapers and televisions straight from the ground in Israel and Gaza. While this reporting is on the whole accurate, we have to look elsewhere for deeper analyses of the situation, particularly those rooted in faith-based considerations.

Therefore, here are several considerations not being expressed elsewhere and which point to the tangled web of history, politics and spiritual values which must inform our judgments about the tragedy unfolding in the land where Jesus walked:

“The operation launched from Gaza and the reaction of the Israeli Army are bringing us back to the worst periods of our recent history. The too many casualties and tragedies, which both Palestinian and Israeli families have to deal with, will create more hatred and division, and will destroy more and more any perspective of stability.” (Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, on the morning of the Hamas attack.)

“The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns denounces Hamas’ deadly attacks against Israelis and mourns the loss of all life…We also abhor the extensive retaliatory violence carried out by the Israeli military against the people of Gaza. The government of Israel’s decision to shut off power, water and fuel to the people of Gaza constitutes collective punishment and international law designates such actions as illegal and unconscionable… A protracted Israeli military offensive, including a possible ground invasion, could result in considerably more deaths and a broader regional war… The Israeli Prime Minister’s call for residents of Gaza ‘to leave’ is unrealistic given that all border crossings in and out of Gaza are closed. Leaving is not an option for the more than 2.2 million people living there.”

“For 75 years Israeli policies have revolved around displacement, military occupation and animosity and the maintenance of an apartheid regime. The suffering over these years is significantly tied to the role of the international community in this turmoil, most especially the United States, alongside global powers like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and others. By insistently supporting Israel, the U.S. and other powers indirectly further the ongoing violence. The unchecked military aid, diplomatic shielding and enormous financial support from the U.S. play a part in bolstering Israels’s existing policies.” [Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), a Christian voice for Palestine]

“Nearly a thousand Christians – most of them Orthodox – live in the besieged Palestinian enclave (Gaza) that is under the rule of Hamas. And like everyone else they are now caught in the middle of the Hamas attack and Israeli’s retaliation. … Sister Nabila, a Catholic religious woman based in Gaza City, says the Israeli air strikes that have been pounding Gaza since October 7 have destroyed the homes of most of the 150 Latin-rite Catholics who belong to her parish.” (Le Croix International, a daily French general interest Roman Catholic newspaper.) 

“Pax Christi International condemns all acts of violence which once again envelope the Holy Land in unimaginable grief, fear and devastation. We mourn the loss of each life for all are equal. We remain steadfast in our call for a ceasefire, knowing that an escalation in fighting will not resolve the root causes of this relentless cycle of violence but only sow seeds of greater hatred and animosity.”

Violence begets violence.

Cover photo: Participants in Pax Christi International’s 2015 World Assembly pray as they walk next to the separation wall in Bethlehem.

Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace and the 2023 Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.

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