By Marie Dennis
Pax Christi USA 2022 Teacher of Peace
The following are excerpts from an essay published on November 3 in the National Catholic Reporter. Use this link to read it in its entirety.
The unspeakable suffering of already deeply traumatized people in Israel and Palestine, and of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities around the world whose hearts are with loved ones in the Holy Land, has sickened people of conscience everywhere. Our hearts are breaking as we realize that to Jews this violence feels like a continuation of the Holocaust and to Palestinians it feels like a new Nakba, the “catastrophe” of mass Palestinian displacement and dispossession that began in 1948.
For now, many of us can only be present like Job’s three friends: We can only accompany the intense suffering.
When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.Job 2:11-13
We see how great the current anguish is — and we are terrified as the spiral of violence that seems to have overtaken humanity turns toward regional, even global, catastrophe.
The brutal killing of Israeli civilians by Hamas on Oct. 7 should be — and is being — condemned without question, including by Palestinians. At the same time, the massacre of the civilian population of Gaza, the majority of whom do not support Hamas, should also be — and is being — condemned without question, including by Israelis.
The situation is heartbreaking and extremely dangerous — for Israelis and Palestinians, for the wider region and for the rule of international law. The killing and hostage-taking, the vicious attacks on civilians, the continuation and tightening of the siege of Gaza that started at least 17 years ago, the increasing violence in the West Bank and the occupation itself illustrate how violence begets violence.
I am convinced that every Palestinian and every Israeli, every Jew, every Muslim, every Christian living in the Holy Land is yearning for genuine security, for dignity, for freedom, for peace — and that strong, courageous, effective nonviolent action is the only path to such a future.
The church calls for a nonviolent way forward
Like many of his predecessors, Pope Francis has consistently rejected war as a fitting tool for building peace, even as he has recognized a people’s right to self-defense. In response to the war in the Holy Land he said, “War, any war that there is in the world — I also think of martyred Ukraine — is a defeat. War always is a defeat … Stop! Stop!” And, with increasing urgency in recent years, he has sought to center on nonviolence in Catholic teaching on war and peace. Our belief in the sacredness of every human life and in the intrinsic value of creation turns us toward nonviolence, as do the word and witness of Jesus Christ. …