An Israeli M109 Doher self-propelled howitzer firing across the border into the Gaza Strip. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Franciscan Leaders Urge President Biden to Take Action for Peace in Holy Land

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Provincial Minister Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM, and five other leaders of provinces in the United States belonging to the Order of Friars Minor recently sent a letter to President Joe Biden imploring him to increase the United States’ efforts to end the violence in the Holy Land and address the causes of the conflict. Add your voice to this effort to bring peace by joining this action alert from Churches for Middle East Peace.

May 19, 2021

Dear President Biden,

We greet you with prayers of peace and goodwill, but also with heavy hearts for the people of Palestine and Israel who continue to suffer under the weight of violence.

The Holy Land holds a special place in our faith tradition and in our hearts, as we trust it does with you as a fellow Catholic. Central to our mission as Franciscans is to be peacemakers. As Franciscans, we have been present and serving people in the Holy Land for more than 800 years. Through our brothers stationed there, we witness the injustice, the suffering, and the violations of basic human rights of many people throughout Palestine and Israel as we minister to them. Our Franciscan brother, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa also cares for all the people of the Holy Land. He has emphatically called for peace and we are humbled to stand with him in our appeal to you and your administration for peacemaking action.

While we have appreciated your administration’s initial efforts to bring a cessation to the violence, more action is needed. The ongoing escalation of violence and human rights abuses, now in its second week, must come to an end. Your administration has consistently said that it will center human rights and the rule of law in its foreign policy decisions. We beg you to further translate these sentiments into action.

With this hope for peace in the Holy Land, we implore you to:

  • State unequivocally that the continuation of violence cannot persist or be tolerated by any actors. Please bring the full nonviolent power of the U.S. to end the violence.
  • Directly confront the ongoing impact of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories by publicly declaring that the U.S. opposes all settlement activity including in occupied East Jerusalem. Further, there must be a clear U.S. call for a respect of the religious freedom of people to worship in their holy sites.
  • Intervene directly with the Israeli government to ensure the immediate cancellation of all pending eviction orders in East Jerusalem, including the expulsion of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah. The Israeli security forces’ response to the nonviolent protest of these expulsions seems to have been one of the many sparks leading to the current horrific violence.
  • Support Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s (MN-4th) legislation, HR 2590, which calls for greater transparency in reviewing how Israel uses U.S. security assistance. This legislation will ensure that U.S. funds are not used to abuse Palestinian children, annex Palestinian land, or demolish Palestinian homes. If safeguards like these are not in place, we in the U.S. could be directly responsible for the death and injury of the people of Palestine.

We recognize that we are calling you to take more direct actions to confront Israeli governmental policies than previous administrations have; however, the enormous imbalance of power and the root cause of violence in Gaza, Jerusalem and other places in the Holy Land have grown to a point that requires this new level of urgent action. Now is the time for boldness to end the immediate violence. We must use the moral strength of the U.S. to support a nonviolent and sustainable solution in the region. The U.S. is a key player in finding such a solution rooted in justice, respect for basic human rights, and international law.

Be assured of our continued prayers for you and your administration as you seek the wisdom to navigate these difficult times. May you remain focused on a peace and hope that spring from justice.

Sincerely,

Fr. David Gaa, OFM, Province of Saint Barbara
Fr. James Gannon, OFM, Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM, Province of the Holy Name
Fr. Thomas Nairn, OFM, Province of the Sacred Heart
Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, Province of Saint John the Baptist
Fr. Ronald Walters, OFM, Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe