Ministries Host Holy Land Peace Activist

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The following is a summary of a speaker series arranged by a member of the Province’s JPIC Directorate. Detailed reports about two of the talks were submitted by Hugh Macsherry, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, and Megan Nerz of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Raleigh, N.C.

NEW YORK — A Palestinian Christian farmer from the Holy Land visited five Province ministries from April 17 to May 4, on an East Coast speaking tour, sharing his story about “Planting Peace — Teaching Hope.”

Daoud Nassar, whose family works a 100-acre farm and olive grove near Bethlehem and runs the nearby Tent of Nations peace education center, spoke at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford, Conn., St. Mary Church in Pompton Lakes, N.J., St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., and at the Community of St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh, N.C.

He told of how people go to the farm to plant trees, harvest olives and fruit, teach at the education center, lead activities in the youth summer camps, all in solidarity for Holy Land peace through non-violent activities.

The speaking tour was coordinated by Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, co-chair of the HNP Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Directorate, who has visited the Nassar farm several times. He collaborated with the Friends of Tent of Nations, North America — or FOTONNA — a northern Virginia organization that supports Nassar’s work, and with friars at the hosting ministries.

St. Anthony Shrine
More than 100 people, including director David Convertino, OFM, and Richard McFeeley, OFM, guardian of St. Anthony Residence in Boston, turned out at the St. Anthony Shrine May 3 event, according to Hugh.

The program was planned with Holy Name Province’s 2008 Vision and Strategic Plan in mind: “To develop our peacemaking efforts by becoming more deeply involved in dialogue among Christians, Jews and Muslims, while engaging the religious, social, economic and political factors that, when unaddressed, become catalysts for violence.”

The shrine’s Dr. Jackie Stewart, who helped plan the Boston event, invited several Jewish congregations in the Boston area. “Such outreach was especially meaningful,” said Hugh, “given Mr. Nassar’s testimony of interfaith outreach at Tent of Nations to the Muslim and Jewish communities.”

John Maganzini, OFM, called the program a powerful expression of the Franciscan spirit. “You can see God’s hand in it all. Despite the struggles and obstacles, they move forward in their conviction for peace and unity.”

St. Francis of Assisi, Raleigh, N.C.
In Raleigh, Nassar addressed an audience of Jews, Muslims, and Christians gathered at St. Francis of Assisi Church.

“Nassar told the often dramatic and inspiring story of his family’s struggle to defend their land nonviolently from illegal confiscation by the Israeli government, who wants the land to build more roads into Jewish settlements and to continue the construction of its security wall,” according to Nerz, a parishioner and member of the JPIC Directorate.

“Surrounded by violence, Nassar decided on another more courageous and creative option to break the cycle of pain and frustration,” according to Nerz, by saying, “‘We refuse to be enemies. Instead, we are building bridges of understanding and reconciliation.’”

nassar-rDavid McBriar OFM, who organized the April 26 event at St. Francis, said: “There is no one more dedicated to the pursuit of peace in the Holy Land than Dahoud Nassar. It is at the Tent of the Nations that you meet the living stones of the Holy Land — Christians struggling to hold on in the midst of an occupation.”

From Raleigh, Nassar went on to speak at St. Patrick-St. Anthony in Hartford, St. Camillus in Silver Spring, and St. Mary in Pompton Lakes, where Lawrence Anderson, OFM, helped coordinate the event.

Tent of Nations was established in 2000 and builds bridges of understanding between people of different backgrounds, and also, between people and the land.

Nassar returned home to Palestine on May 4 after his tour. He returns regularly to the United States to promote the work of TON.

The presentation series by Daoud Nassar was organized in as many ministry sites as possible “in an effort to strengthen Holy Land peacemaking efforts,” said Russell Testa, director of the Province’s Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.

Jacek often runs pilgrimages to the Tent of Nations, as well as to other sites in the Holy Land. For more information, contact him at or David at

The photo above shows Nassar with Hugh Macsherry.

— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.