Toward Peace in the Holy Land: A Parish Takes Action

HNP Communications In the Headlines

Approximately 90 people — lay partners-in-ministry as well as friars — participated in a webinar last month that focused on Franciscan peacemaking efforts regarding the Holy Land. The webinar, co-sponsored by the Franciscan Action Network and the JPIC Directorate of Holy Name Province, featured several prominent speakers and focused on helping participants to engage their faith communities in acting on Franciscan values and advocating for lasting peace in the Holy Land.

Joan Conway provides a report on what parishioners of St. Camillus Church, just outside Washington D.C., have been doing to educate and animate their large and diverse community to become peacemakers.

SILVER SPRING, Md. — In March, several parishioners from St. Camillus here journeyed to the Holy Land on a Franciscan peacemaking pilgrimage and came home with a desire to do something to support our Israeli and Palestinian sisters and brothers suffering the consequences of long-lasting turmoil in their homeland. Because of very full lives, we were puzzled as to what we could do to make a difference.

We began very simply, offering a PowerPoint presentation highlighting three experiences that touched us deeply. They were:

• The testimony of a father whose daughter was murdered by a suicide bomber and who now works for peace with the Israeli/Palestinian group The Parents Circle
• The ongoing housing demolition problems in East Jerusalem as explained to us by the Israeli Committee against Housing Demolition
• The incredible witness for peaceful, non-violent resistance by Dahoud Nassar and his Palestinian family at the Tent of Nations

Following the June 15 webinar that dealt with the Israeli Palestinian conflict, St. Camillus parish did two things.

First, we incorporated into our Sunday bulletin the insert “From Crisis to Hope,” a document developed by Holy Name Province and the Franciscan Action Network. Second, on that same weekend, we encouraged parishioners to sign onto an ecumenical letter to President Barack Obama. People could sign online through FAN’s Web site or in person after the liturgy.

Several of our parishioners worked after all the English and French Masses on July 5 to educate the parishioners about the need to support the Obama administration as it works toward greater peace and justice in the Holy Land. We emphasized that the time to act is now and, we were writing to communicate our support for Obama’s “bold action” in the process of a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

More than 200 parishioners signed the letter, to be delivered to the president as part of the ecumenical Middle East peace efforts of the Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Orthodox Churches, as well as organizations including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services and FAN.

 — Joan Conway of St. Camillus is involved with several ministries at her parish including justice and peace, the food pantry and spiritual direction.