Praying for peace on Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage

March 28, 2024 in Featured News, News

Jesuits and their colleagues organised a pilgrimage of prayer for and solidarity with the people of Gaza on Wednesday of Holy Week, 27 March 2024. Pilgrims gathered in the car park in the Jesuit headquarters in Milltown Park before walking to Gardiner St via St Stephen’s Green, Grafton St, and O’Connell St in Dublin’s city centre. They were joined by Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson, and members of the Methodist, and Presbyterian churches. The youngest pilgrim was in his early teens, the oldest, was in his eighties.

They picked up participants along the way so by the time they reached their destination, St Francis Xavier Church, almost 80 people had gathered to receive a warm welcome from the parish priest, Niall Leahy SJ. They then spent an hour in silent intercessory prayer for an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza, and the release of all hostages.

The pilgrimage was organised in response to a Lenten appeal from the Christian Churches in Gaza ».They asked that people around the world walk in solidarity with them during Lent, in prayerful pilgrimage, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and peace in the region.

Brendan McManus SJ, well-known author and veteran pilgrim, led the pilgrimage. He asked that those gathered in Milltown would walk in silence and solitude for the first part of the walk. Then, in St Stephen’s Green, he suggested they gather in groups of two or three, and share their thoughts and reflections with one another as they made their way to Gardiner St church. “This ‘Emmaus’ walk sharing was immediately bonding for many,” according to Pat Coyle, one of the pilgrimage organisers.

She was part of a team that, along with Brendan, included Christine O’Halloran, volunteer in Gardiner St, Kevin Hargaden of the Jesuit Center for Fatih and Justice, Ger Gallagher, Secretary General of AMRI (the Association of Major Religious in Ireland), and Toni Pyke, Justice Officer with AMRI.

Pat also noted that whilst the group set off in the cold and rain, the sun soon broke through, and a large rainbow appeared in the sky. “It really was like a symbol of hope for us as we walked in silence, all too aware of the suffering men, women, and children in Gaza, dying of starvation or blasted by bombs and bullets and with no sign of a ceasefire anytime soon.”

Some people carried white kites on the walk, a reference to the poem If I Must Die, by prominent Gazan professor, writer, and poet Reefat Alareer » who was murdered in Gaza on 7 December. Pat Coyle read this poem as part of the hour-long silent prayer and meditation service at the end of the pilgrimage.

At the start of the silent prayer time, Brendan read out the Core Convictions of the Gaza Pilgrimage Network. At the halfway mark, Kevin Hargaden shared a reflection from Dr Martin Luther King. It was based on a speech he gave calling for an end to the war in Vietnam. “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” quoted Kevin, a remark particularly resonant on spy Wednesday of Holy Week. He was followed sometime later by Toni Pyke who read a moving poem, The Boy With Dreams, by Nasirah Kathrada about a young Palestinian boy » She concluded her reflection with a quote from The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman: “…when the day comes we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it”. Gerard Gallagher, who spoke along with her, quoted the words of Pope Francis calling for immediate peace in Gaza and the release of all hostages, especially children, and the elderly.

During the meditation, there was an open invitation for any pilgrim to share if they felt moved to do so. One young man came to the lectern and spoke powerfully about the rainbow that had appeared – a sign of peace and hope. He noted the two Irish Army helicopters were in the sky at the same time. He gave thanks for the peacekeeping work of the Irish soldiers particularly in the Middle East. This further led him to reflect on the word of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” And he concluded, “We are all called to be ‘peacemakers’ not just ‘peacekeepers’.”

Brendan gave the final blessing and Pat Coyle said some words of thanks to all those involved but especially to those who took part in the long walk. She quoted the Palestinian Fatin Al Tamini who, addressing people at an IPSC march in Dublin said, “‘Hope is not what you feel. Hope is what you do.”So thank you for doing hope for the people of Gaza today,” concluded Pat. Speaking of the prayer time afterward, over a most welcome cup of tea in the church’s Ignatian corridor, one of the pilgrims, Don Mullan, said ‘It really was a special day and I truly felt we spent a holy hour in Gardiner St church.”