The war has been raging for more than a month in the Holy Land and throughout the world. We Arabs commemorate our deceased on the 40th day. We are now in the fortieth day of this war, and each day adds to the long chain of violence that is causing further suffering and death. The Jewish people wandered in the Sinai desert for 40 years before reaching the Promised Land. Jesus spent 40 days and nights of solitude, prayer, and fasting in the Judean wilderness. For forty days the Basilica of the Nativity and Bethlehem were besieged, with deaths, restrictions and fears. Forty days after Easter, the Risen Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father to fulfil the promise of salvation.
We are devastated. This war is ‘giving rise’ to figures that are increasing by the minute and seem to be even higher than those reported, but no decisive and fair solutions are being adopted. Fratricidal hands are being armed. While we know that a child dies every ten minutes, discussions are held on the duration of short-term humanitarian ceasefires: two, three, four hours. We see figures, calculations, strategies, statistics being presented on one side, suffering, pain, destruction, infinite sadness on the other, but at the heart of it all we cannot see the salvation and protection of human life, which is sacred, as Pope Francis keeps repeating.
Defence of human life. In the past month, we have seen things that we would never have imagined and which, unfortunately, continue to happen regardless of the fact that the world is shocked by so much violence. Every human life is precious and should be defended with all our heart. We are witnesses to so much inhumanity without being able to stop it, we are hearing words that cannot prevent the death of so many people, we are seeing houses and buildings hit without being able to do anything about it. Even the air, which is stained with dust and blood, seems to stand still, waiting for something good to happen.
The multiplication of gifts. On Saturday 11 November, in Tabgha, on the shores of Lake Tiberias in Galilee, we celebrated the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. My confreres and the local community can perceive that war is approaching on the northern front, as the sirens announce the incoming rockets and missiles. The people of Galilee are also suffering from the absence of pilgrims to the Holy Places. They are living in a state of fear. During Holy Mass, I saw the generous offering of bread and I asked the Merciful Jesus to multiply for the children of Gaza the gifts that every child needs: life, health, love, food, education, the opportunity to play and to have a future!
A world with so much hatred. We have deprived children of every opportunity to grow up in peace. We are leaving all children – not just Israelis and Palestinians – a world with so much hatred and violence. We have robbed them of their right to dream, to hope, to trust their neighbours, to live in peace. We have denied them the freedom from fear! Children pray and ask for peace. Is anyone listening to them? They draw their strength from prayer and trust only in the Almighty. It would be a grace if, after 40 days of death, suffering and isolation, this war ended and everyone returned to live in the light of peace!