“We have left our homes and all the Christians are taking refuge in the churches.” – This short message is the latest news we received yesterday from some members of the Focolare community in Gaza.
According to Father Gabriel Romanelli, parish priest of the Holy Family Catholic parish in Gaza, there are 1017 Christians still living in the strip and among them are several adherents of the Focolare Movement, with whom even sporadic communication is increasingly difficult.
And in spite of this, a message, from one of them has been circulating over the past few days, thanking everyone for their closeness and prayers for the small community in Gaza.
“You have given me the strength not to give in to evil,” he writes, “not to doubt God’s mercy and to believe that good exists. In the midst of every darkness there is a hidden light. If we are unable to pray, you pray; we offer and our work together is complete. We want the world to know that we want peace, that violence only begets violence and that our trust in God is great. But should God call us to Himself, be assured that from Heaven we will continue to pray with you and to implore Him more strongly to have compassion on His people and on you. Peace, security, unity and universal fraternity, this is what we want and this is the will of God and it’s ours too.”
Margaret Karram gave us news about fraternity in the midst of hatred
Saying this takes courage today when horror and violence fill the entire media coverage, but this is not the only news. There are also stories that make less noise, but which cannot be silenced, such as the worldwide network of prayer that is underway everywhere on earth, regardless of religious belief or affiliation, together with actions and words of fraternity. Margaret Karram, President of the Focolare Movement shared this at the daily briefing in the Vatican Press Office, at the ongoing Synod of the Catholic Church, in which she is participating as a special guest.
She told us, ‘Jewish friends I know in Israel have called me, a Palestinian Arab, saying that they are worried about the people living in Gaza. For me, this is something very beautiful. Everyone knows the negative stories between these two peoples, but so many people, so many organisations are working to build bridges but this doesn’t make the news. They only talk about hatred, division, terrorism. We are left with images of these two peoples that do not correspond to reality. We must not forget that even today so many people are working to build bridges. It is a seed being sown, even in this difficult time.’
From our Jewish friends: creating a community of prayer
To confirm this, a Jewish friend wrote to us from the Tel Aviv district:
“If you are in contact with the friends of the Focolare in Gaza, assure them of my love and my closeness. I hope they are all safe. These days I am at home with my family, the schools are closed and we are staying close to the shelters. The chats are filled with a constant stream of appeals and offers of help for the families who have fled, for the soldiers and their families. There are also requests for help with funerals, to honour the dead as they should be honoured. It seems that all the young men have been called up to fight and we are worried for our friends and relatives. We fear what lies ahead. I try to keep my children from being afraid, but our terror is insignificant compared to what has happened to our brothers and sisters in the South. I am thinking of my Arab friends in Israel who are running to the shelters like us. I try to pray at the same hour as my Muslim friend, so that we can be a community of prayer even though so many things divide us. Your closeness and your prayers mean so much to us, more than what I can express.”
What can we do?
At a press conference, Margaret Karram confided to us the pain and anguish she feels for her people on both sides: ‘I asked myself what am I doing here? Should I not be doing something else right now to promote peace? But then I said to myself: here too I can join Pope Francis’ invitation and pray with everyone. With these brothers and sisters from all over the world, we can ask God for the gift of peace. I believe in the power of prayer’. Margaret went on to speak about the action ‘NO MORE WAR!!! BUILD PEACE!” that the children and young people of the Focolare Movement launched together with the association “Living Peace”. They are summoning their peers to pray for peace at 12 noon, every day and in every time zone. They are also proposing to fill the day with actions that build peace in the hearts of each person and wherever they are. They are inviting them to send messages of support to children and young people in the Holy Land and are encouraging them to ask the leaders of their countries to do all they can to achieve peace.