Children pray at Jerusalem Catholic school for peace in Holy Land

The Terra Sancta High School holds a special prayer for the children of Jerusalem to pray for peace, with the Custos of the Holy Land calling the initiative a part of their education in the value of fraternity.

By Roberto Cetera and Devin Watkins

“It takes courage to make peace, much more than to make war,” according to Lara, a high school student at the Terra Sancta School with a heartfelt yet determined tone.

Around 400 students, ranging in age from preschoolers to seniors in high school, gathered on Saturday morning in the courtyard of the Terra Sancta High School in Jerusalem to pray for peace and the safety of their peers in Gaza.

The initiative was not about the children, but rather about letting children speak for themselves.

Their words carry an extraordinary intensity that also demonstrates the profound awareness and maturity of these young people. Those growing up here are undoubtedly forced to mature faster than elsewhere.

“This morning, our students prayed for all the children, not only those in Gaza but also those in Jenin and Tel Aviv. Because all the children of the Holy Land, whether Palestinian or Israeli, are suffering now,” said Father Ibrahim Faltas, director of the 19 Catholic schools managed by the Custody of the Holy Land.

The children prayed, sang, recited hymns and poems, in a crescendo that moved everyone present.

Learning to live in peace

“These children and young people live in East Jerusalem,” said the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, “but they feel a true sense of fraternity with their peers closer to the theaters of war. Many of them are Muslims, but they were more than happy this morning to recite the words of peace of St. Francis.”

Fr. Patton said the peace prayer forms part of the Terra Sancta School’s effort to teach children to live together in peace and to appreciate the values of the Pope’s encyclical Fratelli tutti.

“We are all brothers and sisters,” he said. “And so, the special prayer of this morning was a very articulated one with different prayers in accordance with the different classes of the children, but the focus was always peace.”

Educating in values of fraternity

He specified that the prayer focused only on peace and had no words that would promote or justify violence.

“I think that this is a very important part of the education of the children, because in a complex society and in a conflictual society it is essential to educate to the values of peace and fraternity,” said the Custos of the Holy Land.

Fr. Patton noted that around 60,000 children attend Catholic schools run by the Friars Minor and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, saying they are “schools of peace”.

“They are the only real hope that this land may one day know a future of peace,” he added.

Among the many hand-drawn placards at the prayer on Saturday was one depicting a young child patting her father on the back, with the words:

“Don’t cry, Baba [Daddy]. Bombs don’t reach where I am now.”

A drawing on display at the prayer for peace

A drawing on display at the prayer for peace