Father Ibrahim Faltas, Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, shares the hopes, the pain for so many of their peers who have died in Gaza, and the commitment of the children of the Holy Land for peace.
By Francesca Sabatinelli and Roberto Cetera
Muslim and Christian children, all students at the Franciscan school in Jerusalem, gathered to draw, write and pray together on Saturday morning.
Together, they called for an end to the war. 400 children and teenagers, aged between three and eighteen, pleaded for an end to the violence and stood united against hatred and death as their land is destroyed.
Father Ibrahim Faltas, the Franciscan Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, explains that it was he who invited the children to get together to express their opposition to the war and says he asked them to paint some of the walls of Jerusalem, giving shape and colour to their thoughts and hopes.
One painting shows Jesus, together with some children, one of whom has a sad expression, as requested by Father Faltas himself, “because it represents all the children of the Holy Land: in Gaza, Jenin, Nablus, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, because all the children of the Holy Land, both Palestinian and Israeli, are suffering from this war.” These children, he tells Vatican News, “Want to live like all the children in the world and live in peace here, in the Holy Land.”
Fr Ibrahim Faltas
Bombs on Sister Nabila’s school
In Jerusalem, this morning, children and teenagers sang and prayed for peace. In Gaza, Israeli airstrikes continued to drop their bombs, causing an unspecified number of casualties.
A school, a hospital, and also the Rosary Sisters’ school were hit. Fortunately, there were no casualties or injuries, only damage to the courtyard and surrounding structures.
The Rosary Sisters’ School Principal, Sister Nabila Saleh, gave the news and explained it is the largest school in the Gaza Strip with some 1,250 students, the vast majority of whom are Muslims. Like many others, Sister Nabila has been displaced to the parish of the Holy Family, also in Gaza.
Some of the children who partiicipated in the prayer for peace in Jerusalem
Educating for peace
“We must educate for peace at this moment, that’s why we promote these initiatives,” Fr. Faltas continues, “educating for peace if we want a better future for these children who have expressed themselves with their drawings in utmost freedom.”
Among the many messages from these children, there are also those for the Pope, asking for his help to end this war, “and then, everyone,” the Franciscan father continues, “recited the prayer of St. Francis: ‘Make me a channel of your peace.'”
The school initiative to pray for peace
Shattered lives beneath the rubble
Father Ibrahim Faltas’s voice breaks in pain when his thoughts go to the children in Gaza. As he looks at the drawings of the youngest children expressing their hopes for peace, he cannot but think of the over four thousand young lives shattered by the bombs, of the women, the elderly, the disabled, the wounded who cannot be treated because the hospitals have been destroyed.
“There are children under the rubble,” he agonizes, “and I don’t know what to say.”
The Pope, he continues, is the only one calling for a ceasefire, “none of the powerful has,” but this is the only solution, he insists, “because, in Gaza, people are without homes, without light, without water, without food, without medicine; it’s truly hell, a hell. When I say hell, it’s an understatement.”
The suffering is also in the West Bank, he adds, where at least 150 people have died since October 7th, where there are thousands of wounded, where there is a lot of violence, and where people live as if in an open-air prison.
“Bethlehem is closed, tourism is halted, pilgrimages are suspended, even in Jerusalem, in Nazareth, and the Christians want to leave; there’s no work.” Thus, the Franciscans of the Holy Land join their appeal to that of the Pope: “For the love of God, silence the weapons, we truly want this war to end.”