ON the evening of Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2014, Pope Francis called on God to bring peace where human efforts had failed and to end a deeply-rooted enmity between nations that he sees as the handiwork of the devil.
Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas obliged to come to the Vatican upon the invitation of Pope Francis two weeks earlier during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land—to pray for peace in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East. At this unprecedented meeting of prayer, the “Invocation for Peace,” he addressed the presidents who were joined by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, “History teaches that our strength alone does not suffice. More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it. That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God. We do not renounce our responsibilities, but we do call upon God in an act of supreme responsibility before our consciences and before our peoples.”
The conflict between Israel and Palestine maybe traced back to the late 19th century with the rise of national movements, such as Zionism and Arab nationalism. The Zionist movement called for the establishment of a nation state for the Jewish people in Palestine that would serve as a haven for the Jews of the world and in which they would have the right to self-determination. That aspiration was not only part of the Jewish religious thought, it was also seen as a solution to the widespread persecution of the Jews due to anti-semitism in Russia and Europe. The acquisition of lands from Arab owners for Jewish settlements, which led to the eviction of the fellaheen, aggravated the tension and caused the Arab population in the region of Palestine to feel dispossessed of their lands. The Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948 sparked the so-called Arab-Israeli War and the succeeding hostilities between the two nations and their allies.
In the same “Invocation for Peace”, Israeli president Peres said in his address, “I was young, now I am old. I experienced war, I tasted peace…Never will I forget the bereaved families, parents and children, who paid the cost of war. And all my life I shall never stop to act for peace for the generations to come. Let’s all join hands and make it happen.” This, too, was the sentiment of Palestinian President Abbas who addressed, “We want peace for us and for our neighbors. We seek prosperity and peace of mind for ourselves and for others alike.”
In this contemporary age of massive secularism, it is a relief to see Pope Francis leading the world to the only path to peace—the way of God.