When I left Hebron, Palestine, I promised the Palestinians I'd work "my tail off for them." In practical parlance, that meant continuing to put their stories out before the public. I told them it felt like I was "jumping ship" in leaving them, but they only encouraged me to keep "pushing the pen" and to speak to any group of people who would hear me about the urgency of their situation. So I have come back to U.S. soil, and I shall keep my promise to these people who earned a permanent place in my heart.
It is clearer to me than ever that until the United States changes its policies which strap the Palestinians down under Israel's boot, until our country frees itself from its blind allegiance to Israel, Palestinians will continue to suffer.
Project Peace has come into being at St. Francis in concern for the Palestinians' freedom but also for another serious reason. Militarism and war steal so much of this nation's monies that are needed for human needs within our country and around the world. Project Peace will address the very existence of war and the injustices that fuel it. It will ask the question over and over: Why - in this day of every imaginable advance - have we as a people not solved the human disease of war? How is it possible we'd choose to spend our monies on war rather than on human beings' needs?
My Franciscan community and others are saying to us who are initiating Project Peace: Help build alternatives to violence here in Seneca County. Help schools, neighborhoods, civic institutions become pro-active in peacemaking. Work to empower citizens to want to be part of the huge solution to war. Question the U.S. government on its foreign policies. Work intentionally to build alternatives to any use of violence in settling conflicts here and abroad. Ally yourselves with Congress people who see a different dream. Communicate your conviction that each person is essentially good, that each neighbor is an important "piece" in establishing peace in the neighborhood/nation. Raise the hope that people will become as interested in town/state/country governance as they are in their favorite sports team. Ask the hard questions.
After all, we are all one: the victim, the aggressor, the bystander, the mediator, the security forces and any person who might be termed "the enemy." We must start at the fact that we are one, that we are all of the human family if we want to heal, to initiate dialogue, to bring forth justice and peace. We shall set out to reclaim all our personal God-given power. We shall create a voice both personal and collective that speaks for the dignity and good of all. Together we shall put a dent into the pervasive violence that plagues us.
Sister Paulette Schroeder, OSF, worked in Israel with Christian Peacemaker Teams.