I write as a Jesuit priest and president of Boston College about the recent devastating events in the Middle East. Like many, I was shocked by the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel last Saturday, leaving thousands dead and wounded and an undetermined number taken as hostages. Adding to the horror is the reality that a number of victims were defenseless civilians and children. This violence has left Jewish faculty, students, and staff in our community understandably grief-stricken, angry, and apprehensive about their future.
I also empathize with the residents of Gaza, caught for decades in terrible economic, social, and political circumstances. Now actions by Israel have left thousands dead and wounded, and Gazans facing shortages of food, water, shelter, and health care as well as possible invasion.
As Pope Francis declared on October 8: “[T]errorism and war do not lead to any solution, but only to the death and suffering of so many innocent people. War is always a defeat. Every war is a defeat. Let us pray for peace in Israel and Palestine.”
The situation in Israel and Gaza distresses all at Boston College and highlights the need for compassion and dialogue as well as remembering the beliefs, values, and bonds we share as a Jesuit, Catholic university. Classes and residence halls provide opportunities for such engagement and conversation.
I believe our religious and intellectual heritage also invites us to pray for peace and reconciliation, not only in the Middle East but throughout the world. All victims of violence in the Middle East and their families have been remembered at campus Masses this week, and last evening Hillel of Boston College sponsored a moving candlelight vigil in the plaza in front of O’Neill Library. Next week, the University will host a Multi-Faith Prayer Service for Peace, Hope, and Reconciliation for members of the BC community on Wednesday, October 18, at noon in the garden south of St. Mary’s Hall.
The events of last Saturday and their aftermath have reminded me of words from the Old Testament prophet Micah, who asked centuries ago: “[W]hat does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
May we always strive to do so.