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Marchers undertake a brief pilgrimage to urge for a ceasefire in Gaza

An interfaith gathering of 130 people in Louisville is one of many being held during Lent in cities around the world

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Sunday’s Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage in Louisville saw about 130 people march along the Ohio River (Photos by Mike Ferguson)

LOUISVILLE — As just one of many demonstrations calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza going on across the country and around the world, Sunday’s interfaith gathering in Louisville, Kentucky, labeled a Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage, gathered about 130 people who braved blustery weather to sing, chant, hear from people of three different faiths, and march.

The pilgrimage featured speeches, scripture, advocacy and a mile-long march along the Ohio River — about 1/25th the length of Gaza’s Mediterranean Sea coastline.

Like similar events being held during Lent, this gathering had four aims:

  • An enduring and sustained ceasefire
  • The immediate flow of life-saving food, water, aid, fuel and humanitarian assistance
  • The release of all hostages — both the Israeli hostages held by Hamas and the Palestinian hostages held in the Israeli prison system
  • The end of occupation.

Maria Starck displays a sign during Sunday’s march along the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky.

Many in attendance made and carried signs demanding a ceasefire and supporting Gaza’s 1.7 million people. Attendees wrote messages on paper doves that will be delivered to the White House. Some also opened their wallets to support two organizations — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides assistance and protection for registered Palestinian refugees, and The Peace Dove, which is raising money to provide food, shelter and clothing to Gazans.

Amani Kettani

The Peace Dove’s Amani Kettani discussed recent efforts to provide Gazans with locally produced tents, clothing and food. “Thanks to God, we are doing these campaigns,” Kettani said. “We are doing a lot.”

Seven days into Ramadan, Muslims are working to come out of the month of fasting, prayer and acts of kindness as better people, said Dr. Lina Yassine, a Louisville physician. The Quran teaches adherents to “be just, for this is close to righteousness,” Yassine said. “As we gather today, I ask, ‘What can justice look like for Palestinians?’”

Dr. Linn Yassine

It looks like not being afraid of losing your life at a checkpoint or having your olive trees burned down or your house demolished, Yassine said, adding, “without justice, ladies and gentlemen, there will be no peace.”

Russ Greenleaf, who’s Jewish, used Isaiah’s language from the Hebrew Bible to deliver “a message to the state of Israel.”

“You fast only to quarrel and to fight, and to strike with a wicked fist,” the prophet states. “Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. … Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house … Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly … Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”

“I urge everyone here to perform the fast that God requires of you,” Greenleaf said. “Change will occur only when enough people have heard the truth.”

Russ Greenleaf, second from right, and the Rev. Phil Lloyd-Sidle, at right, were among the speakers during Sunday’s Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage.

The Rev. Phil Lloyd-Sidle said the last time he’d worn a clergy collar was three weeks ago on the West Bank.

“Love runs deeper than the lunacy of war and violence,” he said. “Our pilgrimage is not about picking sides. It is about standing up for life in the face of eradicating life.”

The church has been “devastatingly silent” on the violence and the continued suffering of Gazans, he said.

“We must learn the history to overcome our ignorance, and we must open our hearts to overcome our indifference,” Lloyd-Sidle said.

While in Israel-Palestine, “the odds felt so terrible” for a ceasefire to come about, he said, “yet we heard time and time again about the resilience, solidarity and love” that was on display at every turn, which he called “stronger than any tank.”

As they prepared to march, participants did some call-and-response chants and sang “O Healing River” and “Peace, Salaam, Shalom.”

Additional resources about Israel-Palestine can be found here.

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