Campus Ministry Hosts a Prayer for Peace in Response to Conflict in Israeli and Gaza

Loyola community members gathered Oct. 18 for a prayer for peace.

A group of students and staff members gathered Oct. 18 to pray for peace for the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza and to commemorate the loss of life.

The prayer was held at Loyola’s Peace Pole on the East Quad at 5 p.m. Stevan Betancourt, Loyola’s Director of Campus Ministry, said he organized the prayer to bring the community together and honor lost lives. He said he hoped students — whether they were Muslim, Jewish, Palestinian or Israeli — would use the space to gather as a collective group.

“I wanted the community, in general, to have a place to convene,” Betancourt said. “I think it’s better to be together than to be separate, so that’s really my hope.” 

Betancourt began his speech by thanking his colleagues in Campus Ministry for gathering together, despite being from different faith groups. Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu leaders were present at the prayer, Betancourt said. 

Omer Mozaffar, Loyola’s Muslim chaplain, and Katherine O’Neill, Loyola’s Jewish life associate, both said Betancourt reached out to them in order to make the prayer a demonstration by multiple faith groups.

In his speech, Betancourt said the Loyola Student Promise calls us to have compassion for those who have been affected by violence and conflict in order to care for ourselves, others and the community.

Mozaffar said he has witnessed the effect of the conflict through many of his Islamic Studies students who are Palestinian and have experienced personal loss and trauma. 

“They’ve been completely broken,” Mozaffar said. “And some of the feeling of being broken is now being shifted to a certain type of anger that we deal with in the phases of grief.” 

Mozaffar said many Palestinian students at Loyola are concerned for their own safety and have brought up their concerns with Loyola administration, where their fears have been heard. 

Betancourt also recognized the collective grief many members of the community have experienced, whether personally or communally, because of the substantial loss of life within the past week.

“We are connected through a collective sadness and fear, worry and compassion,” Betancourt said. 

O’Neill said she knows many people who live in Israel, and many of her students have personal connections with people who have been affected by the violent conflict. O’Neill said, whether students are connected personally to the conflict or simply follow the news and have empathy towards their global community, she thinks it’s important to be together as a community while many people feel deep sadness.

“I also feel a great amount of hope and gratefulness just in the way that the community here at Loyola has come together,” O’Neill said. “We’ve shown solidarity together.”

Following his speech, Betancourt asked the attendees of the ceremony to practice two minutes of silence in honor of those who have died. 

After the moment of silence, Betancourt said all people should use their own talents and gifts to strengthen the community and make the world a safer and more peaceful place.

“How can we aspire to be persons for and with others, committed to working toward a more just world?” Betancourt asked the crowd.

Afterwards, Betancourt invited attendees to join him as he read a prayer for peace. The prayer asked listeners to remember those losing homes, fleeing for safety and shielding their children from violence.

Featured Image by Nicholas Szewc / The Phoenix

Julia Pentasuglio

Julia Pentasuglio