Dear Friends of Hands of Peace,
It is with a heavy heart that we write to you today.
Hands of Peace has watched in shock and sorrow at the events in Israel and Palestine. We condemn the brutal Hamas attacks on Israel and are deeply saddened by the deaths and terror experienced by the Israeli people, including Palestinian Citizens of Israel, and many internationals as well.
We are also concerned for the many innocent Palestinians, in the West Bank and in Gaza, who have been and will be impacted by Israel’s response.
As we have seen in our 20-year history, violence only begets more violence. Hands of Peace remains committed to our values, which are intertwined and focus on preventing violence while upholding equal rights, opportunity and protection for all. These values were debated and enshrined years ago and we believe hold true today.
Here is what we have been doing and observing since Oct. 7:
- We have been meeting with full time and summer staff members to check on their well being and to discuss their interactions with alumni.
- We are reaching out to our delegations to check on them and to encourage peaceful dialogue in the face of raw emotions.
- We have been moved by the many alumni who, even in these first days of shock and fear, have had supportive conversations with each other, using the skills they developed through Hands of Peace to do no harm, listen to understand, and communicate with compassion and respect. They are setting an example for other alumni who may need some time to be able to exercise what they have learned.
- Like many organizations focused on peacebuilding or social change, we often take two steps forward and one step back. For now, we are encouraging uninational delegation meetings so each person feels supported and safe. Our Regional Managers will guide us in deciding when the time is right for cross-delegation dialogue.
- In today’s social media environment, we do not control alumni communications, which often happen privately. We are tracking as much as we can to reinforce our Hands of Peace values.
Here is what you can do to support our young alumni and the entire peacebuilding community:
- Be careful consumers of news, seeking out multiple sources. Practice self care in the amount and type of media you absorb.
- Reach out to your friends, especially those directly impacted by the violence and let them know you care. Talk to other friends and family about the various complexities as you have come to understand them.
- Reach out to alumni with whom you have close relationships, recognizing that the majority have a personal connection to someone who has been killed, injured or impacted in some way, and the future is frightening. With an open mind and heart, give them a safe space to express their emotions in the moment.
- Reach out to public officials in the U.S. encouraging them to be more proactive in peacebuilding, working for the return of hostages, protecting civilians, and holding human rights violators accountable.
- Continue to support organizations that strive for peace and justice. This is not the time to give up but to redouble our commitment to a better future.
- Support relief efforts through your faith congregations and other organizations. For those who recall Ron Miller’s House of Consciousness speech to early Hands of Peace participants, comparing the floors of a house to the evolution of consciousness, in times of fear and anger, we tend to huddle in the basement where self protection is our overriding concern. Let us be a force for peace by climbing up to the highest level, to the rooftop, where we can be concerned for all of our brothers and sisters.
Remember, we are a family who will not always agree, yet we can work through our differences and stand together in growing numbers so that we can make a positive difference in this world.
Peace, Shalom, Salaam,
Debby Fosdick – Executive Director
Peg Lee – Board Chair