About 100 people, including several families, gathered at Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday evening to pray for peace in Israel and Palestine.
The short service of silence, singing, prayer and poetry-reading was the brainchild of Dublin native Martin Roper, who created the Irish Writing Programme at the University of Iowa. There were no flags, posters or banners in the cathedral, no political speeches, “just humans gathering for peace for all people” the invites said.
Having put out the idea of a gathering for peace for both Palestine and Israel – believed to be the first of its kind in Ireland during the recent conflict – Mr Roper was joined in organising the event by Susan McHugh of the Peace 93 movement which mobilised 20,000 people for peace in the Northern Ireland conflict after the Warrington bombings in the UK.
He was also joined by Debbie Deegan, author of the book To Russia with Love and managing director of the charity To Children with Love.
In the ornate surrounds of the cathedral, much of which was lit by candlelight as darkness fell, Mr Roper welcomed the congregation with a greeting in both Arabic and Hebrew. Taking a definition of love “as the ability to extend yourself to another human being” and “perhaps people you do not know”, he asked people “to consider extending yourself to the enemy”.
A poem, Kindness, was read by Audrey Wazenska, a pupil at Coláiste Eoin, in Finglas. After five minutes of silent contemplation, the singer Julie Feeney gave a rendition of Imagine, by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Mr Roper told The Irish Times he had been moved to suggest the gathering out of grief over what was happening to people on both sides of the current conflict. He said the aim “is to replicate this loving event throughout the world”.
Ms Deegan said she was “outraged” by what was on television and on social media, “scenes never seen before”.
Ms McHugh said she saw “so much of myself in 1993” in Mr Roper. “We were a non-political viewpoint. You have to understand both sides, people have to sit down and talk,” she said.