Michele Dunne, head of the Franciscan Action Network, expressed support for any cessation of hostilities — “We feel what’s happening is retribution, not accountability,” she said of Israel’s ground assault — but stressed the need for a full cease-fire.
“We came here today to deliver a message to President Biden, that we expect him as our president, as a Christian and, in fact, as a fellow Catholic to be playing a role in the world for peace,” Dunne said. She added that she believes the U.S. is “locked into a cycle of violence and retribution,” and she called on Biden to “play a role of stopping that violence, not perpetuating it.”
Speakers also called for the release of hostages taken by Hamas during the initial Oct. 7 attack, only a handful of whom have been returned to their families thus far.
The protest was organized or sponsored by several Catholic groups, including the Catholic Advisory Council of Churches for Middle East Peace, Franciscan Action Network, Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Pax Christi USA, Quixote Center, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team, the Isaiah Project, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and the Assisi Community.
The effort joins a growing wave of faith-led demonstrations in support of a cease-fire. Last month, thousands of demonstrators organized by two Jewish activist groups protested outside the White House, inside the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill and in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, resulting in hundreds of arrests. Biden was also interrupted while speaking in Minnesota on Wednesday evening by a rabbi who implored him to advocate for a cease-fire, and Muslim leaders have told the president he risks losing Muslim American votes in states such as Michigan if he doesn’t embrace the idea of a cease-fire.
In addition, demonstrators holding a sign that read “NC Jews say ceasefire now!” blocked traffic in Durham, North Carolina, Thursday afternoon, with hundreds more protesters supporting them from a nearby overpass. By Thursday evening, yet another similar ceasefire protest had broken out at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Pope Francis and Vatican officials, in addition to calling for a cease-fire, have reiterated calls for a two-state solution and mobilized Vatican diplomats to quell what the pontiff believes is a “piecemeal” third world war that has already begun, citing violence in Gaza as well as the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
This story has been updated.
This article originally appeared here.