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Love in the Darkness








Image: NYTimes

The killing of seven members of World Central Kitchen (WCK) in Gaza adds another dimension of deep sadness to the already tragic litany of events that has been emerging from the Middle East since the outbreak of hostilities in early October last year when Hamas-led militant stormed into southern Israel killing some 1,200 people and forcibly taking nearly 250 hostages.

Those who lost their lives last Monday were travelling from  the Deir al-Balah warehouse in central Gaza where the team had unloaded more than 1000 tons of humanitarian food recently arrived on a ship from Cyprus,  when their convoy was struck by Israeli aircraft.  The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has acknowledged the airstrike and vowed to investigate.  Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted that the Israeli military tragically and unintentionally hit “innocent people”. Those people were engaged in actively trying to help a seemingly hopeless situation which most of us regard with helpless despair.

The victims were Australian, British, Palestinian, Polish, and also included a dual US-Canadian citizen.  The eldest was John Chapman, 57 from Aylesbury, UK, and the youngest,  from Rafah, was Ayad Abutaha, aged 25,  the driver for the convoy. Mr Chapman was a former Special Forces Commander and had been due to leave the Palestine territory later on the day of the fatal airstrike. He and his fellow Britons, Jim Henderson and James Kirby were part of the WCK security team.

The others who died were American Canadian citizen Jacob Flickinger, 33, Polish national Damian Sobol, 35, and the only female victim, Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, 43, who was also the leader of the Relief Team. Last month WCK posted a video on X of Ms Frankcom at their kitchen in Deir al-Balah, which was newly opened.

A Culinary Hero

The tragedy has highlighted the food charity’s dangerous work around the globe. WCK was founded by José Andrés in 2010. A native of Spain Mr Andrés moved to New York at the age of 21, recounting that he arrived with $50 in his pocket.

Less than two years later he moved to Washington DC and quickly rose through the ranks of the city’s burgeoning culinary scene. Since then, he has opened nearly 40 restaurants and has become a best-selling author, TV host and in 2029 was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Internationally he is best-known for his work with WCK, which he set up in response to a devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed more than 200,000 people. To date, WCK has served more than 350 million meals, partnering with on-the -ground groups and networks of local restaurants, food trucks, and emergency kitchens.  For 14 years the non-profit organisation has provided millions of meals in places ravaged by natural disasters and violent conflicts.

In an interview with the American television host Jimmy Kemmel  last year Andrés  said his experience in assisting Haitian earthquake survivors had inspired him to expand his activities because it taught him that “cooks had the power…to feed the many, not just the few.” Praising WCK workers in words that now seem poignantly ironic, he told Kemmel, “When others are moving away from the disaster, we have amazing individuals who move into the disaster to help people….”

Bread of Life

The plight of the people in Gaza has horrified the world. It is truly harrowing to see children suffer and the onset of famine resonates particularly with us Irish. People, all of us without exception, in order to survive have to have food, water, and shelter. These are basic human needs.

Jesus came to provide.  The greatest hunger on earth is the need to be loved, the need to belong. The invitation of Jesus was to be nothing less than full membership within the family of God. Before Jesus teaches his followers that he is the bread from Heaven, he first feeds them with ordinary bread which he gives to them in a very extraordinary way. The miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes is the only miracle Jesus performs that is recorded in all four gospel accounts, which means it must have been very important to the early Church.

The fact that so many people had gathered in the first place was a testament to the signs they had seen him performing on the sick. They had already watched him perform miracles and it got their attention. They were hungry, not just for bread, but for truth and holiness.

In the conflict in the Middle East, we are witnessing the harvest of the bitter fruits of hatred and revenge. There is no love, no regard for the person’s welfare, no food to nourish the body, nothing to sustain the soul.  As always, the real victims are those without political power or lofty ideals.

The aid workers who tried to make a difference and paid the ultimate price for so doing are a beacon of light in a murky world. Whether they knew it or not they were witnesses to the message of Jesus to love one another.

Sadly, in his time there were those who did not listen and he too paid the ultimate price. The message of Jesus would make all things right. It is the tragedy of the people in ‘power ‘that still after all the lessons of history, they continue to  turn away.

Written by Marie–Therese Cryan

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