Faith leaders and activists hold signs saying "free Palestine" and "the world is watching"

Faith leaders and activists hold a pray-in at the Capitol Hill office of U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in Washington, D.C. on October 24, 2023.

(Photo: Adalah Justice Project)

40 Faith Leaders Lead Gaza Pray-In at House Minority Leader Jeffries' DC Office

"You cannot continue with business as usual while Israel commits genocide in Gaza with full U.S. backing. Cease-fire is the only moral choice, and the world is watching your next move."

As the death toll from Israel's relentless and indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza approached 5,800 Palestinians—including over 2,300 children—a group of around 40 faith leaders calling for an immediate cease-fire led a Tuesday afternoon pray-in at the Washington, D.C. office of U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

The Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith leaders and activists occupied the New York Democrat's office in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, where demonstrators opened their action with prayers for the thousands of Palestinians who have been killed since October 7.

Participants "highlighted the devastating impact of each bomb that has been dropped and each life cut short through a reading of nearly 200 names of those killed by American-made weapons, including entire families across generations," the organizers of the pray-in said.

"The actions send a clear message to the Democratic Party: You cannot continue with business as usual while Israel commits genocide in Gaza with full U.S. backing," the coalition added. "Cease-fire is the only moral choice, and the world is watching your next move."

The activists raised mirrors with the phrase "The whole world is watching" painted on the back in a symbolic move to compel members of Congress "to take a long, hard look at themselves and reckon with their complicity in Israeli war crimes."

Prayer leaders included Rev. André Greene of Varick Memorial AME Zion; Rabbi Alissa Wise; Imam Suhaib Webb; Rev. Dayna Edwards of Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Congregation; Minister Jessica Anderson, a Howard University divinity student; and Rev. William T. Young of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ.

Groups leading the event included the Adalah Justice Project; U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights; Jewish Voice for Peace; Dream Defenders; Rising Majority; and the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice.

"Today we stood at the office of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to ask for a cease-fire from the Israeli government because of the innocent deaths. We ask that he act swiftly in this moment of history," said Greene. "Peace must prevail! This is the moral thing to do!"

Wise said that "I am part of a growing, vocal segment of the American Jewish community that is pleading with our elected officials to not allow our grief to be used as justification for more deaths in Gaza."

"It is impossible to overstate the urgent need for Congress and the Biden administration to push for a cease-fire," the rabbi added. "Congressman Jeffries, as House minority leader, should play a key role in making that happen. Our prayers today were for peace, for a cease-fire, for justice before another life, another entire world, is lost."

Webb asserted that Democrats' failure to support a cease-fire "undermines their dedication to racial, economic, and environmental justice."

Like President Joe Biden, Jeffries has repeatedly declared his staunch support for Israel, despite a warning from hundreds of international legal scholars that Israeli forces may be committing genocide in Gaza.

According to a survey published last week by Data for Progress, 80% of Democratic and 68% of all U.S. voters believe the United States should support a cease-fire in Gaza.

However, as of Tuesday afternoon, only 17 other congressional Democrats had backed a resolution introduced last week by Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) calling on the Biden administration to push for a cease-fire.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is asking Congress to approve $14 billion in new U.S. military aid for Israel—which already receives nearly $4 billion from American taxpayers annually, with almost no conditions attached.

"Every Democrat in Congress who is allowing Israel to carry out mass atrocities in Gaza should know that the world is watching," Adalah Justice Project executive director Sandra Tamari said.

"The only moral choice is cease-fire," Tamari added. "We will continue disrupting business as usual until Hakeem Jeffries and the Democratic Party stop this genocide."

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