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A Call for Community in a Time of Conflict


Dear members of the SLU community,

Since the recent terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel, we have been struggling. I have been horrified by images and accounts of unspeakable acts of violence. Heartbroken by the profound loss of innocent lives. And sickened that more violence and many deaths are yet coming, bringing enormous suffering to Israeli and Palestinian families and communities.

It has become customary for University presidents to issue statements on significant issues, and to do so quickly. I have nevertheless paused and reflected at length to discern what I might offer in a message to you.   
I know that many of you are affected by this conflict in painful and personal ways, and I fear that my words will not be sufficient to bring comfort to you. I also realize that any assertions of mine on global conflicts are unlikely to impact how they unfold.

Still, I feel compelled to join the many who strongly condemn terrorist acts and any murder of innocent civilians.

I also firmly believe that when we face the most challenging times, we — as a community — have much to offer one another.

Our university community includes and embraces all people — people who are Israeli and people who are Palestinian, people who are Jewish and people who are Muslim, people of all other faiths and the religiously unaffiliated. We have made SLU our home because we share a deep commitment to values of care, respect and compassion. I have faith that those values can continue to bond and guide us now.

We are a community that extends care and provides comfort to those who are hurting. Many among us are grieving, terrified for their loved ones and afraid of the impact of rising antisemitism or anti-Muslim prejudice. Our University Counseling Center staff and Campus Ministry team stand ready to provide support. And each of us can offer grace and kindness, listening to those who feel unheard.

And as a university, we engage in the difficult and painstaking work of seeking truth, expanding our knowledge of the most complex and sensitive issues. We can continue to grow in understanding of our global interconnectedness, and in our respect for differences. We must reject and resist dehumanizing ideologies. We should insist, individually and collectively, on seeing one another’s full humanity.

Our contributions may be humble, and at times humbling. A visible impact can take years to emerge. But we do this work because we believe it is the long-term labor of building a more peaceful world — one where all can thrive.

The Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Jesuits remind us that we are called to accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future. At times like this, it is difficult. So, we join in solidarity with those who are suffering the devastation brought by war and violence. We pray for them, and we pray in hope that one day, our world might know peace.

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.

If you are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out for counseling resources from the University Counseling Center (for students) or the Employee Assistance Program (for employees). Our Campus Ministry team is also available to offer spiritual support and connections to local resources from multiple faith traditions. More information is available on the University’s well-being web page.