June 21, 2009
Story by Randall Beach of the New Haven Register:
New Havener Mark Colville and five other peace activists were denied entry into Gaza for the second consecutive day Tuesday May 9 2009, as Egyptian authorities refused to even let the groups medical supplies be delivered.
The six members of the Catholic Worker Peace Team prayed, sang and tried to persuade border guards to let them into Gaza to deliver about $20,000 worth of medical supplies, as well as toys.
Colville, 47, told the New Haven Register before he departed Friday with his colleagues from all over America that their 10-day itinerary includes seeking access to victims of the Gaza bombing by Israel several months ago, as well as visiting Sderot in Israel, where people have been hit by missiles fired from Gaza by the Palestinian governing body, Hamas.
In an e-mail message sent from the Rafah border crossing late Tuesday, Colville said his group had arrived Tuesday at about 7:30 a.m., after more than nine hours of fruitless waiting Monday.
We immediately knelt in front of the checkpoint with open suitcases of medical supplies destined for Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, and prayed the Rosary, Colville wrote.
The group continued to do this hourly throughout the day, while appealing to the Egyptian border guards to let them cross. The guards refused, saying they needed clearance from the U.S. Embassy. Colville said an embassy representative has said affidavits issued to the team are sufficient to let them across the border.
The guards eventually agreed to let an ambulance deliver supplies, then rescinded permission, Colville said. The peace team finally left the border at 6:30 p.m.
Colville said his group is working on an alternative plan to take supplies to Gaza.
But the peace workers were heartened by one of the guards telling them he had prayed with them for safe passage. Moreover, during the final prayer, local children joined the team in singing, Peace, Salaam, Shalom.
The team plans to travel today to Sderot, Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Colvilles wife, Luz Catarineau, said Tuesday she was amused to hear a cat seen in a photo with Colville had sauntered across the border from Gaza. She said it is tiring trying to monitor news from Colville and reassure their five children.
Catarineau said the peace workers are asking supporters to contact the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C., the office of Ambassador Sameh Shoukry, requesting the six be allowed to cross the border. The e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colville said last week the group wants to use a person-to-person approach in order to humanize the situation and defuse tensions.
Although the peace workers have not been able to meet victims of the bombings, they did speak with three women and their young children, also waiting at the border. The children had heart surgery in Egypt and the families have been trying to return to their homes in Gaza, but also have been denied permission.
Members of the peace team gave the children toys donated by kids from Wayland, Mass.