Protesters on Tuesday march to City Hall in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where they sang hymns and demanded a permanent cease-fire to the fighting in Gaza. (Photos: EMU/Macson McGuigan)

Students, faculty, staff join voices for peace in Gaza

In a stirring display of solidarity, a group of about 200 protesters gathered outside City Hall in Harrisonburg, Virginia, on Tuesday afternoon calling for an end to the violence in Gaza. 

Protesters join in hymns calling for peace on Tuesday in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

The protesters, which included a large contingent of passionate EMU students, faculty and staff, held signs and banners with demands such as: “Ceasefire Now,” “Let Gaza Live,” “Stop Genocide in Gaza” and “Free All Hostages and Prisoners.” 

They joined together in nearly an hour of hymns led by Benjamin Bergey, assistant professor of music at EMU, and Dorothy Jean Weaver ’72, emeritus professor at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. 

While the protesters lifted their voices in song and prayed for peace, Tim Seidel, associate professor of peacebuilding, development and global studies at EMU, and Emily Hershberger MA ’12 hand-delivered a petition to Harrisonburg City Manager Ande Banks ’97 inside City Hall. More than 500 local signatures are attached to the petition, which urges Harrisonburg City Council to pass a resolution supporting a permanent cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. 

Harrisonburg City Manager Ande Banks, left, receives a petition with more than 500 signatures from Tim Seidel, center, and Emily Hershberger.

Seidel organized Tuesday’s protest along with the local committee of Mennonite Action. The primary goals of the Mennonite Action grassroots movement are a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, a release of all hostages and an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine. 

Heartened by the healthy turnout, Seidel said the protest provided a powerful witness to elected officials, both at the local and national levels. 

“This momentum is a testimony to the grief people are feeling and their conviction and desire to see change,” Seidel said.

Mennonite Action student panel discussion
Where: University Commons Student Union
When: 8-9 p.m., Monday, Feb. 26
EMU students who were involved in the Jan. 16 protests at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., including those arrested by U.S. Capitol Police, will share their experiences. Read The Weather Vane’s coverage of the D.C. protest here. The event also will include a brief update on the current state of affairs in Gaza.

As EMU senior Aidan Yoder posted photos and video of the protest to the Harrisonburg Mennonite Action social media accounts, he estimated that about 40 of his fellow students had shown up to demonstrate. 

“I think we really showed City Council that the people of Harrisonburg want a cease-fire and that we support them passing this resolution,” he said. 

For EMU junior Emma Nord, the demonstration marked the first protest she’s attended. The student chaplain often leads hymn sings on campus and reflected on the power of song as a form of protest.

“It’s wonderful to see Mennonites coming together and acknowledging the crisis … to proclaim that genocide is wrong,” she said. 

For a visual recap of the impactful protest, explore our curated photo gallery below.

20240220-Mennonite Action - Gaza Ceasefire Peaceful Protest--051

Join the Discussion on “Students, faculty, staff join voices for peace in Gaza

  1. I am so proud of to be from Harrisonburg today. I am so proud of Emu. i don’t go there but i was born and raised in Harrisonburg and wanted to show my support. FREE PALESTINE. this is amazing. and inspiring

  2. We have asked EMU to come out for a ceasefire in Gaza and they said no. EMU has not publicly supported a ceasefire but is quick to take credit for the actions of EMU students and faculty.
    We demand a Cease fire in Gaza now!

  3. As a CJP alum, I’m so proud to see so many EMU community members taking action for an immediate and permanent ceasefire! When will the administration follow the bold leadership of its students?

  4. I’m happy to see so much solidarity on peace! It especially warms my heart when this stance is taken by these courageous, counter-cultural Mennonites on a university campus some 6,000 miles from the heart of the fighting. When will the world learn that there is no need for people groups like Hamas who attack other people groups like Israeli Jews to be retaliated against or held accountable? Pray for world peace, and pray it happens now! Amen!

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