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José Andrés mourns slain World Central Kitchen workers in D.C. service : NPR


Top row, from left: the Palestinian Saifeddin “Safi” Issam Ayad Abutaha; Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom from Australia; Damian Sobol from Poland; Jacob Flickinger from the United States and Canada; Bottom row, from left: The British John Chapman, James Kirby and James Henderson.

Central cuisine of the world


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Central cuisine of the world


Top row, from left: the Palestinian Saifeddin “Safi” Issam Ayad Abutaha; Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom from Australia; Damian Sobol from Poland; Jacob Flickinger from the United States and Canada; Bottom row, from left: The British John Chapman, James Kirby and James Henderson.

Central cuisine of the world

WASHINGTON — Their calling was to offer a beacon of humanity to people trapped in desperate conditions, bringing food to communities devastated by war and disaster. On Thursday, the World Central Kitchen community came together to celebrate the seven aid workers, three weeks after being killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

“They risked everything to feed people they didn’t know and would never meet,” said chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, as he addressed those gathered at the Cathedral national. “In the worst times, the best of humanity is revealed.”

Andrés listed their names: Palestinian Saifeddin “Safi” Issam Ayad Abutaha; John Chapman of Great Britain; Jacob Flickinger from the United States and Canada; Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom from Australia; the British James Henderson and James Kirby; and Damian Sobol from Poland.

“They were the best of humanity,” he said. “Their example should inspire us to do better – to be better.”

The interfaith service was not open to the public, but the video was posted online. Organizers said 560 people attended — a mix of World Central Kitchen staff and workers from other humanitarian organizations, U.S. government officials and diplomats from more than 30 countries.

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Each of World Central Kitchen’s employees was spurred into action in response to a calamity — a volcanic eruption, a war, an earthquake, Andrés said.

His words wavered with emotion as he spoke of Frankcom.

“From the beginning, I always felt that she embodied our spirit and our purpose,” he said. “She gave joy to others, even more than she gave food. Dancing, singing, playing with the children… Her compassion and curiosity were contagious.”

Among the celebrants at the service were the Right Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of the cathedral, and the Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Also speaking: Rabbi Susan N. Shankman, senior rabbi of the Hebrew Congregation of Washington, and Imam Talib M. Shareef, imam and president of Masjid Muhammad, the national mosque of Washington.

Behind the group stood the choir – and behind them, flags representing the countries of the seven aid workers.


World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés speaks Thursday at the Washington National Cathedral during an interfaith memorial service for the group’s seven workers killed in Gaza.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images


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Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images


World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés speaks Thursday at the Washington National Cathedral during an interfaith memorial service for the group’s seven workers killed in Gaza.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The workers were heroes, Andrés said. He was inspired by the work of John Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath.

“Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there,” he said, referencing Tom Joad’s character’s famous speech. “The seven souls we mourn today were there, so that the hungry could eat.”

Attendees filled the main section of the cathedral’s nave and its side transepts for the service, which included remembrances of slain humanitarians, readings from Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions and prayers for peace. Among the musicians in attendance are cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

The gathering included Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Vice President Harris’ husband, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

As of early April, at least 224 aid workers had been killed in the war between Israel and Hamas that began last October. According to the UN Security Council, this figure represents “more than three times the number of humanitarian workers killed in a single conflict recorded in a single year”.

“Our losses may seem small,” Andrés said, compared to the other workers killed, the more than 34,000 Palestinians who Gaza’s health ministry says died, and the approximately 1,200 Israelis killed by Hamas.

“But each of these people leaves behind loved ones who will always hold them in their hearts,” he added.

Israel has apologized for the attack that left the seven workers dead, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying his country “deeply regrets this tragic incident.”

The Israeli military says the incident violated its protocols, punishing those responsible. But World Central Kitchen says that’s not enough, calling for an independent investigation and noting that Israel acknowledges that its humanitarian team had followed established communications procedures.


Palestinians inspect a vehicle bearing the World Central Kitchen logo destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza, April 2, 2024. A memorial at the Washington National Cathedral on April 25 will honor the seven workers of WCK killed during the attack. attack.

Ismaël Abou Dayyah/AP


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Ismaël Abou Dayyah/AP


Palestinians inspect a vehicle bearing the World Central Kitchen logo destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza, April 2, 2024. A memorial at the Washington National Cathedral on April 25 will honor the seven workers of WCK killed during the attack. attack.

Ismaël Abou Dayyah/AP

“The root cause of the unjustified rocket attacks on our convoy is the serious lack of food in Gaza,” the association said. “Israel must significantly increase the volume of food and medicine delivered by land if it is serious about supporting humanitarian aid.”

In his remarks at the remembrance ceremony, Andrés said world leaders should be expected to live by the same standards set by murdered aid workers.

“When disaster strikes, it’s easy to see the darkness and never the light,” he said. “But the reality is this: the light will always shine.”

At a high point in his speech, Andrés asked all current and former World Central Kitchen employees present at the service to stand – and as he did so, the other attendees erupted into loud, sustained applause.

He praised workers for refusing to be indifferent to suffering and for insisting on helping others, even if it put them in great peril.

“The dishes we cook and deliver are not just ingredients or calories,” he said. “A plate of food is a plate of hope. A message that someone, somewhere cares for you.”

News Source : www.npr.org
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