The Peace Pole Celebration 2015 at West Branch Friends Church on Sunday, March 8, was an interfaith community event. Our speaker was Sister Lhundup Chodon, an American-born Buddhist nun who has been teaching Buddhist philosophy since 1990. She grew up in Madison and attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Sister Chodon has taught and studied in many places including the United Kingdom, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Mississippi, California. In May 2014 Sister Chodon was fortunate to be invited to Plum Village in France, home to Thich Nhat Hanh where she received her Bhikshuni ordination.She shared with us about cultivating inner peace as well as interpersonal peace, and about compassion as the root of relationships.
West Branch Friends Church erected the Peace Pole in 2001. In 1999, Clara and Ray Millett found information on Peace Poles that originated from the World Peace Prayer Society. This group started in Japan as a response to the devastation to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The idea was a grass roots effort to bring peace into the minds and community. In this simple way the idea is the more one thinks on peace the more likely it is to happen. Poles were placed publically that stated: "May Peace Prevail on Earth" in different languages. Ray and Clara brought this information to the Christian Ed. Committee. The committee agreed on the plan to place one in front of the church. However due to several delays nothing was started until two years later.
There was a brief meeting of Christian Ed. members. It was decided to take a group of Sunday school children to the Iowa City sign makers to pick out different languages for our Peace Pole. We were to meet the children at the flag pole at the Elementary School. This date was Sept. 11th 2001. We kept that date in spite of the disasters that occurred that day. Now all these children are entering careers, colleges and /or starting families. Sept. 9th has become a time to hope when there is tragedy.
The Peace Pole Celebration is on its 16th year.
Getry Agizah, coordinator of Friends Church Peace Teams in Kenya, spoke at a gathering of Friends . She shared her experiences of working with villages where people of one ethnic group killed neighbors of a different group in the violence surrounding the 2008 elections. Getry has walked alone and unarmed into the forest to meet with insurgents who wanted to find a way to end their revolt and go home. The Friends Church Peace Teams are part of the African Great Lakes Initiative doing tremendous work in that region.
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