Thousands Pause To Contemplate Peace
Undated (AP) _ Thousands of people gathered in cities across the nation Wednesday to meditate, sing and cheer for peace in an observance that coincided with the final day of the United Nations’ International Year of Peace.
Americans gathered in the Kingdome in Seattle, McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, the Minneapolis Auditorium and Jones Hall in Houston, among others, for the peace vigil, which began worldwide at noon GMT or 7 a.m. EST.
The idea for the world peace event came from author John Randolph Price, in his 1984 book ″The Planetary Commission.″ Price is associated with the Quartus Foundation, a non-profit spiritual awareness center at Austin, Texas, that kept track of the informal network of organizations celebrating the event.
Hundreds of Houston residents got up early for a 6 a.m. CDT program that included a minute of silence.
Lary G. Patton, a co-founder of Houston’s Center for Civic Transformation, said he also spoke in a live radio broadcast to Moscow that involved participants in eight cities.
Eric Broach, 15, of Houston took part in a conference telephone call that included youngsters from East Germany, South Africa, Poland, Argentina, Japan, Jordan, Northern Ireland, Israel and Australia.
All the messages included a hope for peace and a desire to understand each other better, Patton said. Events also were held in other Texas cities.
Nearly 6,000 gathered in Denver for an hour-long ceremony that included 20 minutes of silent meditation, a candle lighting ceremony and a hand-clapping, sing-along hootenanny with ″Amazing Grace″ as the rousing finale.
″Just visualize people all over the earth doing this - I think it spreads,″ said Shirley Kazlaskia of Aurora, Colo.
People in two dozen cities across Washington state participated, according to Gib Curry, artistic director for the Seattle event, where 6,000 turned out.
″We came here just to say we stand for peace,″ said Terri Pollard, who attended the Seattle observance. ″It helps people realize there is movement to peace, although nothing marvelous is going to happen at this moment.″
Some 2,500 people turned out in Kansas City.
″We get together to cheer sports, we cheer the Royals, we cheer the Chiefs. Why can’t we cheer something like this?″ said Sister Mildred Berdelle, a teacher at Bishop Miege High School.
Hundreds of people went to about 40 public gathering spots in California, including Sausalito Presbyterian Church, organizers said.
Johanna Harstad, an organizer of the Minneapolis meeting attended by an estimated 7,000, said the observance was non-political and non-religious and that organizers had ″no preconceived notions of how peace will come about.″
″It definitely had a positive effect, and we hope that what leaders of the different religions - a Catholic priest, an Episcopal minister, a rabbi and a Quaker elder - said about peace will come true, that war and terrorism will end in this world,″ said the Rev. John Salunek of the Unity Church of Christ in Philadelphia.
But the peace observance caused controversy among some religious groups. In Denver, several fundamentalist Christian groups protested by passing out pamphlets and holding picket signs saying ″Jeus Is the Only Way.″
The Colorado Council of Churches, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver and the Rabbinical Council of Denver first approved of the event and then withdrew their support.