Friday, March 31, 2006

Putting Peace into Action

Another article from the Free Press - on February 04, 2006 11:01 pm Area pilgrims putting ‘peace into action’Group planted peace pole in Israel, plans to put one in Palestine

By Jean Lundquist — Mankato, Minn.

Planting a peace pole in Palestine later this month is something Rev. Janice Gorman and 24 other pilgrims from the Mankato area feel called to do. The recent election of the Hamas party there, deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, will not change their plans. By way of explanation, Gorman says, “We’re not going as politicians, or as tourists. We’re going for peace.” Gorman, along with Penny Tower and Joni O’Connell of the Hope Interfaith Center in Mankato, are planning the trip. “When we plant the peace pole,” Gorman says, “we will remind ourselves and all who visit the pole in the future, that peace is the way, not war.” Last May, 24 people made a similar pilgrimage to Israel to plant a peace pole. While on a bus traveling to Palestine, Gorman says she felt called to continue the peace mission they were starting by returning to the Middle East this year. The peace pole, an 8-foot-tall length of cedar, will be similar to the one planted in Israel. It will have the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” inscribed on it in eight languages. It will be located at an orphanage.While it may be difficult for some to see any impact of such an effort, all three women deeply believe they will make a difference. Calling it a “ripple effect,” Tower says the results of the trip and the efforts of all making the journey will be profound. She says she underwent a transformation from her trip last year to Israel, and is sure that has changed the lives of those around her. “The little we do does make a difference,” O’Connell says. She cites their trip to the Church of Bethlehem as an example of the ripple effect. She tells how the group began to sing “Silent Night” in English, waiting for their turn to tour the church. A group behind them recognized the tune and began to sing the song in German. As the next group entered the church, they began to sing the song in Japanese. Calling music the “universal language,” Tower says the experience was evidence of the power of peace and proof the ripple effect works. The written objective of the Hope Interfaith Center is “To provide a space to build community through spiritual education, meditation, praise and service.” Gorman says, “We’re more than a bumper sticker. We’re putting peace into action.” She encourages people to be citizens of the world, not merely citizens of their country. Hope Interfaith Center began in Gorman’s home 11 years ago, where she taught classes and worked with people one on one. A year ago, she moved into her location on North Second Street. Already, she says, there is a need for more space. Sunday services are held now at the YWCA.After the group returns from Palestine, Gorman says, it will begin the search for a location for a peace pole in Mankato. O’Connell agrees that will provide a sense of completion for this part of the peace process.

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