Originally Published: March 16, 2008 10:49 p.m.
A new monument stands in Prescott - a simple wooden pole bearing the same phrase in four different languages: May Peace Prevail On Earth. On a day near the fifth anniversary of the occupation of Iraq, the pole went up, and like-minded individuals reflected on our recent history of war, and began to take steps towards a peaceful future.
Prescott mayor Jack Wilson aided with the dedication of the new Peace Pole at the Prescott Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Sunday, along with other speakers who said that the time for peace is now.
"I think of the words of Maya Angelou 'To know something and not to do something is a bigger sin than not to know it,'" said Randall Amster, professor of Peace Studies with Prescott College, who spoke at the event. "That's how it is with the American people. We know peace is preferable, but we often don't do anything about it."
Amster cited the $3 trillion cost of the war thus far, and said that we "cannot afford war" on any level, fiscally or morally, any longer. He said events like the Peace Pole dedication are important because they prompt dialogue on the issue of peace, and that even symbolic gestures have real power to instigate social change.
"It used to be that when I'd say I teach peace studies, people would furrow their brow at me," Amster said. "Now, the reaction is different. People say, 'Yeah, that makes sense.' Everyone's got a sense that it's really time now - time for peace."
Susanna Holt, with the The Peace Alliance, was one the keynote speaker at the event. Holt is the Northern Arizona representative of the project that aims to promote a bill that would create a U.S. Department of Peace.
"The bill, HR 808, that would establish the department, is an idea that has been around for a long time," Holt said. "We've got numerous governmental agencies to deal with war, but we've never had a government-level entity to examine options to de-escalate conflicts. As it is now, government is like a ship without a rudder, where peace is concerned."
Holt said that in addition to promoting peace between nations, the Department of Peace would take steps to alleviate the United States' domestic conflicts. The department would accomplish this through peace education, working to end the onslaught of gang violence and by offering prisoners more rehabilitation aids and ways to reintegrate into society.
"This is actually a replacement for our old peace pole that we had for ten years," said Jim Powers, Outreach Chairman with the Prescott Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. "We've had the new pole for a while - all the fellowship members contributed to it - but we decided to wait until now, three days from the anniversary of the preemptive occupation of Iraq."
Powers said that the fellowship ordered the custom peace pole from out of state, and that the members voted on which languages to write the message in. They ultimately settled on English, Spanish, Greek and Arabic. After the speeches and ceremony, the members went outside, braving a windy, snowy day to plant the Peace Pole into the ground outside the fellowship's building.
"We can't wait for the 'big solution' on peace - it takes a lot of local efforts," Amster said. "A Peace Pole here, it may be small potatoes, but potatoes make a bushel, and that energy feeds people, gives them the strength to go and do great things, and that's how social change happens. These small efforts all help build towards peace."
Sondos Kassier, a former citizen of Iraq, drove down from Phoenix to attend the Peace Pole ceremony. She said that she supports peace in the Middle East, but that the governments of those nations will need to separate themselves from religion if long-lasting peace is ever to be possible.
"When I came to America at age 12, my passport said what my religion was," Kassier said. "Having that sort of thing monitored by the government, and having governments so tied in with religion, it makes conflicts inevitable. In order to have real democracy, you must entirely remove religion from government, and leave people free to practice their own faith - whatever faith best feeds their soul."
For more information on The Peace Alliance project see the website www.thepeacealliance.org.
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