(In the following post, an arrow such as → or ← indicates a reference to a picture on the right or left. Both the arrow and the smaller picture are links to larger versions of the picture.)
I've just returned from Peace Works! in Temecula Valley's first celebration of the International Day of Peace. Wow.
The International Day of Peace was first declared by the United Nations in 1981, and the date was set as September 21 each year in 2001. On this day, the UN asks member nations, other countries, and parties at war with each other to put aside their weapons for a single 24 hours out of the year and not make war. No killing, no death, no bombs, no tanks.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time in recent memory that the International Day of Peace was celebrated in the Temecula-Murrieta-Wildomar-Lake Elsinore area. We originally planned to hold our observance tomorrow, Sunday the 21st, but unfortunately scheduling conflicts with the City of Temecula's annual park concert pushed us ahead a day. That's okay, though -- in some parts of the world, it's already the 21st.
When I arrived early at the park, I found we already had counter-protesters → out in force (well, sixe of them) to object to our little peace gathering.
From what they told me, they read about our celebration in the paper and decided they had to come down and represent another view. Holding signs saying "Never Forget [9/11...]," ← "We Support Our Troops," and "Peace through military strength," →they received lots of horn-beeps from passers-by.
Surprisingly, George W. Bush himself ← took time off from his busy campaign schedule to stop by and object to observation of the day of peace too.
I took my UN flag in hand and headed over to introduce myself and invite them to our peace day celebration. Although I could have argued with them -- and indeed, one person tried to attack my statement that my commitment to peace was based on my Christian beliefs -- I reminded myself that we have to conduct ourselves with peace and love in all our relationships, even with those who have deemed us their enemies. Sadly, none of them wanted to come join us.
I also felt a bit famous. They'd heard of me. Apparently they're quite familiar with the Inland Anti-Empire blog which I run, although one had the mistaken notion that I post photoshopped images of people I disagree with. (I don't do any such thing.) Unsurprisingly, they didn't like the IAE site. But, hey, god bless 'em.
We moved from the part of the park nearby their corner to across the pond, which turned out to be a better spot anyway -- away from the cars on the street, and beside a wonderful statue → shaped like a family with umbrellas riding on a bicycle.
The statue, it turned out, is called "Singing in the Rain" ← and was a gift to Temecula from her sister city Leidschendam-Voorburg to express solidarity after the 9/11 attacks. → (Note to self: Investigate whether there's a peace movement in Voorburg.)
We started our observation of the Day of Peace with an introduction by Kynn Bartlett (yours truly), describing our group and our activities, and welcome everyone. Temescal Canyon High School student Ted Pennings ← then read for us the United Nation's official proclamation of the International Day of Peace.
Our litany of the nations was next. Following a suggestion from the U.N., we went through the nations of the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, saying in unison, "May peace prevail in..." Liz Mediavilla → provided wonderful leadership in this meditative exercise, and we were reminded of just how diverse our world is, and how in so many countries the people are yearning for peace.
Liz and our new friend, Susie (whose last name I'm not sure of currently), led us in singing by playing on the guitar. ← "We are a quiet, angry people" was new to many of us, and it was great to learn new songs. We also sang → some traditional "peacenik" songs as well.
To close our observation of the Day of Peace, we lit candles and walked as a group around the duck pond after the sun set ←, singing together in caroler style. Our peace day event concluded when we reached the statue again, and everyone was invited afterwards to Liz Mediavilla and Thomas Eppel's home for a dance party.
A total of 40 people attended our Peace Day celebration →, including a number of people who hadn't been to our meetings before. It was also great to see small children and families there. The kids remind us why exactly we struggle against the current to make a more peaceful world. The protesters didn't bother us once we'd moved to the far side.
I count it as a success. Those of us involved in the planning are relieved we pulled it off at all, especially counting the change of date which cost us the presence of several local musicians who were planning to join us. I'm glad we did it, and I'm already looking forward to next year's celebration of the International Day of Peace in Temecula Valley.