I learned from Amar Naik’s photo blog that today, October 2, is the International Day of Non-Violence (http://amarnaik.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/international-day-of-non-violence). Commemorating the day that Mohandas Gandhi was born, it was first recognized by the United Nations in 2007. This day, and what it represents, couldn’t come at a better time. It seems that every time I turn on the news I hear of another homicide, terrorist attack or threat, or mass murder. We’re struggling to create gun legislation that preserves a constitutional right to “bear arms” yet is balanced by the good sense and honest intent with which it was written. Certainly, however, our forebearers could not have envisioned the kinds of weapons that are available on the streets these days and the senselessness with which they are used. My own city has had 3 murders in the last 2 weeks, bringing our total to 15 this year. We’ve already surpassed our total of 12 from last year and 2/3 of the people killed have been under 30. Three of them were 19- not even old enough to legally drink.
The city has reached out to local organizations and faith-communities to create Peace Flags as a sign of its dedication to teaching and striving for non-violence and they’re going to be hanging them along the parade route for our annual Thanksgiving weekend Balloon Parade. The chorus that our boy sings in (and my mother co-founded) will be singing at the event and I look forward to it being an uplifting, powerful day. Granted, it’s only a symbol, albeit an inspirational one, and there’s still so much work that needs to be done.
I was lucky enough to be able to work with my church’s Chapel Kids group (the alternative service for kids ages 7-12 at our church) to help create them. The organization that’s sponsoring it supplied muslin rectangles and a rope to hang them from but allowed churches to decorate them with whatever materials and in whatever ways they wanted. As inspiration, I found these beautiful prayer flags that Kate, from Ramblings from Utopia, made with her kids. (http://www.ramblingsfromutopia.com/2012/05/wordlessful-wednesdays-prayer-flags.html)
We prayed on the topic and looked at some picture books about peace for inspirational images, and then the kids just had at it. The week before, they had sketched ideas onto paper, the this Sunday I gave them Sharpies, fabric markers, and fabric to cut up and glue on (no one actually ended up using the fabric). It was a really fun service (despite the mess) and the flags, and the hopeful message they represent, are beautiful. Here are some of my favorites:
If kids understand and value the concept so clearly and openly, why can’t our world leaders? What are we doing wrong that has bred so much hatred, fear, and self-loathing among the members of our community that are so often party to this kind of violence, both as victims and as perpetrators? Most important, when and how can we finally mend/heal/soothe the wounds and move forward into a civilization that truly values and is capable of non-violence?