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ISSUE 121 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/28/2007

Peace vigil held in square

By Miriam Samuelson
News Editor

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Northfield community celebrated the United Nations International Day of Peace with a weekend vigil starting on Sept. 21. The vigil and celebration are part of a worldwide annual effort established in 1981.

Since then, a global ceasefire has been held every year on Sept. 21 in an effort to honor and create peace. Peacekeeping operations occurred in various locations around the world, and thousands of communities honored the United Nations' efforts.

Northfield's events began on Friday at noon with a silent peace vigil downtown and continued in the evening with a film about international aid at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

Saturday's vigil and celebration were held in Bridge Square, with Northfield residents and college students contributing to a program titled "Let Us Be Instruments of Peace." Professor Emeritus of art Mac Gimse presented two of his sculptures with accompanying poetry.

"These sculptures are two of a series that I've done to honor laureates at the Peace Prize Forums," Gimse said. "I brought 'Bearing the Burden of Peace' and 'Roots and Wings' to the celebration, which I presented with poetry."

Gimse's art fit with the larger theme of the weekend. "Peace is the ultimate form of human understanding, and that's what these pieces spoke to," Gimse said.

The program was both solemn and celebratory, beginning with a short silent vigil and continuing with songs and remarks.

"The dynamic was one of small town America playing out in front of your eyes,. It was clear that everyone was gathered not just out of curiosity, but for a cause." Gimse remarked. "We stood right along the edge of the street, so that every car driving by could see. Some passersby were polite; others were enthusiastic." The public nature of the ceremony marked Northfield's vocal commitment to peace and nonviolence.

Gimse remarked that the ceremony remained dedicated to peace as a concept and avoided rousing hateful political arguments.

"No one was interested in beating away at the Bush administration," he said. "Everyone wanted to take the high road and not get mixed up in the bramblebush of angry politics where people are so mad they can't see straight."

St. Olaf students who attended the vigil admired the community's dedication to peacekeeping efforts. Magdalena Wells '08 attended parts of the vigil. "I think the Northfield community has an impressive group of activists," she said. "It's clear that they draw energy from many places."

Peter Schattauer '08, another ceremony attendee, reflected on his position as a college student in light of the International Day of Peace.

"I think it's very important for all communities to observe peace," he said. "We need to take our visions of peace and enact them in the world now, not just after we graduate," he said.

Joel Bergeland '08, who is co-leader of St. Olaf's Peace and Justice network, also attended the ceremony. "It was important for me as a college student to experience the intergenerational nature of peace," he said.

Vera Belazelkoska '09, another co-leader of the Peace and Justice organization, remarked that very few college students were present at the ceremony.

"I think this is something people on campus shy away from doing; when students hear the word 'rally' or 'vigil' they get scared because it's so active," she said. "But it was good to have some St. Olaf students there, and it was really nice to see people of all ages gathered to do this."

Letter-writing and political conversation were also encouraged at the celebration.

"It's important that we talk publicly about peace, because it's not just something that's within us. It affects structures and systems." Bergeland said. Wells also noted the communal nature of working for peace. "You can't do this alone," she said. "It's important to have people around you to remind you that peace is possible."

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