Friends of
Peace Pilgrim

A Non-Profit, Tax-Exempt, All Volunteer Organization
PO Box 1046, Placerville, CA 95667
  tel. (530) 620-0333

Online Newsletter

Summer 2005 - Number 45

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"Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, hatred with love" -- Peace Pilgrim

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In Her Footsteps- Peacewalker's Dream - Stonewalk Japan 2005

In Her Footsteps
by Vicki Hurst -

In 2004, Viki Hurst set out by motor home to encourage people to take personal responsibility for world peace. Viki is the author of Let It Begin With You: Your Personal World Peace Guidebook and is currently writing a book about her nationwide peace tour.

Though Peace Pilgrim was the inspiration for my 10,000-Mile World Peace Tour last year, I was always fully aware during that spectacular journey that my own adventure could hardly hold a candle to the challenge Peace Pilgrim set for herself. Six months on the road in a brand new motor home doesn’t come close to a nearly 30-year walking pilgrimage without even a sleeping bag or umbrella. And yet she said not everyone would be a peace pilgrim like she was, and she said everyone had different needs. She simply encouraged each person to find his or her own “need level” and each of us our own unique calling, and in early 2003 I found mine.

Like Peace, I sold my home and furniture, and a lot of other things, before setting off on my own journey. Unlike Peace, I brought a mini-house – my motor home -- with me. Like her, I was called to say something about world peace and to raise people from their apathy, which she said was the ultimate job of a pilgrim. Unlike Peace, I decided to stop journeying at the six-month mark.

Peace never asked for food but ate only when it was offered to her, and when it wasn’t offered, she found edible berries, fruit and greens on the road. I, on the other hand, had no problem going into the nearest grocery store and asking where I might find my favorite frozen dessert, which I would place in my fully stocked freezer. Peace slept on the highways and byways unless someone offered her shelter and a bed, whereas I was sleeping every night on the best mattress I’d ever slept on in that little motor home. She walked until her navy blue tennis shoes fell off her feet. I was never able to make up my mind between the black boots or the brown ones, so I took both (along with six other pairs of shoes, because you never know when you’re going to need an extra pair of sandals).

Then again, here’s how I was like the woman I often refer to as my “True North:”

We both set out in a time of war – she during the Korean War, I during the war in Iraq. Her pilgrimage may have seemed a little out of step with the times – Americans were giddy with the victory of World War II when she started out, and activism wasn’t as glamorous back then as it later became. But she got a lot of press coverage anyway, because her message and her mode of carrying it were unique. My own message was timely given the war climate, and for the short time I was on the road, I too picked up interest from the media, and on many occasions was given the privilege of speaking my truth publicly.

Like Peace Pilgrim, I found my peacemaking role at midlife -- a little later than she did, actually. Peace Pilgrim was 40-something, I in my 50s. In both our cases, age wasn’t a factor. We were called to do something for the cause of peace, and we answered the call right then and there.

I have a keen sense of adventure. I love going places I’ve never been before, and not as a tourist. I want to take the furthest reaches on my path and sometimes veer off of it. I want to stretch and do things other people might not do, or might even consider crazy. Peace Pilgrim had the same questing nature, the same delight for life. Watch her on the video documentary, “The Sage Who Walked Her Talk,” and you’ll notice the big smile, the arms swinging joyfully at her sides, the wholehearted strides. Her very body movements told the way she approached this venture of hers – with abundant joy. From an early age she took risks and sought interesting challenges and that became her life’s theme – risks and challenges.

Many of my beliefs are similar to Peace Pilgrim’s. First, I believe, as she did, that each individual has a special and unique role to play in the making of peace on earth. Second, like Peace Pilgrim, I believe war is not necessarily the problem, but a symptom of deep, underlying human disturbances like poverty, ignorance and prejudice. Attacking war without addressing its causes directly and fervently is useless. Fortunately, I believe as Peace did that we have all the resources we need for addressing the root causes of war. Third, I am clear that world peace comes from inner peace – which requires a focus on one’s own relationship with the world. And finally, I believe that there is more power in working for the right things than in fighting against the wrong things . . . a notion Peace began to express frequently several years into her journey. She posited a simple yet astounding vision for peace that included a Department of Peace within our government; enough water, food and shelter for everyone on earth; and grassroots organizations that worked alongside our larger governments. While she was outspoken about her abhorrence of war, she put most of her energy into praying, walking and speaking for the things that meant world peace for her. That was my approach, as well.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have followed in the footsteps of the great Peace Pilgrim, even if it was from behind the steering wheel of a 24-foot “peace-mobile.” May Peace’s story and her work continue to inspire us to work and pray for peace.

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. On August 6th and 9th of 1945 the dark side of the Atomic Age was realized in the dropping of bombs that caused the deaths of 270,000 civilians who lived in those two cities. Sixty years later the world still is home to vast stockpiles of atomic weapons. While there have been no more Hiroshimas, our country is again at war and talk of tactical nuclear strikes, suitcase nukes, and dirty bombs contributes to an atmosphere of anxiety and uncertainty both in this country and around the world. In August both cities will host memorial events that focus on their dream that such horror never be visited on the earth again. Our long time friend Derek hopes to help that dream come true.

Peacewalker's Dream         (top)
by Derek "Walker" Youngs, British Columbia -

"They may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one" -- John Lennon

Do you have dreams? I don't mean the ones you have at night, but the ones when you're awake. Looking back I can see I have spent a fair amount of my lifetime dreaming, as it's the first step I take before venturing out into the unknown. For almost twenty years now I have dreamed of walking in Japan, and now that dream is about to come true.

I took my first step in walking for peace in 1986, during the Great Peace March, when I walked with 500 people across the USA. This was one of those rare opportunities in life, that leapt out at me crying, “YES!" and changed my life forever.

During that walk, a friend tried to teach me how to make a peace crane. You know those origami birds? To make them, you have to remember about twenty folds! I protested (meaning I was afraid and embarrassed). He insisted I could do it, but here's a secret for you: I can be quite adept at pulling back when I get shy. So, I didn't make a crane - not during that walk, anyway.

A year later, I found myself walking to Athens, Greece with seven Japanese monks. Upon our arrival, we were to honor the memory of the thousands of people killed when nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And guess what? We had to make peace birds. Groan. The head monk approached me with a sheaf of multi-colored paper, saying, "Start making your birds."

I immediately went into shy mode, protesting vigorously, "I can't do this, I've tried and my brain just can't do it! Sorry...." Unfazed, the monk looked at me sternly, and said, "Here." I countered with my most powerful whining. When I was finished, he shoved the papers in my hand, saying, "Do," and turned away. With my head now glued to my chest, I shuffled off to a corner and learned.

About six months later I was thumbing through a book and came across a true story about a young girl named Sadako Sasaki. Sadako was only two years old when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

As she grew up, she became strong, courageous and athletic. In 1954, at age eleven, while practicing for a big race, she became dizzy and fell to the ground. Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia, the "atom bomb disease", and was immediately hospitalized.

Sadako's best friend told her of an old Japanese legend, which said that, anyone who folds a thousand origami paper cranes would be granted a wish. Sadako hoped that the gods would grant her wish to get well so that she could run again. She spent fourteen months in the hospital, folding over 1,300 paper cranes, out of medicine bottle wrappers and any other paper she could find, before dying at the age of twelve.

Inspired by Sadako's courage and strength, her friends and schoolmates rallied children all over Japan to raise funds to build a memorial to her and all the children killed by the atom bomb. In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Today, people all over the world fold paper cranes and send them to this monument.

I found myself sobbing as I looked at the photo of the statue covered with thousands and thousands of peace birds. I cried that day not only for Sadako, but also for the countless innocent millions who have died and those who continue to die as a result of war.

Before closing the book, I took a vow to continue walking for peace, and to tell the story of Sadako. I have made over 2,600 birds, and probably told Sadako's story almost as many times. I do this to keep the spirit of peace alive. I firmly believe that in all our struggles for a saner world for our children, if we do not keep that spirit alive, we are doomed.

That day I dreamed of walking in Hiroshima and placing my peace bird on Sadako's monument. It was a dream, and not a goal, which meant I had a lifetime to get there and the whole world to walk through. Now, seventeen countries and over twenty-three thousand kilometres later, my dream will soon come true.

There are 40,000 to 50,000 nuclear weapons stocked in the world today, a number equivalent to one million Hiroshima-type A-bombs. This is enough to wipe out our earth’s population dozens of times over. No longer do just the US and Russia have nuclear devices. China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan and Britain also have nuclear weapons, with another raft of countries racing to develop them. This now means regional conflicts also have the capacity to lead to nuclear devastation. The threat of our leaders plunging us into a nuclear holocaust is greater than ever - and it is growing. As Arundhati Roy, the Indian author and campaigner, said, “This world of ours is 4,600,000,000 years old. It could end in an afternoon.”

August 6th, 2005 is the 60th anniversary of that horrific nuclear bombing. In the Japanese culture, the number 60 is very important. In our society, the age of 65 is considered a milestone. I can't imagine a more fitting time in my life to walk in to Hiroshima, place my origami crane at the memorial, and say a simple prayer for Peace. Later I will meet with Emiko Okado, a Hibakusha (survivor of the nuclear attack) who has devoted her life to peace. After that, I have the opportunity to visit Nagasaki to attend its memorial events.

My dream of walking to Japan will be complete, but between you and me, there is another one living in my heart. I dream of continuing my walk for peace and making peace birds until my last breath. For I cannot allow the spirit of peace to die.

With clasped, hands, love and respect.
Walker (Derek)

"Not all who wander are lost" -- Tolkien

For additional information visit Derek’s website and click on the Hiroshima link.

"I will write Peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world." -- Sadako Sasaki

Stonewalk Japan - July 2 to August 4, 2005         (top)

In our last issue webmaster and newsletter editor Bruce Nichols shared a short article written while participating in last summer’s “Stonewalk” from Boston to New York City. That project, sponsored by September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and the Peace Abbey, moved a memorial stone to “Unknown Civilians Killed in War” by human power the 220 road miles between those two cities.

This summer the stone will be on the move again and Bruce will once again be helping push the five thousand pound caisson – this time from Nagasaki to Hiroshima Japan. Peaceful Tomorrows and the Peace Abbey are again organizing the walk along with a group of atom bomb survivors and other Japanese peace groups. The walk will begin on July 2 and conclude in Hiroshima on August 4, two days before the 60th anniversary of the bombing of that city.

In a letter to the organizers Tadatoshi Akiba the mayor of Hiroshima wrote, “I find deep significance in the Stone Walk Japan 2005 Nagasaki-Hiroshima, which will move a one-ton stone from Nagasaki to Hiroshima for the cause of peace. Let me commend all the persons involved with the project. I ask all of you to continue to hold the memories of Hiroshima in your heart, and to join us in working with all your might to make 2005 a year of hope, one in which sprouts for the abolition of nuclear weapons burst forth.”

For additional information and to track the pro-gress of the walkers visit these websites:


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Friends of Peace Pilgrim
PO Box 1046
California 95667
tel. (530)620-0333

revised 6/17/2005