Friends of
Peace Pilgrim

A Non-Profit, Tax-Exempt, All Volunteer Organization
PO Box 2207, Shelton, CT 06484
  tel. (203) 926-1581

Online Newsletter

Late Fall 2007
Number 50

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

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Unveiling at Peaceful Pathways - Canadia Peace Walker Jean Béliveau
Peace Pilgrims

Peace Pilgrim Peace Pole Unveiling at Peaceful Pathways
by Cheryl Canfield

Cheryl Canfield and Mark Skelton
Cheryl Canfield and Mark Skelton unveil the pole at Peaceful Pathways

    On September 23, Peaceful Pathways celebrated the autumn equinox with an unveiling of the first Peace Pilgrim Peace Pole. Peace’s simple message is written on the four sides: This is the way of peace: overcome evil with good; overcome falsehood with truth; overcome hatred with love. The beautifully inscribed pole has been placed adjacent to the labyrinth and some raised vegetable beds in our peace garden.

     On my journeys with Peace, I delighted in her joy and appreciation of nature’s beauties – all of the plants and trees and flowers. And how she loved wholesome, organic food. Thanks to many friends and guests, we enjoyed an abundant blessing of nature’s harvest, along with the “planting” of the new pole. Guests also had the opportunity to walk our new “peace trail,” with signs containing Peace’s Steps Toward Inner Peace tucked beneath the branches of trees or next to a bench along the way.

     Those in attendance were also able to share in the exciting plans of another kind of harvest – the gathering of Peace’s wisdom and work into a film dramatization of her life. Just two weeks before the event I received a phone call from a man with a wonderful English accent, Mark Skelton, telling me about his inspiration to produce such a film, and his meeting with a longtime Friend of Peace Pilgrim, Richard Roller. Richard has been dedicated to writing a screenplay inspired by Peace for many years now. When Mark and Richard connected, the momentum around the idea took off.

     Mark graciously accepted my invitation to attend the event and agreed to officiate at the “unveiling” of the peace pole. He captivated all with his enthusiasm and the inspiring story of how many synchronicities led him to embrace the film project with a sense of knowing that it was meant for him to do. (“Isn’t it ironic,” Mark told me later, “that someone from London would produce the film about this American saint!”) He found Bruce Nichols through the Peace Pilgrim website, and Bruce connected him with Richard. An incredible team has come together around them.

     It has been very inspiring to hear from both Mark and Richard, that their personal motivation is to tell the message in its highest and most effective form – true to Peace Pilgrim’s spirit. Peace once told me that many producers and directors had approached her about making a film of her life – but none had the proper motivation. “The motivation must be the telling of the message,” she had said emphatically, “not the making of money.”   

     Positive Pictures Group (PPG), evolved out of this project, is being formed to make movies that have a far-reaching social impact. Peace Pilgrim will be the first feature film in this series. Like-minded individuals are being invited “to participate in the movie-making process from a grassroots level” by making small pledges and becoming co-creators. More information can be obtained from Mark Skelton, at 310-721-1209  or mark@positivepicturesgroup.com.

Peace Pilgrim Pole
Copperopolis Peace Pilgrim Pole

“Peace is an idea whose time has come.”
Peace Pilgrim  

*****


Canadian Peace Walker Jean Béliveau         (top)
by Luce

With all the recent talk of “Evil Empires” we found this report on Jean’s experiences in Iran most interesting.

On August 18th, 2000, at 9:00 am, Jean Béliveau departed Montreal, Canada. His goal is to walk around the planet to promote "Peace and non-violence to the profit of the children of the world".  He is traveling alone with a three-wheeled stroller to carry a bit of food, his clothing, a First Aid kit, a small tent and a sleeping bag. Now in the 8th year of his walk, Jean recently crossed Iran on foot.  A short report with some of his comments follows.  For more information about the walk and photos visit www.wwwalk.org.  Jean is currently walking across India.

    On August 1st Jean emails from Astara: “That’s it! I am in Iran! It is the country where the border formalities have been the shortest. On the other side, you can just imagine the scenery: streets full of people and vehicles, signs displaying the Persian alphabet, the bazaars and traveling merchants filled to the brim with merchandizes of all kind, veiled women etc.”

     The weather is hot… around 40°C.  After having walked along the Caspian Sea coast, Jean climbs to the cooler continental shelf that will bring him to Isfahan. He soon realizes that there are absolutely no security problems in this country and that the Iranians are really nice and welcoming. He writes: “Under a rather somber appearance, they are a most colorful people!”

     During his stay in Tehran, the Canadian embassy, supportive of Jean’s interest in creating peace for the children of the world, helps him to organize a few meetings with people working at UNESCO.  At the Hamyaram Iran NGO Resource Centre, Mr. Baquer Namazi shares a much dreamed about project – creating a children’s  “Zone of Peace.”

      Jean is devastated when Mr. Namazi informs him of the 600,000 refugee children displaced by the conflicts in the Middle East, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. Afterward he meets with people of UN High Commission for Refugees where he learns about the efforts made for the repatriation and reintegration of these thousands of refugee families.

     An Iranian family who have relatives living in Montreal invite him for dinner and a tour of the capital city.

     On August 28th, Jean gets back on the road, walking towards cities with names evocative of the ancient Persian civilization: Isfahan, Persepolis, Shiraz.  He lingers in Abadeh for a few days to consult a dentist as he has a sore tooth. He emails me: “Iranians are so nice that I cannot help loving them! They are really cool and have a way of thinking that is very similar to ours. Their political and social leadership is different but their hearts are the same as ours.”

     On September 25th, he visits the archaeological site of Pasargad where he can contemplate the monument that is said to be the tomb of Cyrus the Great and following this visit, he writes: “When I left the site, I felt a great happiness! How privileged am I to have traveled so far in Human History! From the American Empire, I went to the Totonaques, the Aztecs, the Mayas, and the Incas. Then in Africa, I saw the prehistoric Rift Valley, Abyssinia, Egypt of the Pharaohs and of the Romans. In Europe, it was the history of the Greeks and the Romans, that of Christianity, then the creators of overseas empires, Portugal, Spain, France, England followed by Germany and its history. Then, I went south to the Ottoman Empire and now I am deep in historic Persia! Imagine now what awaits me yet in the exotic East!”

     In Shiraz after obtaining a second extension on his Iranian visa, Jean realizes that visiting time is over and that he must now hasten to leave the country in time. However, he does not leave the city, which is claimed to be the most beautiful city of Iran, before meeting with a group of students from the Shiraz University of Technology who are amazed with the “wwwalk” and assail him with all kind of questions.

      In Fasa Jean is welcomed by a group of friends who lavish him with constant attention.  He reaches Darab on October 13th and I do not have a word from him for a whole week. Looking at the maps of the region where he is walking, we can see that the cities are fewer and smaller.  Internet access is almost nonexistent.   Finally an email arrives from Bandar Abbas on October 26th.   On the evening of the 29th, he phones me from the Office of Tourism of the province of Hormozgan.

     “The famous hospitality that we allot to the Iranian people is not overrated! They are one of the most welcoming and warm-hearted people I have met so far. The people from this Office of Tourism are fantastic with me. They gave me the ticket for the ferry that will bring me to Dubai tomorrow and this evening, I was invited to a party in honor of my wwwalk in their country. Walking in Iran was most pleasant!”

“No one walks so safely as one who walks humbly and harm-lessly with great love and great faith.  For such a person gets through to the good in others (and there is good in everyone), and therefore cannot be harmed.  This works between in-dividuals, it works between groups and it would work between nations if nations had the courage to try it.”      Peace Pilgrim


Peace Pilgrims        (top)
by Olga Bonfiglio

This article appeared on the Common Dreams website on July 12, 2007 and is used with the author's permission.

    It was truly inspiring to hear that Ashley Casale, 19, and Michael Israel, 18, decided to walk 3,000 miles across the country for peace. They began their journey on May 21, 2007 in San Francisco and plan to end up in Washington, D.C. on September 11. Such a commitment to the cause of peace is unusual and admirable!

     The two teenagers have been discouraged, however, by the negative reception they have received by some people and by the lack of participation by those who support the peace movement.

     Actually, their reaction seems to be universal for peace activists across the country who put much time and energy into standing for peace only to be ignored by the media and dismissed by the now-miniscule number of Bush-supporters. What is even more baffling is that they are thanked and congratulated by the 70 percent of those who want the United States to end the war in Iraq - but who do nothing about it.

     Perhaps we need to look at our peace activism in a different way.

     On January 1, 1953, a 44-year-old woman began a journey that would amount to her walking 25,000 miles over the next 28 years of her life.

     Her first walk began in Pasadena, California, at the head of the Rose Bowl Parade so that she would be seen. She then set out to deliver two petitions to President Eisenhower: one to end the Korean War and one to establish a Department of Peace. The third petition she delivered to the United Nations: a request to disarm the world and redirect the funds for arms to funds for human need. She went by the name of Peace Pilgrim.

     Peace Pilgrim was distressed over the world at that time so she prayed and contemplated what she could do about it. The nuclear age had begun, the Korean War was on, and Senator Joe McCarthy was out hunting communists.

     The five-foot-two woman wore a blue tunic, the color of peace, with white letters that read “Peace Pilgrim.” She carried no money, made no plans, and sometimes slept in haystacks, drain pipes, or barns. Sometimes she didn’t eat.

     Peace Pilgrim didn’t approach other people but instead waited until people approached her. They often invited her to their house. She would talk with them about her life story of transformation and commitment to peace. This would inevitably prompt questions for them such as:

  • Wouldn’t it be better to uplift each other rather than destroy each other?
  • How am I going to live a meaningful life?
  • What choices have I made in my life already?
  • What do I need to change in my life to make a difference?

     Peace Pilgrim was invited to give presentations in churches, schools and in homes; she spoke on radio and television. She corresponded with thousands of followers and answered every letter (through her sister in New Jersey) and published a newsletter, Peace Pilgrim’s Progress.

     In 1972 Peace Pilgrim came to Kalamazoo to speak at Western Michigan University. Amy Anderson attended the lecture as part of a philosophy class she was taking there.

     “I was so inspired and overwhelmed by her,” said Amy, “that I asked the woman next to me, my classmate, if we shouldn’t invite Peace Pilgrim to lunch.” She agreed and the three women met at the Anderson home for a lunch of scrambled eggs and green grapes. Throughout the afternoon they talked about Peace Pilgrim’s adventures as a walker, how she got started walking and ways she spread peace from one person to another.

     At the conclusion of their visit, Amy offered Peace Pilgrim a bunch of grapes to carry with her, but she refused saying that she didn’t carry food with her. Amy then offered Peace Pilgrim a ride to her next location, about 40 minutes away, partially by freeway. Peace Pilgrim usually avoided walking on freeways so she accepted Amy’s offer, but only as far as the exit.

     “She got out of the car, thanked me and walked on her way. I never saw her again,” said Amy with a sigh. “But Peace Pilgrim affected my life a great deal. She was a blessing to me. I thought that if she could affect others like she affected me, then her life was a blessing to the United States and the world.”

     Amy showed me her paperback book on Peace Pilgrim and handled it reverently. She pointed to the back cover that quoted Peace Pilgrim’s mantra: “I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”

     “Actually, Peace Pilgrim’s philosophy was rather simple,” said Amy as she opened the book and read from the inside cover page: “This is the way of peace: overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.”

     Amy closed the book, heaved a sigh and shut her eyes momentarily. “That’s what affected my life: that woman and this statement. But I’m just an ordinary person who did what I could to make a difference.”

     Ordinary indeed. As a wife and mother in the 1950s and 60s Amy did all the usual things: school, PTA, church, hospital. She assisted the youth minister at her church for 11 years and recently helped set up the walk-in health clinic there. But Peace Pilgrim took Amy to a new level where she could be “more brave” and less afraid of what other people thought about her activism. “Peace Pilgrim put a little starch in my spine,” said Amy.

     Amy’s foray into the peace movement began with the Nuclear Freeze movement of the 1980s. She served as secretary of the local group for nine years and collected documents on everything this group ever did. She inadvertently became the Kalamazoo peace movement’s archivist. During the 1990s she worked the cameras for social justice programs at the local cable TV station. Today, at 77, Amy still attends peace activities and sometimes stands on the corner at the peace group’s Sunday vigil.

     Maybe, like Amy, we need to be more ordinary. Maybe like Peace Pilgrim, we need to be more confident in our vision. Maybe, like Ashley and Michael, we need to be more willing to do something for peace in public.

Olga Bonfiglio is a professor at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and author of Heroes of a Different Stripe: How One Town Responded to the War in Iraq. She has written for several national magazines on the subjects of social justice and religion. Her website is OlgaBonfiglio.com. Contact herby email at olgabonfiglio@yahoo.com.

Ashley Casale finished her cross-country peace walk on Sept. 10, 2007.  For more information visit marchforpeace.info.

*****



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Friends of Peace Pilgrim
PO Box 2207
Shelton, Connecticut 06484

tel. (203) 926-1581

revised 11/19/2008