Working towards peace and sustainability

Lights of Hope in Our Peace Lanterns

On August 4, 2018 peace-loving mid-Missourians will gather, as they’ve done annually for the past 31 years, to share in making a statement of hope for the future. In a world of Realpolitik, perpetual wars and militarism, some might see this as a pointless gesture. Others, aware of the power of intention, see it otherwise, and thus we persist, coming together each year to renew a shared commitment.

When those who’ve not previously participated hear of a “Hiroshima-Nagasaki Memorial Peace Gathering,” they often, understandably, think that we are gathering primarily to remember those who died in the atomic bombing of these two cities in 1945.

Of course, remembering the hundreds of thousands of innocent people who lost their lives in these horrific bombings is one part of why we gather. Our primary reason for gathering, however, is looking forward, not back, and aiming to mobilize pressure in the present to co-create a future free of the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Nuclear weapons are one of two human-created, existential threats; the other being climate change. The intention of the United States and the other eight nuclear-armed nations to maintain their arsenals in perpetuity, serves to legitimate the pursuit of these hellishly destructive devices. More fingers on the button means the use of these weapons is more likely. And our own government’s commitment to a phenomenally expensive, so-called “modernization” only spurs new arms races with the Russians and the Chinese, again, making us less safe.

And, when we gather, while we address the need for mutual, verifiable, incremental and universal nuclear disarmament, we also always tie together our concerns regarding nukes with broader concerns: ending the permanent war and the power of the Military-Industrial Complex, pursuing social and economic justice and addressing the very real threats of climate change and environmental unsustainability.
Participants decorate lanterns in preparation for the lantern float.
This annual gathering is in some ways a ritual, a coming together of a community. We break bread; sharing food potluck style. We listen to music, speakers and poets. Most symbolically we decorate commemorative lanterns, and, when it gets dark we light candles in the lanterns and float them on the lake. In the Japanese tradition the candle-boats each carry the soul of someone whose life has passed.

To us, however, the lights have an additional meaning. The tiny candle flame symbolizes hope; our hope for peace and a nuclear-free future. It’s another expression of the notion, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” Each of us creates a lantern and they are sent out on the water as a group, symbolizing our shared hopes and prayers. Ultimately, our August Peace Gathering is an opportunity for the community to come together and embrace hope; hope for a future in which we finally get our priorities straight, a future that works for all of us.

We hope you will join us.  For more info, please CLICK HERE.

Serving line for the potluck.
Eating and visiting.
Peace educator and activist Bill Wickersham addresses the crowd.