It was cold, raining, and you could see the breath of every individual standing around the pole in the ground. All you could hear was the rain. The span of 10 minutes seemed like an eternity, though it was calm, casual but most importantly, peaceful.
The Peace Pole: the well-made monument that stands tall and firm within the beautiful grass in between Babson Library and Weiser Hall at Springfield College. Though it appears to be just something sticking out of the ground, it has much more meaning than that. Rather, it is a symbol of hope for the community.
With the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” running down the pole vertically in eight different languages, it offers guidance for the Springfield College community. For anybody to come, at any time they choose.
Manjunath Burdekar, a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program, was appalled at some of the terrible things happening around the world. Immediately, he took action, pushing every thing else aside for the good of the community. Once he proposed the idea of bringing a Peace Pole to the college, there were no signs of turning back.
“My first reaction was, ‘What can I do?’” Burdekar said. He wanted to make a change to the college.
After proposing the idea to countless faculty and staff members including Dr. Julia Chevan, the head of the Physical Therapy Department, Burdekar earned the green light to start up the project.
“The Pole comes in many languages. Ours has eight, which consists of every language that our students speak on this campus. It’s a common bond having the Peace Pole on campus,” Chevan said.
Although the pole doesn’t stand out much, it’s not supposed to. Students are encouraged to become more interested in the project, and to be aware of the importance of peace. It stands there for the purpose of being a sense of guidance and relaxation. It is a way of channeling out any negativity just for a little while, to make things okay.
“The way I see it, it’s more like a ripple effect. It’s not just one impact. It’s almost like a chain,” Burdekar said.
With the pole being right next to the library, it brings curiosity to the students, faculty and staff since they’re walking right by it every day. And as the pole project was ready to begin, Burdekar picked a day to start it.
That day was April 20, which just happens to be the day of the Columbine shootings and the birth of Adolf Hitler.
“I didn’t even realize the significance of the day, I just picked a random date out of a hat,” Burdekar said. “There’s some irony to it with not realizing that, and it was huge, but I believe everything happens for a reason,” Burdekar said.
The Peace Pole is an impact to everyone without being next to it. It’s there for a reason, and that’s to do its job of bringing peace to the community.
As of this year, the college has been offering opportunities for the students to attend the pole more often. On Monday mornings a group will meet at 8 a.m. and on Wednesdays, a group will meet at 12 p.m. The goal is to commit to peace activism and become aware of the changes occurring to the college and the community.
David McMahon, the director of the United Campus Ministry and Spiritual Life Center, is also a contributor to these groups. McMahon commits himself to a moment of silence for peace when he cannot make time and attend the group, showing that you don’t have to be at the pole to dedicate yourself.
“To my mind, the symbolism is that, peace as a global reality is cross culture and also begins in your local community. It is hoped that the Peace Pole will serve as a reminder that we each need to play a role as peace makers,” McMahon said.
The Peace Pole is open to all; it’s not for a specific group. It’s an open invitation to all who want to be involved in making peace. Whether somebody wants to take a few moments to meditate, reflect, pray, or even think about peace in general.
“Lately, people have been offering short readings from a variety of different traditions. We have folks who represent pretty diverse cultural and religious backgrounds,” McMahon said. “It isn’t just for those individuals. In a way the gathering to reflect upon peace helps remind others that they can work this into their own lives,” McMahon said.