By: Irene Rotondo
On Wednesday, April 10, an organization of approximately 20 religiously affiliated peoples assembled in the Bell Tower of the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union at Springfield College for an event that fell into the celebration of the Better Together Days. Better Together Days is a program hosted nationwide in various colleges and school systems that promotes the cooperation and love amongst those with different religious beliefs.
Katherine Dugan, the primary religious educator and faculty member at Springfield College, hosted the event. Dugan began with kind opening remarks by welcoming all who attended the gathering and asking for a moment of silence for the Muslim victims affected by the shootings at Christchurch in New Zealand on March 15, 2019.
Dugan also told a short story about a girl from Japan named Sadako Sasaki who was diagnosed with cancer at age 12, which was caused by radiation from the Hiroshima bombing. In Japanese legend, if one is able to make 1,000 origami paper cranes, they are granted one wish. Sasaki’s wish was to survive her cancer; unfortunately, Dugan said, Sasaki died after only making 644 cranes. Sasaki’s friends and family helped to make the rest of the cranes to carry out her wish of life.
In the center of the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union’s Bell Tower, a small wooden table was set with colorful miniature “Peace Cranes” decorating its top. This was an effort to promote peace throughout not just the campus, but the world.
After Dugan’s introductory speech, each person who came to represent their religion was allowed to say some words about what their specific religion was all about, and how their people as a whole felt about peace in the world.
Dr. Anne Herzog, a Quaker, shared some words about peace in the Quaker tradition. Herzog chose a quote from Bayard Rustin, a homosexual African-American Quaker who was alive during Martin Luther King Jr.’s time period, and was a large part of the Civil Rights movement. Herzog quoted from Rustin, “We desire a society of peace and we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. And if we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.”
Herzog went on to explain how the Quakers believe that “war is never the way,” and how peace should be present in any place of major decisions. Herzog also stated that the Quakers believe society as a whole should stop searching for power and instead search for ways to help others.
Representatives from the Buddhist Tradition, Secular, Roman Catholic, and Baha’i each also had their chance to speak about the way that they celebrate and promote peace in their individual religions. After each speaker said their piece, those who were bystanders were also able to speak up about love and peace in their own personal experiences or views.
Springfield College Title IX Coordinator Mary Simeoli, was one of these bystanders, and spoke about how her community and parish reacted when they heard the violence that occurred in New Zealand. “The minister of my community parish was talking about how Jesus Christ was a political radical, whose primary message was to love everybody… talking about a radical action of love without hindrance, or love without condition, is a really strong political action that we have to teach about all the time everyday,” Simeoli said.
Once everyone finished their speeches, Dugan collected the group and led them all in another moment of silence. She then concluded in a large thank you to all who attended the vigil and invited everyone to take one of the small origami cranes with them, so that they may hold peace not only in their pockets, but in their hearts.
Photo Courtesy Irene Rotondo