Excerpted from the Yale Divinity School student publication Dear Theo, April 18, 2006
On April 24, a Peace Pole is coming to YDS! As a silent prayer for peace, the Peace Pole will proclaim May Peace Prevail on Earth in many different languages, thus linking our community with more than 200,000 communities in 180 countries around the world who have planted Peace Poles in the same spirit of peace.
The Peacemaking Initiative of YDS is installing the Peace Pole at this time in order to make a public witness to peace in a time of war. Our hope is that it will become an ever-present reminder of our call to be peacemakers, a recognition of our complicity in the horror of war, and a rallying place for people of good will on the YDS campus.
To this end, many who have been working on this project are now writing to you, Theo, to express our thoughts on the meaning of this action. For although, for me, the Peace Pole will represent a vision of peace that includes, first and foremost, total nuclear disarmament; for others, the Peace Pole will represent other prayers with other priorities. What our prayers share, however, is that spirit of peace that calls us into action on behalf of the “least of these” (Mt. 25:40), in bold defiance of the powers of violence and death.
It is our hope that the Peace Pole can witness to the presence of this transforming spirit, announcing to all who come to YDS that this is a place dedicated to peace on earth. We invite you, Theo, to join us April 24 for the installation ceremony. – Canaan Harris '07 S.T.M.
I think of the Peace Pole as being like an acupuncture needle inserted, in one of the many "meridians" circling the globe, for the healing of the earth and all of God's people. The first Peace Pole was inserted at Hiroshima in 1955. Since then, approximately 200,000 more have been installed. Yale Divinity School 's is not the first in New Haven ; there is a Peace Pole, for example, outside of the Fairhaven Community Health Center on Grand Avenue. For me the Peace Pole is: (1) a prayer expressing deep yearning, sighs often too deep for words, for peace to prevail; (2) a commitment by the Yale Divinity School community, joined in solidarity with thousands of other communities, vigorously to seek peace and pursue it; (3) a visible sign, a reminder each time we look at it, of God's blessing of peace, of Shalom, promised and given to all; and (4) a responsibility to be a people who work as justice-seekers, peace-makers, nonviolent activists, and healers, for the repair of the world. – Allie Perry '80 M.Div.
It is way past time I help to plant a Peace Pole. I worked for peace, so long ago, during the Vietnam War. Then, once the war was over, I went into retreat, into teaching and writing and building our houses. These were necessary things. But I “pretended” the world was not at war, which it always was—and still is. For me this pole is a profound reminder, a reminder rooted in the earth that I cannot escape my own Christian mission to work for the world's peace. Thank you for this calling back. – Eileen Sypher '07 M.Div.
It is a great honor to be at Yale Divinity School for this symbolic installation of our commitment to peace. This institution has a tradition of social justice and peace, as typified by the work and witness of William Sloane Coffin during the Vietnam War. Now more than ever it is important that we at the Divinity School continue this legacy by expressing our solidarity with people all over the world who are working and praying for peace in the midst of the strife and violence. It is my hope that the peace pole will serve as a symbol of our prayers for peace, call us into a deeper understanding of community, and help to nourish us to live an engaged faith. I cannot help but think that Rev. William Sloane Coffin would be delighted at this event, and charge us to continue to let our faith convictions move us to work for peace in the world. – Matilda Cantwell '07 M.Div.
Bill Coffin remarked, "Peace does not come rolling in on the wheels of inevitability. We can't just wish for peace. We have to will it...suffer for it, demand it from our governments as if peace were God's most cherished hope for humanity, as indeed it is." Wishing for peace is never enough -in the midst of the dreaming for peace there must be concrete acts of justice and solidarity. The Peace Pole represents a step toward these actions. It steps beyond prayer in Chapel and beyond liturgical longing. For me the Peace Pole represents solidarity with communities around the world longing for peace in the midst of justice. The Peace Pole has the opportunity to move a community toward conversation around peace and to illicit actions that push humanity towards God's call and Christ's command of love and peace. –Brandon Johnson '08 M.Div.
For me, the installation of the Peace Pole at YDS represents a response to what Walter Wink has lifted up as “Jesus' Third Way.” Jesus' Third Way is a commitment to nonviolent direction action,” “a new response, fired in the crucible of love, that promises to liberate the oppressed from evil even as it frees the oppressor from sin.” The Peace Pole reflects an intentional commitment on behalf of the community to pray and strive for peace in all that we do. Additionally, the Peace Pole reflects our solidarity and commitment to peacemakers throughout the world. Finally, the Peace Pole reflects our commitment to being a safe, welcoming, and hospitable space -a place where despite all of our differences we can join together in worship, study, and fellowship in a space free from violence. – Jessica Anschutz '07 M.Div.
Among American women over the age of 18, 78 women are raped every hour. Every hour. Look around your classrooms. 1 in 3 of those women will be or has been raped or sexually assaulted. Many sexual assaults are committed by friends, spouses, acquaintances--by people who have professed care for these women. The Peace Pole reminds me that for a third of American women, their lives are decidedly NOT peaceful; they have been broken by the violence of rape or sexual assault. The Peace Pole emphasizes for me the responsibility incumbent upon each of us, male and female, pastor, counselor, professor, and social worker, to speak and act against sexualized violence, to make our homes and our churches hospitable to survivors, to sow God's justice and peace where women have known violence. – Elizabeth Marie Melchionna '06 M.Div.
I like the idea of poles as markers of the place where ideas and reality meet. Consider that wonderfully icy idea of a north pole. It promises guidance, direction, and perspective in a barren expanse. I think of the Peace Pole as doing something similar. It offers our community a stable point of perspective in what can otherwise be a bewildering world filled with conflicts and wars. – Joel Hanisek '06 M.Div.
Many different reasons bring us to this place. I would venture that one reason we all share is a desire to dedicate our lives to serving humanity. One of the ways we do that at YDS is through prayer. Each time any of us walks through the Quad or glances out a window, we can be reminded in that moment to stop and say this prayer "May peace prevail on Earth". Let this be our prayer. May we become more and more mindful of our global responsibilities to one another as God's children. May we be transformed to live for peace and harmony in ourselves and in our world. – Sara Shisler '08 M.Div.
As you may have already noticed, people do a lot of crazy violent things. Let's be mindful that peace requires listening, building, and supporting. Nourishing not attacking. Peace is needed in the simplicity of our desires and deeds in order to prevent the many complicated aftermaths that are imbedded in violence. While at Yale, work towards peace and avoid hypocrisy. It's an intellectual challenge. – Joe Primo '06 M.Div.
I want the Peace Pole to be here because I am tired of seeing broken bodies. Being homeless in America does strange and horrible things to your body. There are the rotten teeth and the swollen feet and scabies. All the amputations from diabetes. There are the grease burns and the mangled hands that come from doing work no one wants to do. Track marks, lip blisters from crack pipes, open sores. Then there are the things we do to each other -slashing cuts, badly healed bones, head injuries, gunshot wounds. There's also the smell. I am tired of it and I want peace for them and for me. – Anonymous
The Peace Pole is coming! How exciting! The five different languages on the pole represent the many languages and peoples of the world. Let the pole be a reminder of this tremendous diversity and how we should respect and honor it. Let the pole also remind us of the suffering in the world, sources of hatred and violence, from which we should never be shielded. Let the pole also remind us of the many communities of faith for whom world peace is a never-dying hope. How does one pray for peace in the world and for countries ravaged by war? By loving the stranger in our midst. We practice peace everyday by the relationships we intentionally form and keep. World peace is the eschatological hope of those intentional practices. – Ian Skoggard '08 M.Div.
A Peace Pole may not look or sound like much. After all, it's only a post of wood stuck in the ground with a few nice words written on it in different languages. And if only one peace pole existed in the world, it might not mean much. But the fact that there are Peace Poles around the world--in religious and secular settings, in academic and social venues--and the very fact of different languages inscribed on its faces means that the peace pole is a meaningful symbol. It is a symbol of peace to all who see it. It is a symbol of unity with other peace-minded communities. It is a symbol of solidarity with places that are lacking peace. And it is a call to action to those of us who are able to be peacemakers in our homes, our communities, our Church, and our world. I pray that the Peace Pole at YDS can serve as a summons to the community here and to the world to grow in peace. – Katya Ouchakof '06 M.Div.