Activists to take silent stand for peace
Organizers say demonstration scheduled for Sunday ‘not a political thing’
Sunday afternoon, Susy Ross will be standing in the park.
Ross, and others involved in planning Tonganoxie's first "Stand in the Park for Peace" event, would welcome anyone to join them.
From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Ross' group will be in VFW Park, standing in silence.
"This is not a political thing," Ross said. "We're just standing in silence for peace."
Ross was inspired to organize the event after hearing Sharon Mehdi speak during a Women's History Month program at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Mehdi is the author of the children's book, "The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering." It's the story of two grandmothers who stand silently in the park. When people laugh at them, a little girl explains, "They're trying to help save the world." In the storybook, their efforts result in a positive impact on that town, and eventually, on towns around the world.
Ross had not heard of the book until this spring. But after listening to Mehdi read the book aloud and talk about it, Ross felt compelled to spread her message.
"This just kind of hit me," Ross said. "There are some things you have to do and this is the one."
During her talk, Mehdi encouraged her audience to hold silent gatherings on Mother's Day to promote world peace.
She explained that in 1870, Julia Ward Howe, author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," proposed to hold an annual Mother's Day for Peace. Here's an excerpt from the original proclamation: "... to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace."
Helene Miller is among those helping Ross plan the event. Miller's husband, Art, a World War II veteran, will be standing with her.
Helene Miller said a close friend of theirs who is a chaplain is going to go to Walter Reed Medical Center this summer to work with the soldiers returning from Iraq.
As a retired teacher who devoted her career to helping youths, Miller doesn't understand why more than 3,300 United States soldiers have died in Iraq, and countless more have come home wounded.
"I've worked with young people for so many years and this has got to end," Miller said.
Many Americans have a connection to someone who is serving in Iraq, she added.
"These are young kids," Miller said. "I've heard all the stories from the World War II vets, and this is a different war; this is a totally different war. I really want peace in the world, I really do."
Ross said she hopes Tonganoxie residents will join them Sunday. She said 43 states and 15 countries have announced plans to participate in the silent gatherings on Sunday.
And, noting it's Mother's Day and other plans may be in the works, Ross invited people to come for as long as they can -- even if it's just for a few minutes. And if they're unable to stand, they're welcome to bring chairs. Moreover, if they can't make it to the park, Ross has another solution: "Stand up for peace wherever you are," she said.
Like Ross, Miller said this isn't a political event.
"We do want peace in the world ... we've got to keep hoping and praying," Miller said. "We're just a little community here in Kansas, but every community helps."