BY MICHAELA KILGALLEN
For Your Niskayuna
NISKAYUNA — May peace prevail on Earth. That is the message that St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish and thousands of other organizations are spreading through The Peace Pole Project, a global peace initiative.
The parish planted a Peace Pole bearing those five words May 17 at both of its locations, on Rosa Road and Union Street. The poles are only two of the estimated 250,000 registered Peace Poles around the world.
The organization’s mission statement is described in the quotation “May peace prevail on Earth,” which appears in varying languages on every pole.
“It all starts with the self,” said Ann Marie Robustelli of The World Peace Sanctuary in Wassaic. “The whole point is to serve as a reminder that peace comes from the power of thoughts, words and actions.”
Individuals or organizations can create their own Peace Poles and register them through the Peace Pole Project or purchase them directly from the organization.
“We opted to procure the poles because there would be an element of uniformity,” said Elaine Bair, an active parishioner of St. Kateri for the past 40 years. “If you see them like in Central Park you’ll recognize them because it’s a very similar style.”
The quote “May Peace Prevail on Earth” can be inscribed in 67 different languages, including Latin, Swahili, Tagalong and Sanskrit.
“We chose English naturally, we chose Spanish because we have a sister parish in Mexico, and we were very excited to choose Mohawk because St. Kateri of course was of the Mohawk tribe,” said Bair. “For the fourth language on one pole, we have Hebrew and on the other pole we have Arabic, and those two represent the Jewish and Muslim traditions in addition to our own Christian tradition.”
Begun after WWII
The Peace Pole dates back to the mid-20th century, when founder Masahisa Goi created the design and the sentiment after the destruction of World War II.
“It was . . . in Japan after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Robustelli said. “Our founder was also a teacher and musician. He went into deep meditation and those five words came to him. He would go to parks and teach. People would gravitate toward him and it grew.”
The initiative might be decades old, but its message remains relevant and timely today. A few of the most notable Peace Poles stand at the Allenby bridge between Israel and Jordan, the pyramids at El Giza and the site of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment in South Africa.
“All of those little things add up,” said Ron Severson, the parish coordinator of Christian service and outreach at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish. “You might not be able to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict or all of the stuff that’s going on in the Middle East individually, but if we each do your little part here, that all adds up and hopefully does make a difference.”
There are several other Peace Poles in Schenectady, including at the First Reformed Church in the Stockade, the First United Methodist Church on State Street, Jackson Gardens at Union College, the Unitarian Church on Wendell Avenue, Temple Gates of Heaven and Central Park.
Last year, The Schenectady Neighbors for Peace held a peace walk around the area, visiting each Peace Pole to commemorate the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Although The Peace Pole Project is not affiliated with a religion or government, many churches support the mission of peace that the organization presents. “There’s an openness beyond being Catholic,” said Kris Rooney, the pastoral associate for adult faith, enrichment and evangelization at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish. “We just want peace.”