| Event reports
Interfaith Peace Walk, July 27-28, 2009
Cuba Caravan visits, July 9, 2009
Iraq war protest concludes, May 2009
Reconciling the past - August 9, 2007 Memorial
Peace flows as 2007 Interfaith walk visits Hanford
Group rallies against Iraq war on 4th anniversary
Voices for Peace ring out on 3rd anniversary of Iraq war
Interfaith Peace Walk 2005 inspires
Monks, activists begin pilgrimage at Hanford (July 2005)
Hiroshima Flame visits Hanford (January 2002)
| People reports
IN MEMORIAM: Jackie Hudson
IN MEMORIAM: R. J. (Dick) Brouns
IN MEMORIAM: David King
Transit system renames center for Ed Frost
IN MEMORIAM: Katherine "Nyla" Brouns
IN MEMORIAM: Patrick Buller
IN MEMORIAM: Norb Drouhard
Jackie Hudson, activist nun for nuclear disarmament
A year ago, Jackie Hudson, 76, a Dominican nun based in Kitsap County, crawled under a barbed-wire fence in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in protest of the plant that produced enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. She was found guilty and was awaiting her sentence. It was part of her life mission to support nuclear disarmament.
Sister Hudson was raised in Saginaw, Mich., joined the Dominican order in 1952, and taught music in schools for 29 years. She died August 3 of multiple myeloma at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton.
Longtime friend Sue Ablao, who often demonstrated with Sister Hudson, said social justice was her life’s work. The two met in Michigan when Ablao walked into the Institute for Global Education in Grand Rapids, where Sister Hudson was program director. When asked what she could do, Sister Hudson said she had three buses heading to Washington, D.C., for a protest and Ablao was hooked.
In the early 1990s, the two decided to move to Washington state, where Ablao’s family lived, and became caretakers at the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, which organizes protests at the nearby Trident nuclear submarine base. Some 1,700 thermonuclear warheads are based there.
Sister Hudson was arrested at least a dozen times and also served time in prison, said Ablao. Once, she and two other women went into a Minuteman missile site in Colorado, pounded on the cover of a missile silo and prayed for nuclear disarmament, Ablao said. For that she served 18 months in federal prison.
Her brother, Frank Hudson, said his sister loved teaching and that her passion for nuclear disarmament was an extension of her care and concern for young people. “A lot of what drove her had to do with keeping the world safe for the kids.”
A memorial service was held for Sister Jackie Hudson on August 13 at the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.
– edited from the Seattle
Times, August 12, 2011
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2011
R. J. “Dick” Brouns, 1917-2009
Richard (Dick) J. Brouns, age 91, one of our staunchest protesters of the war in Iraq, died August 25, 2009, after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Always together with his late wife, Nyla, who died two years ago, Dick committed his life to working for world peace, social justice and human dignity. Together Dick and Nyla were active in organizations such as CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), NAACP, United Farm Workers, Democratic Party, Tri-Cities Food Bank, Christ the King Church social justice and peace committee and World Citizens for Peace.
Dick was born in Osakis, Minnesota, on October 2, 1917, the oldest of 7 children. He grew up on the family farm and, after high school graduation, attended St. John’s University in Collegeville MN and Iowa State University, where he obtained a doctorate degree in chemistry. Dick moved to Richland WA in 1948 to work as a chemist for General Electric Co. and later Battelle, Pacific Northwest Laboratory, until his retirement in the early 1990s. In 1952, Dick and Katherine Nyla Neidhold married and had 55 loving years together.
Dick left an indelible mark on almost everyone he encountered and was a powerful example to his six children and ten grandchildren. He was a pillar of the community whose deep faith, passion for nature, and never-ending love for his family, friends and community will be greatly missed.
A funeral Mass of Christian Burial was held September 1, 2009, at Christ the King Catholic Church in Richland.
David C. King, 1926-2009
David C. King, 83, a veteran of World War II and one of our dedicated members during the Nuclear Freeze era of the 1980s, died September 6, 2009, in Monmouth, Oregon. David was born March 8, 1926, in Berea, Ohio, where he graduated from high school in 1944. Four months later he was drafted into the Army, went through basic training and shipped out to combat in the Philippines. When World War II ended, he volunteered for the 11th Airborne Division and spent the balance of his service days in Sendia, Japan.
After being discharged in 1946, David earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Case Institute of Technology, Cleveland, Ohio, and a masters of science degree from Oregon State University. All of his postwar worklife was as an engineer in the nuclear industry, which brought him to the Tri-Cities in the early 1970s to work for the U.S. Department of Energy. In 1983 David married JoAnn Gayler Grund.
A longtime Methodist, David’s interests were the church, peace and social justice. When he retired from DOE in 1988, he and JoAnn moved to Monmouth, where he volunteered in many areas of community service. In 2002, David and JoAnn were presented with the Monmouth-Independence Chamber of Commerce First Citizen Award.
David’s calm demeanor and gentle humor gave him a quiet charisma. He will be long remembered for his goodness, integrity and the joy felt when in his presence. In addition to his wife JoAnn, David is survived by three children, three stepchildren, and 16 grandchildren.
A Memorial service was held Sept. 14, 2009, at Christ’s Church Methodist and Presbyterian United in Monmouth, Oregon.
Transit system renames center for Ed Frost
Ben Franklin Transit recently renamed the transit center on Kennewick’s Huntington Street as the Edwin G. Frost Transit Center at Huntington. It’s to honor Ed Frost, World Citizens for Peace chairman 1989-1995, for his distinguished service to the transit agency. Tim Fredrickson, transit’s general manager, said, “Ed has been a part of every major development and decision that has made BFT the great organization it is today.”
Ed retired in January 2009 as Director of Development after working for the transit agency for 27 years. A dedication ceremony is planned in June.
– info from the Tri-City Herald, May 22, 2009PeaceMeal, May/June 2009
Katherine “Nyla” Brouns, 1922-2007
We are saddened to report the death of Katherine “Nyla” Brouns, a longtime Tri-Cities activist for social justice and peace. Nyla, 85, died peacefully at home on September 1, 2007.
From the time she was arrested picketing for racial equality in the 1960s through her crusading for migrant farmworker rights to her public opposition to the Iraq war, Nyla was accustomed to being in the minority. She prided herself in having rebelled through tumultuous times and having witnessed the Tri-Cities’ conversion into a more diverse and egalitarian community. Although her accomplishments remained grass roots, family and friends attest to her conviction in her ideals and her courage in promoting unpopular positions.
Nyla respected rules and institutions, according to her youngest son, Tom Brouns, but she balanced that with a passion for justice and peace that often caused her to break the rules.
In the 1960s, Nyla battled for racial equality one-on-one. In one case, she pretended to be the white renter of a middle-class Richland home when a black friend found it difficult to break through the racial barrier. In another instance, she protested a racist speaker at a local elementary school. She didn’t change the world, but she made a difference in her corner of the world.
Nyla was born on June 5, 1922, in Wausau, Wisconsin, where she graduated from high school in 1940 and from Saint Mary’s Hospital Nursing School in 1943. She then joined the U.S. Army Nurses Corps and proudly served her country during World War II, earning the rank of lieutenant. Nyla moved to Richland in 1946, where she met and married Richard “Dick” Brouns.
Nyla had a long and successful career as a public health nurse before her retirement in 1988. She and Dick were active members of their church as well as the Democratic Party, plus local and national organizations for racial equality, social justice, women’s causes and peace. They were both regulars on the sidewalk during WCPeace’s five years of protesting the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq. For their commitment and dedication to public witness for peace, Nyla and Dick were awarded a special Inspiration Award by WCPeace in 2005.
In addition to her husband of 55 years, Nyla is survived by their 6 children, 10 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.
edited from the Tri-City (Wash.) Herald
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2007
Reconciling the past
A beautiful summer evening brought some 48 grownups and children together in Richland’s John Dam Plaza on August 9, 2007 to commemorate an historic tragedy and express hope that it never be repeated. Our Atomic Cities Peace Memorial ceremony was an hour-long program of speech, song, and prayer that took place within a circle of peace lanterns on the anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bombing. We were especially honored to have with us Rev. Senji Kanaeda and Rev. Gilberto Perez, Buddhist monks from the Nipponzan Myohoji temple on Bainbridge Island. They returned to Richland, following completion of the Interfaith Peace Walk they led in July from Hanford to the Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor, to do a chant and prayer on the Memorial program.
In accordance with the theme of reconciliation, those who died on both sides of the war with Japan were memorialized. Representing all the Americans who died in the war was a United States flag that has flown over the sunken battleship Arizona in Pearl Harbor. Representing the Japanese who died was the “Bell of Peace,” a model of a bell recovered from the ruins of a church at ground zero in Nagasaki. The “Bell of Peace” — a gift from the mayor of Nagasaki to the city of Richland in August 1985 — was rung in memory of both the Americans and the Japanese who died in the war.
– PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2007
Peace flows as 2007 interfaith walk visits Hanford
Gene Weisskopf, Vice Chairman
Photo caption: Interfaith Peace Walk 2007 at the Hanford 300 Area gate. Photo by Gene Weisskopf.
The Interfaith Peace Walk 2007, a 300-mile pilgrimage for nuclear disarmament and world peace, arrived in Richland on Monday, July 23, under the theme “Hiroshima-Nagasaki to Hope.” The troupe of peace walkers was led by organizers Rev. Senji Kanaeda and Rev. Gilberto Perez, monks from the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple on Bainbridge Island (nipponzan.net), and Rev. Gyoki Makino, who was visiting from Tokyo. Accompanying them were ten fellow walkers, including two high-school students from Japan and others from as far away as California.
Following an opening ceremony in the John Dam Plaza, the walkers were invited to Shalom United Church of Christ for a wonderful dinner, followed by an Evensong service of music, poetry, prayers, meditations, photographic slides, and, most evidently, warmth and fellowship.
After a night’s sleep at Christ the King School, the peace walkers set out Tuesday morning on Stevens Drive for a 7-mile walk to the Hanford 300Area. The walk itself was not a protest but a prayer walk, accompanied by beating drums and chanting “Na-Mu Myo Ho Ren-Ge Kyo,” which means “Peace beyond understanding through spiritual enlightenment.”
The weather was not as hot as the previous day, with a light breeze and skies above clear for 100 miles in all directions. At the south gate of the 300 Area, the group paused, said prayers, and no doubt reflected on the historical path they had followed 62 years after Hanford produced the plutonium for the Nagasaki atomic bomb.
That evening, members of Christ the King Church served dinner to the walkers at the church. Lights-out came earlier rather than later after the day’s 14-mile round trip in the fresh, dry air of a Richland summer. The following morning, the group drove off to Centralia, where they would continue their walk, eventually passing through Seattle and culminating August 6 at the Trident submarine base at Bangor, home base of some 2,000 thermonuclear warheads.
The interest and attention the walkers drew went a long way toward reminding us that, after 62 years, we’re still living under a nuclear peril. It was good to know that there are many people in the world, who are working incessantly, albeit quietly, to eliminate the threat of nuclear annihilation. To paraphrase the theme of their walk and their work, “We can’t have world peace without abolishing nuclear weapons.”
Group rallies against Iraq war on 4th anniversary
Gene Weisskopf, Vice Chairman
The Iraq war has gone on longer than our involvement in World War II, and there’s still no end in sight. On Saturday, March 17, 2007, World Citizens for Peace held a rally in Richland’s John Dam Plaza to commemorate the 4th anniversary of the war. Voices were heard that expressed our continued revulsion, outrage, dismay, horror, and regret at the carnage we have spread in Iraq and the instability we have sown in our international relations. The list of dire consequences goes on and on.
The day was exceptionally warm, a perfect day for an outdoor event. Although perhaps too perfect, given the purpose of the gathering. I stood in as master of ceremonies for the event, a responsibility and small chore that was both an honor and wonderful opportunity to speak out against the war, yet again.
This year, lacking anything new and inspiring to say about this four year old debacle, I harkened back to words spoken 40 years ago about another war in another far off place. These words carried extra weight, because they were spoken by Martin Luther King in his campaign to end the war in Vietnam. Although most remembered for his civil rights campaign, the Reverend was also vehemently opposed to the war we were fighting in Vietnam.
After my introductory words, I brought out my guitar and sang a 42-year-old song by Phil Ochs called “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore.” The title is the theme and refrain of the song, and its message speaks out every bit as true today as it did during the Vietnam era.
Next on the agenda, Ed Frost, former chairman of World Citizens for Peace, spoke about the constant refrain we hear, “Support the troops.” He pointed out how the recent revelations of sub-standard conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center are yet further evidence of just how little the Bush administration is actually supporting our troops.
Then, in a show of how like minds can share the same pathways, our barefoot Ambassador of Peace, Victoria Lewis, presented a selection of quotes from Martin Luther King’s same speech about the Vietnam war. The overlap in her thoughts and mine only emphasized the tragedy of our nation not having learned the lessons of the Vietnam war. Now we are repeating that tragic history in Iraq.
Then it was time for a group song, the still relevant and touching, “If I had a Hammer,” from 1949 by Lee Hays and Pete Seeger. It was an appropriate lead-in to the ringing of the Peace Bell, introduced by WCPeace chairman Jim Stoffels. Jim invited all of us to take a turn at ringing the bell for peace in the world. Some said a few words before they rang the bell, others simply let the bell speak for them.
Our youngest attendee, Gizi Lewis (just recently a teenager, daughter of Victoria and Bob), eloquently expressed her own regrets at having to grow up while this war is raging, without any way to stop it. Although adults, in theory, have more to say about wars and the like, Gizi’s words were truly a powerful stroke against the madness of our “adult” behavior.
At the end of the program, we all moved with our signs and flags to the sidewalk along George Washington Way, facing the fifth year of a war that didn’t have to be.
IN MEMORIAM: Patrick Buller
We are saddened to report the untimely death of Patrick Buller, one of the founding members of World Citizens for Peace in 1982 and husband of Eileen Buller, our founding secretary.
At that time, Patrick was a communications engineer working for Rockwell Hanford Co. In August 1983 during our Nagasaki-Hiroshima Memorial ceremony, Patrick spoke out in public criticism of Hanford operations for the first time. President Ronald Reagan had restarted production of weapons grade plutonium at Hanford after it had been shut down during the 1970s. On October 1, 1983, the day scheduled for the PUREX plant to again begin chemically separating plutonium from uranium fuel irradiated in the N Reactor, Patrick Buller announced his resignation. The Bullers moved across the Cascade Mountains to Issaquah, where Patrick went to work for the Washington State Patrol at an annual salary $13,000 less than he was making at Hanford.
Patrick died September 18, 2006, at his home in Issaquah, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 70½.
– PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2006
Voices for Peace ring out on 3rd anniversary of Iraq war
Gene Weisskopf, Vice Chairman
The 47 people who gathered in John Dam Plaza in downtown Richland on March 18, 2006 to mark the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq may not have equaled the 7,000 who rallied in New York's Times Square. But when you factor in population, political leanings, and community vocal power, our gathering in Richland was, indeed, huge.
After three and a half years of a nation slipping and being shoved into the yawning pit of an endless, unjustified, unprovoked, and ill-defined war, the day was tinged with dark, looming shadows. But the presence of such a gathering in the face of this national meltdown was a heartening one that certainly bolstered the spiritual backbone of this participant.
I had the honor of playing master of ceremony, which also gave me an opportunity to spend a few minutes pointing out the depths to which our country has slipped over the past three years — speaking of the dark, looming shadows.
Chuck Eaton then took the podium to read four poems from the collection Poets Against the War. He explained how the poetry collective got started, when poet Sam Hamill declined an invitation to the White House before the war began in 2003, because his conscience could not let him take any part in promoting the White House agenda. Instead, he reconstituted Poets Against War, basing it on a similar group that was active during the Vietnam War. You can read about them, as well as some of the 20,000 poems that have been contributed, online at: www.poetsagainstthewar.org
Mike and Shannon Truex brought their guitar, their voices, their musical perspective — and their daughter Miyra — and played and led us in three songs, proving, once again, that peace rallies are great excuses for wonderful music.
Victoria Lewis, our barefoot ambassador of peace, read a letter that Joseph W. DuRocher, a former naval officer, had written to President Bush. In the letter, he expressed his great disappointment, verging on disgust, with the direction our country has gone since we started our war on Iraq. Notably included in the letter were his "boards of rank and Naval Aviator's wings," as he explains in the last paragraph of the letter:
"... I am saddened to give up my wings and bars. They were hard won and my parents and wife were as proud as I was when I earned them over forty years ago. But I hate the torture and death you have caused more than I value their symbolism. Giving them up makes me cry for my beloved country."
To express her empathy for Mr. DuRocher's position, Victoria said she would be mailing her own insignias of service in the Air Force to President Bush, along with a letter that, we're sure, will be every bit as poignant as the one she read.
You can read Mr. DuRocher's entire letter at: www.truthout.org/docs_2006/031106A.shtml
Finally, Jim Stoffels, chairman of World Citizens for Peace, took the podium to explain the origins of the Peace Bell that we normally use at these events. He then invited anyone from the gathering to ring the bell a time or two in the name of peace. Over the next ten minutes, the center of Richland reverberated with the bell's tolling and the unnamed voices of reason who spoke out in the midst of the war's madness.
Interfaith Peace Walk 2005 inspires
The Interfaith Peace Walk, a 300-mile pilgrimage from the Hanford Nuclear Site at Richland, Washington, to the Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor, Washington, began on July 16, 2005, in Richland and ended on August 7 at Bangor. Hanford is the site where plutonium was produced for the Nagasaki atomic bomb and most of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Bangor — located 20 miles across the water from Seattle — is the Navy base for 9 nuclear submarines, 192 Trident ballistic missiles, and approximately 2,000 thermonuclear warheads (hydrogen bombs). It is the largest active nuclear weapons depot in the world.
Under the theme "Hiroshima-Nagasaki to Hope," the Interfaith Peace Walk was in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the catastrophic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs. It was organized by the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple on Bainbridge Island (www.nipponzan.net) and the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (www.gzcenter.org), Poulsbo, Washington.
The Hanford beginning of the Interfaith Peace Walk was not only an inspiring experience, but also a flawless success — except for a few blisters. Forty people attended the opening ceremony in John Dam Plaza on Saturday, July 16. And a dozen completed the 12-mile round-trip trek from Richland to the Hanford 300 Area gate on Sunday, July 17, under bright sun and 95 degree temperature.
The Interfaith Peace Walk approaches the Hanford 300 Area.
Rev.Senji Kanaeda and Rev. Gilberto Perez, monks from the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist temple on Bainbridge Island who organized the walk, led the peace walkers with continual beating of drums and chanting the Japanese prayer, “Na-mu Myo-ho Ren-ge Kyo,” which means, “Peace beyond understanding through spiritual enlightenment.”
The out-of-town peace walkers were especially appreciative for the generous hospitality of two Richland churches: Christ the King Catholic Church and Shalom United Church of Christ. Many thanks to the pastors and people of those congregations, as well as our own World Citizens for Peace-niks who helped and participated.
Chairman Jim Stoffels gave a half-hour slide presentation for the walkers Saturday night on the history of “World Citizens for Peace and The Bomb.” During an hour of discussion that followed, Rev. Kanaeda shared that his parents were living in Kokura, Japan, on August 9, 1945. Kokura was the primary target for the plutonium bomb, but cloud cover prevented visual bombing; so, the B-29 carrying the bomb went on to its secondary target — Nagasaki.
On Monday, July 18, the Interfaith Peace Walk departed for Toppenish, where the walkers were hosted by the Yakama Nation, then through the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River, Portland, and Astoria, Oregon. From there the walk returned to Washington State for segments in Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle, and other communities before reaching the Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor on Hood Canal on August 7.
– PeaceMeal, July/August 2005
Monks, activists begin pilgrimage at Hanford
By Annette Cary, Herald staff
Tri-City (Washington) Herald, Monday, July 18th, 2005
A banner with a red circle symbolizing light shining into the purple darkness fluttered in the wind Sunday afternoon against the backdrop of the gray buildings, the tall stacks and the round dome of the Plutonium Recycle Test Reactor of the Hanford nuclear reservation.
"Peace beyond understanding through spiritual enlightenment," Jim Stoffels, chairman of World Citizens for Peace in Richland, said was a rough translation of the banner's characters.
Head bowed, a Buddhist monk in a saffron cloth beat out a slow rhythm on a drum to accompany his chant for peace.
Kaori Ishikawa of Seattle waved purifying smoke from a white sage smudge stick, a gift from the Hopi in Arizona, over the 17 people who assembled outside the gates of Hanford's 300 Area. Then she crouched in the rocky desert sand to pray beneath the scarf that hid her face.
Sixty years and one day ago, the first nuclear bomb exploded in the New Mexico desert using plutonium produced at Hanford. Within weeks of that test, the United States had dropped two nuclear bombs over Japan, one of them using Hanford plutonium.
World War II would end, but the bombs would kill about 115,000 people.
In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the bombings, the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple on Bainbridge Island organized an interfaith peace walk with stops across Washington and Oregon to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The pilgrimage began this weekend with a stop by a dozen walkers outside the 300 Area gate at south Hanford. Walkers will end their march near Seattle at the Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor, the largest active nuclear weapons depot in the world, on Aug. 7, the day after the anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb.
The eight walkers who will make the pilgrimage to the west will sleep in churches and coffeehouses that have offered space along the route, and be joined at each town by local peace activists for marches and prayers.
In Richland, before the walk to the gates of Hanford Sunday, about 40 people gathered in John Dam Plaza for opening ceremonies Saturday.
There monk Senji Kanaeda, one of two Buddhist monks leading the peace walk, made clear why they had come to Richland. He read the remembrance written by a 16-year-old student 60 years ago in Nagasaki:
"The fire went out and after awhile I went home desperately seeking my mother.
Finally I found her dead and in a horrible shape.
Her head was still smoldering and white smoke was rising up.
I cried in tears and held her body in my arms.
And then, I beat her body madly and smashed it into pieces.
I covered her with hot roof tiles as a mark and left that place wailing."
© 2005 Tri-City Herald. Reprinted with permission.
IN MEMORIAM: Norb Drouhard
Photo caption: Norb Drouhard in front of the Federal Building, Richland, Wash., August 9, 1988.
Norb Drouhard, aka “No More Nukes,” 80, died peacefully in his sleep during the night of April 5, 2005 at the Catholic Worker House in Las Vegas, Nevada. Norb is survived by his former wife and friend, Pat Drouhard of Moses Lake, five children and nine grandchildren.
Following service in the U.S. Army during World War II, Norb farmed for most of his adult life in Kansas and the Columbia Basin of Washington State. After his retirement from farming, Norb became an activist protesting plutonium production at the Hanford Nuclear Site during the Nuclear Freeze movement of the early 1980s. He later began a nomadic life of peace and social justice activism that took him to various parts of the United States and the world.
Norb took part in protests at the Nevada Test Site, the School of Americas (Fort Benning, Georgia), and other important sites in the military-industrial complex. He participated in major transcontinental peace walks in the United States and transnational walks in Europe — including several in the former Soviet Union, where he lived during the mid-1990s.
No matter where he went, Norb’s friendly outspoken manner, button-bedecked attire, and folksy hand-lettered protest signs often caught the attention of the news media. He was a colorful, caring and committed crusader for peace, with a strong sense of morality and social justice. His death is a loss to the peace movement that will be felt most acutely by those of us who respected and loved him.
~ Jim Stoffels, PeaceMeal, March/April 2005
Hiroshima Flame visits Hanford
"Na myo ho go ren-ga kyo."
That constant chant to the beat of drums accompanied the peace walkers on the Hiroshima Flame Interfaith Pilgrimage who visited Richland and Hanford on January 30, 2002. It was one day of a five-month trek across the United States that will end in May at the United Nations in New York.
When the peace pilgrims arrived in Richland around 9:00 am, they began walking at a brisk pace from the south side of town to the Shalom United Church of Christ on the north side. Upon arriving at Shalom Church, there was a service with the Hiroshima Flame — a ceremonial flame originally lit from the rubble of Hiroshima after its atomic bombing.
The main walk of the day was from the church to the Columbia River, north to the Hanford 300 Area gate where there was another period of drumming, chanting and praying, and back — a distance of 12 miles. In the evening, there was a potluck dinner and another service for peace with the Hiroshima Flame at the Community Unitarian Universalist Church in Kennewick.
The peace walk was led by Jun Yasuda, a Japanese Buddhist nun, and Tom Dostou, a Native American peace activist from Massachusetts — the first Native American I ever met with a Boston accent. Tom had been on a Hiroshima Flame peace walk from Tokyo to Hiroshima in 2000 and wanted to do one in the United States that focused on nuclear weapon sites and on Native American lands and peoples affected by them.
Two Buddhist nuns and one monk on the walk belong to Nipponzan Myohoji, a Buddhist order dedicated to peace ministry. Building peace pagodas and walking for peace is what they do. Their order built a peace pagoda on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in 1983 as a peace witness near the Trident nuclear submarine base on Hood Canal.
The importance of their walking for peace was forcefully brought home by a story related to me. An old monk who could no longer walk immolated himself by setting himself on fire. He left a note which said: "My knees are gone. I have no reason to live. I will see you in the next life." The old monk was referring to the next life of reincarnation, not to an afterlife with God. In the Buddhist faith there is no deity.
The Hiroshima Flame Interfaith Pilgrimage has no budget. The peace pilgrims go from town to town, relying on the generosity of local people for food, housing, and transportation.
On Thursday we drove the peace pilgrims to Portland, with a stop at the Umatilla Chemical Weapons Depot in Oregon where a multi-cultural prayer circle was held.
The Buddhists did their drumming and chanting in Japanese. Gregory Dean Smith (aka "Smitty from the City") sang a prayer in an African dialect. Tom Dostou began a Native American chant with gourd rattle that turned into "Amazing Grace."
Special thanks to Shalom United Church of Christ and the Community Unitarian Universalist Church for their kind and generous hospitality. Also to Mike Brown, the Tri-City coordinator of the event, and to Mary Oliver and Gene Weisskopf, who each drove a carload of the peace pilgrims to Portland.
Information and news about the Hiroshima Flame Interfaith Pilgrimage can be found on the website: www.dharmawalk.org
- Jim Stoffels, chairman and editor
PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2002