Give peace a chance

Music, prayer and poetry included in S.U. peace vigil

By Jennika Baines
SUN Assoc. Editor

As President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Dec. 1, a message of peace was coming from the stage at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel as students there participated in an ecumenical vigil for peace.

Newman Association co-president Stephanie Holmes said it was purely coincidence that the vigil was scheduled for the same evening as the president’s address in which he announced plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

The ecumenical peace vigil included musical performances, poetry, Scripture and religious readings and the recitation of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The idea for the peace vigil came from campus minister Terri Condon’s experience as a youth minister at St. Cecilia’s Church in Solvay. For the past two years, a vigil for peace has been held on the World Day of Peace in May. She came to the students with the idea of holding a similar event on the campus.

“They thought that this was something that they would like to do and I think that they had their own vision of what they wanted to occur,” Condon said.

Holmes said she and co-president Sarah Hinds wanted the event to draw in as many faiths as possible, and they put up flyers hoping to pique interest. Because the Catholic Center has its own building, though, she said they didn’t have strong connections with other faith groups represented at Hendricks, which is an ecumenical worship space.

“We just decided we would work with who we had,” she said. “We thought it would be a really nice way to bring an end to the semester and the start of the Christmas season.”

“So often when we think of peace, we think of a world without war, a world without violence, but it means so much more than that,” Hinds said as the evening began. Each selection that evening was performed in a spirit of peace as those attending were asked to reflect upon soldiers, SU students who had died, as well as victims of abuse and of social injustice.

Maya Angelou’s poem “Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem,” which was first read at the Christmas tree lighting at the White House on the same date, Dec. 1, four years earlier was read by student Rebecca Gazaille.

The memory of Rosa Parks, who was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man on Dec. 1, 1955, was also celebrated. Frances Parks, the retired director of Students Offering Service in Hendricks Chapel mentioned Rosa Parks as she introduced a selection from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

The speech was performed by student Devron Graham.

Music was also an important component of the evening, as Mike Lamanna played the piano, Matt Tolstoy sang and performed the song “Let it Be,” Willie Santiago performed a piece for the flute and Mark Zane sang and played “Hallelujah.”

The hymn “Let there be peace on earth” was featured as students read the lyrics in some of the many languages spoken on the S.U. campus.

Father Linus DeSantis, OFM Conv., read from the Book of Ecclesiastes, and Krista D’Amore read a selection from Kahlil Gibran’s book The Prophet. Darien Clark and Allison Clark read the prayer of St. Francis, and woven within the prayer were intentions that had a personal resonance for students.

Afterward, participants filed from the chapel to sing and pray by candlelight.

“Peace is something that has to start within each individual,” Condon said. “By having a vigil for peace, we’re really focusing on creating peace in the individual, and then they can bring it into their community, and then on into the city and then you go on from there.”

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