Peaceful point: Poles are a diverse call for one message

This Peace pole located at First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway, was dedicated June 27.

They stand for peace, rain or shine, in places filled with peace and those filled by war, around the world and around Lawrence.

They are peace poles — international symbols of hope with a single message said a variety of different ways: May peace prevail on earth.

Lawrence has 12 peace poles, with the newest coming June 27 at First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway. First Presbyterian’s pastor, the Rev. Kent Winters-Hazelton, is thrilled to have it on the church’s grounds, where it has been placed with some benches perfect for sitting and reflecting.

“I think it’s one of those small things that are out in our world that reminds us of the oneness of the world,” Winters-Hazelton says. “In a world where it’s hard to find quiet, it’s hard to find a place to just withdraw and reflect, I think the church needs to offer that. This will be one of those places.”

That pole was dedicated at the bequest of member Carolyn Bailey Berneking, who wanted to add one after hearing about them from her son, Bill, who is a political activist in Minneapolis. She’s thrilled it’s finally in the ground, its four sides decorated with eight languages, from English, to Spanish, to Arabic, to American Sign Language, all asking for the same message.

The peace pole movement was started in 1955 by a Japanese man named Masahisa Goi who had been struck by the violence of World War II. He founded the Movement of Prayer for World Peace and cultivated the mantra “May peace prevail on earth.” Since that time, there have been more than 200,000 peace poles planted in more than 180 countries. Each of the poles are decorated with Goi’s mantra in multiple language, which are all spoken at the pole’s dedication.

“They really are an attempt to recognize the great diversity of human voices and the voices of other living beings,” says Beth Schultz, a member of the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice and the Oread Friends Meeting, 1146 Ore., which has two peace poles.

Schultz has been involved in nearly every peace pole “planting” in Lawrence and has seen the poles in several countries during her travels. She’s worked closely with Judy Carman of Lecompton, who helped bring the idea of peace poles to Lawrence 10 years ago with the planting of the city’s first pole at Unity Church of Lawrence, then in North Lawrence and now at 900 Madeline Lane. Now, Carman theorizes, Lawrence may have more poles than any other its size.

“The pole unites all these different cultures because it has different languages on it. And, now we’ve got so many in Lawrence, that there may be 50 or 60 languages represented,” says Carman, author of “Peace to All Beings.” “So that’s our goal, is to help people will remember that, that peace is possible and that we all need to keep this prayer in our hearts.”

However, not everyone in town is a peace pole fan — two of the poles have been vandalized and subsequently replaced. Schultz says the one at KU was cut down — a stump was left in the ground — while the pole at Veterans Park completely vanished. When Schultz called the city’s parks and recreation department and told them the Veterans Park pole was missing, the city quickly replaced the it. Schultz says those crimes speak to the need for them in the first place.

“I think peace irritates some people, unfortunately,” Schultz says. “It’s hard to imagine, now isn’t it?”