Local peace poles share global message
Standing symbols planted in Houghton and Hancock
HOUGHTON — On the international Day of Peace, a community group dedicated to building bridges and pursuing nonviolence dedicated Peace Poles in Houghton and Hancock Wednesday night.
The two cities were designated Cities of Peace last October. That push, as well as for the peace poles, was spearheaded by Keweenaw Faiths United, which formed in 2019 after a national neo-Nazi group directed the spraying of anti-Semitic graffiti on Temple Jacob in Hancock.
Houghton and Hancock’s Rotary clubs and city governments also backed the designation.
The poles are part of Keweenaw Faith United’s effort to promote and spread peace in the community, said Sarah Semmler Smith, campus pastor for Finlandia University.
“They are an international symbol of peace, a place where someone can perhaps pause, reflect — a standing symbol of an aspiration for our community, and we hope actions that would lift that up,” she said.
Four sides of the poles bear the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” More than 250,000 peace poles have been planted around the world, including at Finlandia University’s chapel and the Hancock campground. Full list of poles can be seen at worldpeace.org.
Wednesday, about 25 people were on hand for the dedication of poles at the labyrinth in Hancock and at Bridgeview Park in Houghton.
People were encouraged to place stones at the base of the pole. The stones represent the Keweenaw, as well as the burdens and hopes everyone has, Semmler Smith said.
For the first stone, Semmler Smith invited people to think of ways to build peace within the community. For the other, she asked them to think of ways to build peace within themselves.
“We know that peace begins in our hearts and what we wrestle with and how we show up in the world,” she said.
Across the bridge, people did the same at Bridgeview Park. The group also held a moment of silence for Deb Mann, who had played a large part in helping plant the poles.
Bucky Beach, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, also encouraged people to pick up a stone to take home.
A Jewish friend of Beach’s had learned to carry one in his pocket while growing up in New York. Every time he would do a mitzvah, or good deed for the community, he would move it from one pocket to the other.
The stones should remind people that they are obligated to do good deeds for themselves, the community and the world, Beach said.
“Peace is not a given,” he said. “It happens when we make it happen, when we allow it to happen.”