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Last Updated: Friday - 01/17/2003
Week of January 20, 2003
Women for peace pray together
Canadian Catholic News
They come from various cultures and faiths. They are women who believe in non-violence. And for the past year they have gathered at the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill each Wednesday at noon to pray for peace in the troubled post-911 world.
The Women for Peace (Les Artisanes de la Paix), started as a small group of women from Catholic religious communities who decided to begin their weekly peace vigil on Jan. 23, 2002, - the eve of the Interfaith Prayer Service in Assisi convened by Pope John Paul.
"We just asked ourselves, 'What can we do to promote peace in the midst of this cry for war," said Sr. Anne Taylor, a Grey Sister of Pembroke, in a CCN interview. The idea for the vigil came in part from that of the "Women in Black," involving Palestinian and Israeli women who stand in silent vigil mourning the deaths on both sides of the conflict, she said.
"We said we want to wear green and stand together in hope because we do really believe that we will come to emphasize humanity and choose other methods, and because we believe in the power of prayer," Taylor said. It was also decided to invite women from other religious groups to join.
The women pray in silent in a half-circle facing outward as a symbol of unity and the desire for peace throughout the world. Generally, said Taylor, tourists and others who pass by offer the group encouragement. At one recent vigil, "two women who came along were very interested and said they would be coming and would bring their friends," she said.
Others, such as a man who looked puzzled and walked away when informed that the group doesn't take sides in conflicts, leave Taylor feeling sad. Nevertheless she and the others believe in prayer and that it can make a difference in bringing peace to the world.
Men are welcome to join their weekly vigils. One who did so at the Jan. 8 gathering was Joe Gunn, director of the social affairs office of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
Vigil participants often distribute bookmarks to passers-by that describe the mission statement of the group. It reads: "We are women of many cultures, many faiths, coming together as sisters to witness our common values of peace, love and non-violence, for the sake of our children, our families, our earth. The green we wear symbolizes our longing for peace, our hope for non-violent resolution of conflicts and our valuing of all life in creation"
Sister Jean Goulet, one of the founders of the group, said participants at the weekly vigils have come from a variety of countries including India, Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon and Israel as well as from several religions including Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Bahai.
"We have stood in all kinds of weather, in sleet and snow, in rain and sunshine," wrote Goulet in an article published last year in Caravan, a quarterly publication of the National Office of Religious Education of the CCCB. "No matter one's age or health of ability to participate one can pray anywhere," she said.
Added Goulet, who was named last fall as the ecumenical officer for the CCCB, "Prayer goes beyond walls and borders and religions. It goes straight to the heart of God."
The Women for Peace also invites others to start a group in their area, setting aside a specific time and day for the vigil. Goulet wrote: "Please join us from wherever you are, for the sake of the children of the world!"
©Copyright 2003, Canadian Catholic News (Ottawa, Canada)