Peace…Let it begin with me

By Joycelyn Fish

Campus Life Editor

Stories filled with pain, suffering, and destruction from across the world plague news headlines every day. In 1999, filmmaker Jeremy Gilley took a stand against violence by beginning Peace One Day (POD), an initiative that was unanimously adopted by all state members of the United Nation. Every year, on Sept. 21, POD aims to create a global ceasefire and observance of non-violence. This year, the Viterbo and La Crosse communities are joining the cause by creating Peace Week.

“It is a celebration of peace and what’s good in our world,” explained Josh Kohnhorst, director of the North American Youth for Peace (NAYP), a senior education major from Tomah, Wis.

Peace Week, and extension of POD, is being celebrated in La Crosse September 17 through the 21, highlighting the importance of individuals in creating peace in the world. Events began Monday with a presentation from Tom Thibodeau focusing on the power of one, Peace: Let it Begin with Me. In addition, Jeremy Gilley’s documentary, “The Day After Peace,” was shown on Tuesday night.

The events will continue on Wednesday, Sept. 19, when the UW-L and Viterbo communities have the opportunity to gather for a Peace Walk at noon that winds through the streets of La Crosse. Then, on Thursday, Sept. 20, a Peace Vigil will take place at Riverside Park to raise awareness, celebrate peace, and remember those who have lost their lives to domestic violence. The event begins at 6:00 p.m. with special guests: Mario Street, Thomas Harris and Judge Dale Pasell, and it is sponsored by the Student Organization Advocating Human Rights from Viterbo.

Peace Day, Friday, Sept. 21, will focus on harmony and life with three separate events. At 3:00 p.m., the FSPA will host a prayer vigil at the Mary of the Angels Chapel. Then, “I Am,” will be shown at 6:30 p.m. in the Graff Main Hall Auditorium at UW-L. The documentary by Tom Shadyac answers the question: what’s wrong with the world and what can we do about it across the globe? Finally, the week and day will end with a block party featuring Furlow Riders at 8:00 p.m. across from the UW-L campus at 14th and Pine Streets.

“Society today is kind of negative. People participating in this are going to get the positives,” added Matt Krueger, assistant director of the NAYP and business management major from Green Bay, Wis. “Hopefully, if someone participates in this, it actually trickles down, almost like the snowball effect.”

These events will be a small part in the larger goal of reducing violence, both domestically and internationally, on Peace Day 2012 as well as creating the largest gathering of individuals in the name of peace. The NAYP played a large role in initiating planning and became a group working to engage students in peace, along with the collective support of Viterbo University, UW-La Crosse, UW-La Crosse’s campus ministry Common Ground and the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA).

“I was selected to represent the North American students for Peace One Day student coalition,” stated Kohnhorst. “We’re encouraging people to plan events for Sept. 21, get involved, and just do something so they would be part of the process of peace and living in a better society.”

Kohnhorst and Krueger also approached Mayor Matt Harter and explained the importance and impact the program will thread through La Crosse. “As of last week, it’s official” explained Krueger as the the mayor made an official proclamation recognizing the Peace Day in La Crosse.

“It’s symbolism, but it’s pretty cool that our city supported us and, again, embraced our whole idea of making our community better,” Kohnhorst said.

“It’s also fitting for this community because of the servant leadership society that we do have and the Sister’s across the street,” added Krueger.

The NAYP encourages students, staff, and the community to reach out, no matter how small the act may be.

“It doesn’t take someone to go stand in front of a tank and say ‘Alright guys, this is it. We’re not fighting anymore,’” Kohnhorst expressed. “Random acts of kindness go a long way into changing this society into a positive nature…if they think ‘Alright, I’m just going to do this little thing and I’m going to make a little difference.’ But if everyone does little things, it makes for a difference.”

For more information on NAYP, visit http://www.studentspeace.com. To learn more about POD, check out peaceoneday.org.

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