Day of Peace slated for Sunday

Group here weighs Syrian vigil

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Pittsburgh North People for Peace is poised to express its opposition to military action in Syria by sponsoring vigils for peace reminiscent of ones held during the war in Iraq.

For eight years, members held weekly vigils along Babcock Boulevard, McCandless, in front of the Sisters of Divine Providence motherhouse, in cooperation with the religious congregation. The number of participants varied from two to 25 including some nuns, according to Mary Sheehan of McCandless, a long-time member of the People for Peace.

The vigils ended Dec. 19, 2011, the day after President Obama announced the return home of combat troops from Iraq.

"A vigil could be a possibility, depending on the outcome," Mrs. Sheehan, 74, said about negotiations regarding the disposal of chemical weapons allegedly held by Syria. A location would have to be determined.

"We're cautiously optimistic," Mrs. Sheehan said of alternatives to a military strike agreed upon earlier this week to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons. The threat of action remains if diplomacy fails.

She called the Russian proposal to deal with the chemical weapons a constructive approach to the problem.

"We'll have to see how it develops. We people of peace have to be eternally optimistic," she said. "Our philosophy is 'violence begets violence,' " she said.

Another member, Theresa Orlando of Shaler, said perhaps a vigil should be held in any case. "If the outcome is positive, we should have a vigil to applaud the solution," she said.

Mrs. Orlando recalls demonstrating in bitter cold during the earlier vigils, but also remembers that appreciative car-horn honks outnumbered derogatory hand signals.

The organization, a group of about 90 people founded in 1982, sponsors peace forums and annual peace festivals to educate the community about current issues.

The peace forums, held about six times a year at Kearns Spirituality Center on the Divine Providence campus, began in 2003 before the Iraq war when it was unpopular to be against it.

"They gave people a chance to discuss the issues," according to Mrs. Sheehan.

Frances Sutter, 100, of Marshall and others founded Pittsburgh North People for Peace after churches in the Wexford-Cranberry area sponsored a Lenten series on peace and justice. In 1982, the predominant issue was the nuclear arms build-up.

About Syria, Mrs. Sutter said, "Some nations have their fingers on the trigger. I would like us to be talking about loving each other. If the United States doesn't promote peace, what country will?"

The Pittsburgh International Day of Peace Committee will present Mrs. Sutter its Community Peacebuilding Award at 7 p.m. Saturday, the International Day of Peace, at St. Mary of the Mount faciities on Mount Washington, 131.Bigham St.

The annual International Day of Peace Festival sponsored by Pittsburgh North People for Peace and North Hills Anti-Racism Coalition will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Point picnic grove on Lake Shore Drive in North Park.

A procession of world flags will take place at 5:30 and food, music and activities are planned. Partnering organizations are Indian Cultural Association of Pittsburgh, Muslim Association of Greater Pittsburgh, North Hills Ebony Women, Inc., North Hills McKnight AAUW, League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh, and the Sisters of Divine Providence.

"At the festival, there will be a time when we express our hopes for a peaceful resolution in Syria," Mrs. Sheehan said.

Other activities scheduled in coming months: A forum Sept.29 at Kearns Spirituality Center, will feature the Rev. Kimberly Greway, director of chaplaincy services at the Allegheny County Jail and executive director of the Foundation of HOPE, which works to prevent recidivism. A forum on Syria is scheduled for Nov. 24 at the center with Christina Michelmore, retired associate professor of history at Chatham University, as speaker. Information: 412-367-0383.

neigh_north

Virginia Miller, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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