Celebrating peace in tumultuous times

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Children clutching paper doves marched through Horton Park in St. Paul on September 22, led by a ten-foot dove puppet soaring through the autumn sunshine. Friends School of Minnesota celebrated Peace Day on the day after the United Nations-sanctioned International Day of Peace, in collaboration with representatives from the Iraqi American Reconciliation Project.

The Friends School, directed by Lili Herbert, is dedicated to Quaker values including non-violence and peace. The school last week invited the Iraqi American Reconciliation Project (IARP) representatives to come to the elementary school every day for two weeks to teach the students about Iraqi heritage and traditional music.

The Peace Day celebration included children packed into a gymnasium singing traditional Iraqi songs such as Assalamu Alaikum, a procession led by a giant dove puppet and a moment of silence. According to the Friends School of MN blog,

“The International Day of Peace event will be the kickoff for Friends School’s involvement in the Water for Peace project, sponsored by the Iraqi American Reconciliation Project (IARP). For this project, Friends School students will work to raise money to help restore access to clean water for a school in Najaf, Iraq.”

Christopher Lutter-Gardella, a Friends School parent volunteer and the director of Puppet Farm Arts in Minneapolis, designed the giant dove puppet for the Jane Goodall Foundation, intentionally made of accessible materials — chicken wire, bed sheets and bamboo.

Evelyn Daugherty, a volunteer at the Iraqi American Reconciliation Project, recently returned from Najaf, Iraq. “I was happy to show [the Friends School students] images of everyday life in Iraq,” she said, “because most Americans are used to seeing images of war.” Evelyn worked with Friends School students for two weeks teaching them about Iraqi heritage and children. “The hardest part was working with the youngest children to not make it too sad.”

The students asked Daugherty lots of questions. One that stuck with her was whether Iraqi children have favorite places and if so, whether their favorite places have been destroyed? Evelyn tried to explain, that, “Yes some of Iraqi children’s favorite places had been destroyed but that it was important to build new favorite places like schools.”