Story by Maria Ferris | Correspondent
In the midst of global strife and days of uncertainty, a call for peace was heard in St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, during the evening Interfaith Peace prayer vigil, Sept. 21, the date when the International Day of Peace is celebrated around the world.
Co-sponsored by St. Ann Parish and the Coalition for Peace Action, Princeton – a grassroots citizens’ organization that brings together people of all ages, backgrounds, professions and political persuasions – the vigil included nine Mercer County faith leaders representing Christian, Buddhist, Islamic and Sikh faith traditions who led some 80 people gathered in prayer, song and reflection.
“Coming together in prayer and action is very important,” said vigil organizer and St. Ann parishioner Martha Andrade-Dousdebes, “because prayer is the strength that we need in order to bring peace to our communities, our cities and to the world.” Coming together and getting to know one another, “helps us understand each other and therefore we can work together for peace,” she said
The vigil opened with a children’s procession and the placing of “peace bells” and “peace doves” at the foot of the sanctuary, and included an a cappella, Gospel rendition of “Peace In The Valley” sung by Latanya Bougton of Shiloh Baptist Church, Trenton.
A theme resonating throughout the service was echoed by Sister of St. Joseph Pat McGinley, parish pastoral associate, who stressed, “Each individual person is responsible for peace in the world.
While Jugdip Khokher, co-president of Sikhs of Princeton and a Princeton University student, reflected on the importance of inner peace, Msgr. Vincent Gartland, a retired priest of the Diocese and former pastor of St. Ann Parish, remarked on how peace can come about simply by being friendly to neighbors or even by reaching out to “someone who offends us.”
“Every little action creates a movement toward peace,” said Msgr. Gartland.
The Rev. Paul Jeanes, III, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church, Princeton, noted, “Peace isn’t the absence of violence. … True peace is the presence of life and vitality. It’s the sound of song, joy, laughter and love.”
Rev. Bob Moore, executive director of the Coalition for Peace Action, reflected on the importance of “speaking truth to power” and being an advocate for peace. “That means advocating for diplomacy, because that’s the main alternative to war,’ he said.
For the Rev. Megan Thomas, pastor, St. Luke Episcopal Church, Ewing, peace means forgiveness. “Without being willing to say I was wrong, I’m sorry, or I forgive you for the wrong that you’ve done me, there can’t be peace,” she stressed.
The prayer of the Rev. Bill Neely, pastor, Unitarian Universalist Church, Princeton, included a petition for forgiveness. “Forgive us, great spirit, when we turn from you. Turn us back to your people who are all people, and turn us toward love which is your greatest power, and turn us toward forgiveness which is your greatest gift.”
“We have the opportunity each and every one of us to be peacemakers,” said the Rev. Ryan Inmer, pastor of Slackwood Presbyterian Church. “It [Peace] begins with us, it continues in our families and then it continues in our faith communities,” he added.
The remarks of Sudhendu Das, Soka Gakkai Buddhist Center, NJ, stressed a value important to all faiths who seek peace: “It is very important to recognize the dignity of life. Life is a very precious thing. One moment of life is much more than any wealth you can accumulate. It is important to treasure life and to protect life and to be able to sustain life.”
Pointing to the relationship between humanity and God, Imam Qareeb Bashir of the Islamic Center, Ewing, emphasized, “The best way to help God is through development of community life. Bring about peace of co-existence within society.”