On 9/11, peacemakers condemn war in "self-reflective" Loring Park event

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August 27, 2002 // UPDATED 1:29 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Ellen Nigon
Ellen Nigon

"We're hoping that people will reflect on their pain and then put that behind them and move toward talking about peace and justice," says one organizer

This Wednesday -- the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- organizations around the country will hold services or memorials to commemorate the lives lost in the World Trade Center, Pentagon and hijacked airplanes.

Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers will hold one such event in Loring Park -- but the focus won't be popular with everyone.

MAP doesn't support the United States' military reaction against Afghanistan. They want to change the United States' foreign policy. "We've been opposed to the war from the get-go," said MAP member Sarah Standefor. "We thought 9/11 was a crime and should be treated as such."

And group members don't simply memorialize those who were killed on Sept. 11.

"As peacemakers we have a lot more victims to remember because there were innocent civilians in Afghanistan who were bombed because of our retaliation," said Burt Berlowe, a member of MAP and freelance writer. "We need to start looking for more peaceful solutions. There's got to be an end to this spiral of war somewhere."

The Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers is a coalition of more than 40 peace organizations that work together to strengthen their common peace and justice efforts. At noon on Sept. 11, MAP will host a public event entitled "Reflections on Pain and Peace" in Loring Park, featuring speeches by peace activists, music, a moment of silence, the planting of a peace pole and the dedication of Loring Park as a peace site.

The title of the one-and-a-half hour event has a triple definition. Berlowe, a former Loring Park neighborhood resident, co-authored a book called "Reflections on Loring Pond." Berlowe said that he decided on the book title because often people look into Loring Pond and reflect on their lives. And on clear days, one can see the reflection of Downtown in the pond.

"We thought 'Reflections on Pain and Peace' would be appropriate for having (the event) in Loring Park. We're hoping that people will reflect on their pain and then put that behind them and move toward talking about peace and justice," Berlowe said.

Phil Steger, executive director of Friends for a Non-Violent World and an event speaker just back from several weeks in Iraq, summed up the event's self-reflective nature:

"It's important to set aside time for grief, but I think we are stronger as human beings if we use that time also to reflect on the present and the future to try to look deep into ourselves and the lessons and experiences of the past. "

Steger will give a speech at the event called "Building Peace from Pain." According to Steger, his speech will take a look at the pain from terrorism and war as they relate to our choices. "There doesn't seem to be a way to avoid pain, so what's the best way for us to build constructively from it, to find the resources that we need to make the world a better place," he explained.

Mary Lou Nelson is one of MAP's founders and a Downtown resident. She explained that it is the United States' attitude that spurred MAP to hold an event that would have a broader focus beyond remembering Americans who lost their lives on Sept. 11.

"Sept. 11 was a tragic day -- especially for 3,000 Americans who lost loved ones. But its message is of far greater importance to the United States of America about how the world views us," Nelson said. "We have been very cavaler about going into places like Panama, Granada, Bosnia and have a lot of people dead -- which we have called collateral damage. But it wasn't collateral damage on Sept. 11. It was those people who were dearly loved that we lost. For that reason I think we need to think a little more carefully about how we use our enormous super power."

MAP members know that their views are not particularly popular -- some would even say they're unpatriotic.

"Since 9/11 happened, it's been an extremely difficult time to be a peacemaker," Berlowe said. "You're accused of being anti-patriotic, but that isn't the case. This is a way to love your country because you want it to be peaceful. This is a hard message to get across to people."

According to Berlowe, because "Reflections on Pain and Peace" will be held in a public park, they can't stop dissenters from attending -- and in fact, MAP encourages those with different opinions from their own to attend.

"Anybody can come. They can come and boo and hiss or have a counter-demonstration," Berlowe said. "If somebody with an alternative point of view wants to come, they're certainly welcome to come and to listen to what we have to say and form their own opinions."

Though Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers members don't respond to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with any wish for violence, they share the grief and empathy of most Americans toward the friends and families of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They also understand that many of the victims' families might feel that military retaliation against Afghanistan is

appropriate.

So when asked what he would say to someone who has lost a loved one in the World Trade Center bombing, Steger replied, "I don't know if I'd say anything. Maybe if I have a chance, I'd say, 'Do you see the bombing (of Afghanistan) as bringing you happiness?' We need to be clear. Will it bring you any happiness?"

Info >"09/11/02: Reflections on Pain and Peace" Wednesday, Sept. 11, 11:30 a.m. (music), noon (program), 1382 Willow St. (Loring Park bandstand). 374-3594 or 338-1548.

Loring Park's peace pole

During the "Reflections on Pain and Peace" ceremony on Sept. 11, World Citizen Inc. will unveil Loring Park's new peace pole and the Park's dedication as a peace site.

World Citizen Inc. is a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization that designates various schools, churches, government buildings and parks around the world as peace sites.

Burt Berlowe, a World Citizen Inc. board member and member of Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, said, "Being a peace site means you are committing yourself, at least at that moment in time, to doing whatever you can to make that particular site a peaceful one."

The peace pole is a wooden stake carrying the phrase "Let peace prevail on earth" in four

languages.

Citizens for a Loring Park Community worked with MAP and World Citizen Inc. to determine the languages that will be on Loring Park's pole. "We suggested the languages on it be English, Russian (because there's a rather large Russian residence in this neighborhood), Spanish, and Somali," said CLPC special events chair, Paula Carter.

Linda Larson, Loring Park recreation supervisor, chose a location near the band shell for the peace pole. According to Larson, Minneapolis Park and Recreation staff will be responsible for planting the peace pole and maintaining the grounds around it.

"I'm hoping that will help to promote peace not only in Loring Park, but in the surrounding community," Larson said. "People love Loring Park, and we're working hard on promoting peace in the community."

CLPC will pay the peace pole's $150 cost. Carter said having Loring Park dedicated as a peace park is "an extension of the park's beauty. It's a nice calming thing for me -- the sound of it being a peace park."