[Kosova / Kosovo] Among Friends in Philadelphia [Peaceweb Home Page]

Vigil for Peace in Philadelphia

May 2, 1999

by Marcelle Martin

Dear Friends,

Today from 5 to 6 p.m., on a sunny and breezy afternoon, we held the first prayer vigil for peace in the month of May on Independence Mall. About seventeen Friends and other people of faith gathered for silent prayer and to hold signs calling for peace. As in the past, many passers-by indicated their agreement and encouragement. Today as I, Marcelle, stood on Independence Mall to pray, I was praying for my own heart to be opened, that I might learn to be more peaceful. I was praying for those who are suffering in Kosovo, for the refugees, for all Yugoslavians who are living with and will suffer for a long time to come from the bombing. I was praying for my fellow citizens of this country, that our hearts might be opened to God's way for us to live, that we might open to the Spirit of peace, compassion and oneness.

Straight ahead of me I could see the Liberty Bell behind the glass windows that surround it. Right in line behind the Liberty Bell was Independence Hall. Behind that is the square where the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time to the people of Philadelphia, and above and beyond all that was a wide blue sky. I love this country. I love Independence Hall and have often visited it to see the rising sun carved on the chair from which George Washington presided at the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I am inspired by William Penn, by the Founding Fathers, by Abraham Lincoln, by all the moments in this country's history when courageous and forward-thinking people have taken risks to create a society based on spiritual truths. I believe that the experiment of this country was indeed a rising sun of God's light in human affairs. At the same time, I grieve at how narrow, selfish interests have corrupted the holy experiment that was tried here, and at the extent to which this country is involved in bringing oppression and violence to people on other parts of the planet, and to the planet itself.

This weekend as we were praying for peace in the Balkans, others of faith were in Washington holding vigils and demonstrations and lobbying for closure of the US Army School of the Americas, which has played such a central role in encouraging violence and repression in Latin America. Others have been undertaking civil disobedience and risking much to try to make the citizens of this country aware that the sanctions against Iraq are killing thousands of children every month.

After the first peace vigil on Independence Mall, a friend suggested that we hold a vigil there on a daily basis. I went there that Monday. As it turned out, I was alone, but the hour I spend praying there has left a lasting impression on me. As I prayed, I felt in my heart how our society needs to repent of so many of its ways. I watched the passers-by, rushed and preoccupied, hardly alive to the beautiful afternoon. I recognized myself in them. I prayed that we might all experience a transformation of heart. I prayed for peace in the Balkans, prayed that hearts might be transformed and that God's love might be felt, here as well as there.

I had a strong sense then, and at subsequent vigils, that God wants us to pray earnestly for this, both publicly and privately.

I have heard that one person who has faithfully attended the vigils these past five weeks was reluctant to come -- especially when the first two vigils took place in the rain -- but that he knew he needed to do be there. Personally, I sometimes feel some burden in maintaining these vigils -- and I also have been feeling an increasing reluctance to bother friends with emails about them.

Yet at the same time, especially when I am praying outdoors in the company of Friends and others of faith from all over the Philadelphia area, I am aware that it is a great privilege to be called to do this, to give public witness to the possibility of turning to God to guide us toward peace, healing, and the resolution of all our troubles. I know it is right, and it is needed. I think it is needed more urgently than we allow ourselves to imagine, not only for the sake of the planet and the human race, but for the sake of our own souls.

We are heartened by news of vigils in other places. For instance, today we received news of a witness for peace on the green in Wellsboro, PA this afternoon from 1:00 to 2:00 PM, with the words, "We intend to continue this for God knows how long." We envision hundreds of people, and thousands, publicly praying for peace and calling for another way than the path of war.

Friends, we hope that as long as the US is involved in making war that many of you will come out to participate in prayer vigils for peace. In Philadelphia we plan to continue to hold vigils on Independence Mall indefinitely, as long as there is a need. Join us on Market Street between 5th and 6th, across from the Liberty Bell.

Four Friends have expressed a willingness to help organize a daily vigil in Center City, for which each person would make a commitment to attend one or more days a week. Finding a location close to Friends Center has been suggested. If there are others who feel called to helped create such a witness, please contact us.

God bless you.


Marcelle & Jorge

Jorge or Marcelle can be contacted by email at Cityquake@aol.com or by phone at (215) 423-7465.

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