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Seven Grand Rapids Dominicans Among Thousands in Manhattan Peace Activities

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Gramd Rapids Dominicans prepare for rally and march.

Gramd Rapids Dominicans prepare for rally and march.

Buddhist monks and Native Americans ritualize a blessing and cleansing of the site for the Interfaith Service.

Buddhist monks and Native Americans ritualize a blessing and cleansing of the site for the Interfaith Service.

Some of the Japanese participants at Times Square rally.

Some of the Japanese participants at Times Square rally.

Seven Grand Rapids Dominicans--Mary Pat Beatty, Carol Gilbert, Barbara Hansen, Ardeth Platte, Jean Reimer, Alice Wittenbach and Lucianne Siers--gathered in Manhattan's uptown during rush hour on April 30th to begin three days of activities associated with the International Conference for a Nuclear Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World.  The events of the weekend were initiated and planned by several national and international peace organizations in advance of the 2010 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review International Planning Committee beginning on May 3rd at the United Nations.

Our first activity was the Annual Meeting of the Partnership for Global Justice whose Executive Director is Grand Rapids Dominican Sister Lucianne Siers, OP. Meeting in a Manhattan church basement so reminiscent of where many peace and justice activities have been initiated and sustained, we gathered to honor the Berrigan brothers, Daniel and posthumously, Philip, who are icons of the nonviolent peace and resistance movement.

Sisters Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte introduced Dan, who was surrounded by his small residential Jesuit community. Partnership Board member, Amata Miller, IHM read the citation. Phil's eldest daughter, Frieda, accepted her father's award in the name of the family. The awards were followed by a luncheon of simple but delicious cuisine.

We then travelled to Riverside Church for the opening of the conference. More than 500 international and national participants were present including peace demonstrators who had walked for days from places in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Upper New York State and Maine. Plenary sessions were interspersed with environment/health, ecomonic justice/human needs and abolition track workshops and panel discussions. The plenary sessions, including the Saturday evening speech by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, can be downloaded from the website: . There were many opportunities to meet old friends and to engage in discussions with people, young and old, from all around the world. 

Sunday noon, May 2nd, we gathered at the Church Center of the UN for An Interfaith Convocation for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. Rev. Michael Kinnamon, Secretary General of the National Council of Churches, called nuclear weapons "a crime against humanity" that must be removed from the face of the earth." Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Confucian, Hindu, Humanist, Indigenous, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Shinto, Sikh, Taoist, Unitarian Universalist and Zorastrian communities were involved in gathering the participants and the readings and rituals of the convocation.

By 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon, about 15,000 people from around the world including Hibakusha (Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors) among the 1600 Janapese participants, were gathered in Times Square only hours after the area had been closed following a failed attempt to explode a car bomb. Representatives of nation after nation spoke in favor of the abolition of nuclear weapons and for a nuclear free world. Then we marched to the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the UN for a Peace and Music Festival.

Throughout the events, T-shirts, banners and signs abounded with statements such as: It must never be repeated; No more NUKES; Abolitions 2010; Tell Obama, In Our Lifetime; No more Hiroshimas, No more Nagasakis; and The world still lives under a nuclear shadow.

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article by: Lucianne Siers OP and Barbara Hansen OP, representing the Grand Rapids area as Copromoters of the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids Culture of Peace Committee.

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