The United Nations declared Sept. 21 an International Day of Peace. Countries at war are encouraged to lay down arms for the day as people all over the globe work to build bridges and stop injustice. William Jewell College celebrated this day Sept. 20 with a rally for peace and unity.
The rally first took place in 2017 as a response to the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jeff Buscher, college chaplain, said students came together to create this event to provide contrast to violent protests.
“We didn’t want it to be a negative–something against something–we wanted it to be a positive. We want to promote peace and justice and equity in the world,” Buscher said.
This year about 30 students, faculty and Liberty community members attended the rally. Representatives from several clubs spoke as attendees gathered around the Jewell peace pole outside Grand River chapel.
Cara Ellman, senior music performance major, and vice president of QUILTBAG read “Speech to the Young” by Gwendolyn Brooks. The poem encourages people to find hope through the battles and trials of their lives.
Micah Williams, junior biology major; Alyssa Rucker, junior pre-nursing major; and Tonyelle Temple, sophomore pre-nursing major, read a poem together as members of the Black Students Association. They promoted anti-discrimination and unity through the poem.
Members of the International Students club presented readings in their native languages that reflected on what a privilege it is to have peace.
Sofia Arthurs Schoppe, junior chemistry and communication major from New Zealand, read in Māori. Julia Yumante Geminiano de Almeida, first-year civil engineering major, read in Portuguese to represent her home country of Brazil.
Asa Mpuan, sophomore chemistry major from Ghana, was the third of such international students. He first read in a native African language and then translated the reading into English. He spoke about how grateful he is that William Jewell faculty encourage a diverse and unified environment.
Dr. Rose Reynolds, professor of biology, read Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the Thing with Feathers,” which speaks to the importance of hope when it comes to unification.
Local Liberty poet Sheldon Ponder read a piece he had written about the power of love. Ponder mentioned that even small actions of peace can have large impacts and that anyone who cannot see that has never spent the night with a mosquito.
Ed Chasteen, a Liberty community member in charge of HateBusters, spoke about the organization. HateBusters is a group with no dues or meetings. It keeps in touch with members through email and works to encourage members to treat all people with respect and kindness.
Chasteen handed out bright yellow business cards to those who wanted to join the club. He spoke about how he responds when someone asks how many members HateBusters has.
“Nobody was born to hate. If somebody grows up and decides to hate others, they can email me and be removed from the list.”
The evening ended with the attendees gathered around the peace pole in a circle. Each held a small candle as Isabel Scamurra, sophomore English major, and Hannah Jacobs, sophomore nursing and Spanish major, led the singing of “Let There Be Peace on Earth”.
Buscher said a prayer of benediction. The prayer asked for the desire to forgive and reconcile nonviolently with those who are different from ourselves.
Buscher feels that the rally serves a special purpose by occurring at the beginning of the school year.
“It’s a really good reminder, kind of a touchstone at the beginning of the year that this is what we stand for, this is who we are, and this is what we are about,” Buscher said. “I think it’s good to remind ourselves of that because we never know from day to day what’s gonna hit us on the news, whether its a shooting or some other unfortunate disrespectful thing.”
Cover photo courtesy of William Jewell College.