Hundreds fill Capitol Park to call for world peace

Visitors from Japan, Germany, Ireland and Egypt joined hundreds of Northern California residents at Capitol Park on Sunday to lend support to The International Day of Peace.

It was a day of expressing hopes for peace, both personal and global, and of finding inspiration in a labyrinth of shoes that would go to help fire victims.

The event, celebrated each year by millions worldwide, included prayers, songs, dance and poetry. High school performers from Matsuyama, Japan – Sacramento’s sister city – joined hands and linked arms at the International Rose and Peace Garden on the Capitol grounds with Hmong dancers and the Grant High School drum line.

“We also hope to build a safe haven Peace Park at Grant High School where kids can talk about peace,” said Wayne Hironaka of the Sacramento nonprofit I Am Peace, which brought the students from Japan and Sacramento together.

A few blocks to the north, dozens of others ran through a labyrinth of more than 400 pairs of sneakers. The labyrinth was designed to help people focus on their own peaceful intentions, said Jessica Micheletti of the Sacramento Peace Project.

“We’re donating the shoes collected by Fleet Feet to the victims of the Boles fire that burned 150 homes and structures in Weed,” Micheletti said. “Peace starts from the inside out, and we must cultivate peace within each of us for it to spread.”

When a majority of citizens in the United States and in other nations don’t want war, “we will have peace,” predicted Tina Wilks, a real estate broker and a member of the Sacramento Peace Project. “We’re not here to solve the world’s problems; we’re here to show peace is possible.”

After completing the Peace Labyrinth, people wrote goals for peace on a Wall of Intention.

“All we can do is recruit one person at a time,” said Caren Halvorsen, a Fair Oaks artist who encouraged people to share their hopes.

One lighthearted person called for “Whirled Peas” and depicted a blender. Others were intensely personal. One person wrote, “I wanna make peace with my sister” while another scripted, “I will make peace with my self-hatred, self-doubt and anything else keeping me from loving myself and others.”

That intention resonated with Heather Paladini, a 31-year-old mom from Roseville studying geology at Sierra College. She had just scampered through the labyrinth with her 4-year-old daughter, Aaryln. “I love this – it’s open, honest and genuine,” Paladini said.

Ruhina Hosse and her 6-month-old son Elias, both visitors from Hamburg, Germany, held a sign that read, “Go For Peace!” Hosse, a Muslim originally from Afghanistan, called the event a good reminder “to be peaceful for a few minutes, or a whole day.”

Leaders from Sacramento’s Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Baha’i faiths offered prayers for peace, affirming their belief that all people are part of the human family.

Nancy Merritt of the Peace Alliance in Oakland said she backs the creation of a Cabinet-level secretary of peace described in House Resolution 808.

“It would help shift resources from the military to combat domestic violence and bullying and save money for schools, health care and roads,” Merritt said.

At the Peace Garden, performers from Ehime University Senior High School in Matsuyama held aloft a banner featuring 131 Haiku – short, three-line poems – calling for world peace.

“People all over the world / hope everyone / will hold hands,” read one.

Using fans, they performed the Dance of The Doves to traditional Japanese string instruments. They were followed by another group of Matsuyama students who painted a giant poster in Japanese and English urging nuclear disarmament and featuring a peace sign.