“Stonewalk” originated with our friends at the Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts, an inter-denominational center that celebrates all faiths and the individuals who fight with courage and compassion against violence in the world. Peace Abbey founder Lewis Randa drew his inspiration from a grim statistic: in the era of modern warfare, nine out of ten casualties are civilians. Hoping to call attention to this true cost of war, he engraved a two-ton granite memorial, based on grave markers found in Arlington National Cemetery, to the “unknown civilians killed in war” and laid it flat in a wheeled wooden wagon, or caisson. With one person sitting and steering, others walked at the front of the wagon, pulling and pushing it via a wheeled armature. Even in the best of circumstances, it was a physically exhausting experience to move the heavy stone along the side of the road, requiring concentration and commitment.
The original 1999 Stonewalk was a 33 day, 500-mile journey along the highways from the Peace Abbey to Arlington National Cemetery in an effort to have the stone placed there permanently to acknowledge the civilian cost of war. Volunteers joined in along the way, and walkers bore witness to their mission in public speaking events. Although the walkers reached their destination, their request was denied and the stone was returned to Sherborn. Progressive Pictures captured the journey in Stonewalk the Documentary, which appeared on public television.
Members of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows became familiar with the work of the Peace Abbey when they held a planning retreat there in August, 2002. We adopted Stonewalk as one of our major projects in 2004, finding it a powerful vehicle for promoting our mission and goals. By pulling the wagon-mounted from Boston to New York between the times of the Democratic and Republican national conventions, we took advantage of the heightened press and public attention to talk about government policies that drew us away from the rule of law and made terrorism more, rather than less likely for generations to come.
Between July 25th and September 2nd, 2004, Stonewalk visited 33 towns, and participants took part in community speaking events, large and small, along the way. Stonewalk seminars were held at the Veterans for Peace convention and Boston Social Forum, which together brought more than 3,000 people to that city just prior to the Democratic convention. The walk garnered stories in more than 40 print outlets and on dozens of radio and television stations.
From July 2nd to August 4th, 2005 Peaceful Tomorrows marked the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a 340-mile Stonewalk between those two cities using the same memorial and wagon. The walk brought together thousands of participants from numerous Japanese peace groups, Hibakusha who survived the actual bombings, and 9/11 family members, and brought international attention to our mission and goals as well as the demand that nuclear weapons must never again be manufactured or used.
And, in the spring of 2007, Japanese peace and reconciliation activists commissioned a memorial stone with the inscription "Unknown Civilians Killed in War" in English, and below this, "In Apology, Friendship, and Peace" in Japanese and Korean. Joining together with Korean and American counterparts, including a representative of Peaceful Tomorrows, they took part in Stonewalk Korea.
Peace Abbey Web site: http://www.peaceabbey.org/
Stonewalk the Documentary Web site: http://www.progressivepictures.com/introduction.html
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