Bahai News -- The Orange County Register - O.C. peace corps

O.C. peace corps

Residents of various faiths gather to preach what they practice

By RICHARD CHANG

The Orange County Register


GIVING PEACE A CHANCE: Dr. Arinder Singh Chadra bestows peace on
Linda Landsman on Wednesday as the "Practicing Peace" program in
Laguna Niguel ends. About 60 people attended the fourth annual
interfaith program.
Paul E. Rodriguez / The Register
LAGUNA NIGUEL - A collection of Orange County residents gathered on New Year's Day to consider that 2003 doesn't have to involve war - it can be a year for peace.

About 60 people of various religious backgrounds - from Baha'i to Zoroastrian - met Wednesday morning at Shepherd of the Hills Church to share prayers, meditations and songs. They lit candles, read spiritual passages and learned a little bit about each other.

"When we experience the beauty of another person's faith, we have appreciation, and appreciation dissolves conflict," said Sharon Upp, one of the event's coordinators. She described her beliefs as Vedantic, or Hindu.

"When we experience the beauty of another person's faith, we have appreciation, and appreciation dissolves conflict," said Sharon Upp, one of the event's coordinators. She described her beliefs as Vedantic, or Hindu.

"It's extremely enriching. I enjoy hearing that at the core, each prophet has the same message, that we should treat one another well."

Wednesday's program, titled "Practicing Peace," started with an American Indian prayer to call in the sacred winds. Then, one after another, practitioners of different faiths stood, said chants and axioms, and described how their religion strives for peace.

One woman led the group in a Buddhist chant, while another encouraged folks to shake hands or hug in a Christian sign of peace. Upp took participants through a meditation with eyes closed, designed to make them aware of their physical surroundings and mental states.

"The responsibility for peace lies within each and every one of us," said the Laguna Niguel resident.

Melvin Scudder, 42, of Aliso Viejo sought to counter misperceptions about Islam. He stated that the word "Islam" comes from the Arabic word for "peace," and true followers do not wish violence, harm or oppression upon anybody.

"When we come together, we can discuss our faiths," said Scudder, a stock agent and musician. "We get to take that back to our respective communities and defend other faiths. It's important."

Wednesday's fourth annual event was sponsored by the Alliance for Spiritual Community, an interfaith, nonprofit organization based in Laguna Niguel and founded by Kay Lindahl. The peace observance was inspired by the worldwide 72-Hour Peacemaking Project, sponsored by the United Religions Initiative in 1999-2000.

New Year's Day was also the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, and Pope John Paul II encouraged people worldwide to make a small "gesture of peace."

"We may have different belief systems, but we also have commonalities," Lindahl said. "The more we do wherever we are, the more it makes a difference globally."

To symbolize a worldwide peace effort, organizers invited Andrew Wells, executive director of the Virginia-based Life Foundation U.S.A. and caretaker of a World Peace Flame. Wells said the flame originated from live flames flown across the globe and combined in Wales in 1999. He invited each participant to light a candle with the Peace Flame and take it home.

Wednesday's gathering culminated with participants holding hands in a circle and then wishing each other peace with drops of water.

"There's got to be more to the holiday season than buying gifts and spending lots of money," Wells said. "When we can do something like this, it does create a unity."

CONTACT US: (714) 796-6026 or rchang@ocregister.com

©Copyright 2003, The Orange County Register (CA, USA)

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