Let's Get Connected celebrates peace

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 21, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
SALISBURY — “Just Imagine … A World At Peace.”
That slogan captured the spirit which underscored the eighth annual Let’s Get Connected Day.
The celebration, held Saturday at Kelsey Scott Park, brought more than 150 people to sing and pray for peace and unity.
People of faith from different traditions gathered for prayers around the Peace Pole, which carries a message of peace in eight languages.
Abdul Kareem Shakoor opened by singing the Adhan, the Islamic call to prayer.
Christian, Buddhist and American Indian prayers followed, all with the same core message: peace, understanding and blessings.
“Help us to understand what is new or different,” said Mike Clawson, member of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, in his prayer.
“In your name, we seek to create a community of inclusion, where every difference is honored,” Clawson said.
Ruth Chaparro Kennerly prayed in Spanish, for peace in our families, schools and communities.
Yoshiko Otey prayed, first in Japanese and then in English, for peace and blessings for those who were suffering due to wars and natural disasters.
Seth Labovitz offered a Jewish blessing in Hebrew and English.
Finally, organizer Betty Jo Hardy dedicated the monument.
“The people of Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina, USA, dedicate this pole to peace on behalf of all people, all places,” Hardy said.
It is now one of five such markers around Rowan County, visible reminders of the community’s hope.
Before and after the dedication and prayers, those who gathered enjoyed music, poetry, dance and fellowship.
Among the performers were the African drum and dance team of Salisbury High School and Las Chicas Latinas, a local dance team.
County Commissioner Raymond Coltrain and Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell offered proclamations from the boards on which they sit.
“The best thing about this gathering is that people come for the best reason,” Blackwell said. “They’re not just here to be seen.”
She said the event’s growth over most of the last decade shows how many different people and traditions make up the city.
“It’s probably one of my favorite events of the year,” Blackwell said.
Former Salisbury Mayor Bill Stanback was one of those who offered a prayer for peace and unity.
“To have so many different cultures, different faiths, and to see us together like this is great,” Stanback said.
After singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” three white doves were released.
Shakoor said he hoped those who gathered would know the desire of people like himself for peace.
The words of the Islamic call to prayer, he said, have been used by terrorists, but that does not make them words of terror.
“I hope that the people take away with them the concept of the universality of peaceful brotherhood, through prayer and work,” Shakoor said. “Helping the homeless, reaching out to children.”
Many families brought their children and grandchildren out to the event, which ended with free food and refreshments provided by Moores Chapel AME Zion Church and local sponsors.
“I’m glad they gave us an opportunity to focus, to bring people of all ethnic backgrounds together,” said Cynthia McKnight, who attended the event with members of her family.
“In times of trouble, with the recession and high gas prices, we need some kind of stability,” she said.
Eli Collier, 10, participated in the program. After the ceremony concluded, he joined other children and adults in adding his name and handprint to a banner of witnesses to the event.
“I got to play with some friends, and meet new friends,” Collier said.
The lesson he learned Saturday: “If we can’t live peacefully, no one can make friends and have a joyful life,” he said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.