2nd Anniversary of Regina’s Making Peace Vigil

2nd Anniversary of Regina’s Making Peace Vigil

Two dozen activists took to the F.W. Hill Mall in downtown Regina on May 7th to mark the second anniversary of the Making Peace Vigil.  Since May 2007, vigil members have gathered there every Thursday at noon to speak out against all violence and injustice.

For 30 minutes every week, some vigil participants hand out fliers to interested passersby, while others hold a banner that has become a familiar sight in downtown Regina over the past two years.

The vigil began as an initiative loosely modelled on the anti-war activism of Women in Black, an international women’s anti-war movement, whose members silently stand in public to show their opposition to war and injustice.  From the beginning, however, participants in the Regina Making Peace Vigil have been both men and women, a diverse group of people committed to the belief that public activism can bring about social and political change.

Not many weeks into their public witness back in 2007, vigil members hit upon the idea of highlighting a different issue each week with a new flier, while keeping to the basic theme of opposition to injustice and violence.  Ideas for topics have generally come from the participants themselves, who circulate drafts by e-mail, and chip in their own money to pay for each Thursday’s photocopying.   

Over 104 straight weeks of witness, vigil participants have passed out thousands of the fliers.  From the Afghanistan War to the Funding of First Nations Post-Secondary Education, from Violence against Women to the Global Arms Trade, and from Affordable Housing to Nuclear Dangers, vigil fliers have covered a wide range of topics.

One of the vigil’s original participants, Florence Stratton, says that producing the vigil fliers has a two-fold educational purpose.  "First, we educate ourselves about the issues as we develop the fliers.  Second, we increase public awareness among those who stop to take one of our leaflets." 

Stratton says that even those who don’t stop to take a flier may still be reminded by the vigil’s presence of the injustice and violence in the world, while those who do take a few moments to read will be exposed to an alternative point of view to the one normally found in mainstream media.

On their second anniversary, vigil participants were offering a radically alternative view of Mother’s Day, just in time for an observance that has come to be associated with greeting cards and sentimentality. The weekly handout was a "Mother’s Day Card" that sketched the little-known history of Mother’s Day in North America, highlighting the contribution of American suffragette, abolitionist and peace activist, Julia Ward Howe. 

            In 1870, Howe—horrified by the carnage of the US Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War—issued a Mother’s Day Proclamation for Peace which emphasized the special role of women’s public activism in bringing an end to war.  Quoted in the vigil’s Mother’s Day "cards," it concludes with a powerful call for peace:

"We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country

To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.

It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."

            Florence Stratton explained the decision to quote Howe’s proclamation: "It’s important that we remember the connection between Mother’s Day and peace. Howe felt women could offer a powerful witness against war, and she put those feelings into action with her proclamation."

            Like Howe, the Women in Black and many others, Stratton and the other vigil participants have been putting their beliefs into action as well, and will keep doing so in downtown Regina every Thursday until, as they put it, "Peace Breaks Out."

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