Rain did not deter around 40 people from gathering at the Peace Pole in Chemainus on Saturday afternoon to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country.
With homemade blue and yellow flags and sunflower pins, people stood under umbrellas with lit candles listening to Ukrainian folk songs and poetry readings. They learned a little more about the history of the Peace Poles, including the background of the marble pole planted in Chemainus by Communities in Bloom in 2007.
The pole was moved from its original location by the old fire station (where the library now stands) and repositioned in the plaza in front of the Chemainus Valley Museum/Visitor Center.
On the pole are inscribed the words that can be found on all the poles of peace in the world, in a multitude of languages and in nearly 200 countries: May peace reign on Earth. The Chemainus pole also includes on the other three sides: Peace reign in our land; May peace reign on our island; May peace reign in our hearts.
“Many people said afterwards that they were unaware of the existence of this hub in our own community and appreciated learning more about it,” noted Reverend Elise Feltrin of Chemainus United Church, who conducted the ceremony.
She used the words of the peace pole as the theme of the gathering. After sharing the brief history of these now world-recognized peace monuments, the Ukrainian national anthem was played. People listened to the haunting tune as they reflected on the carnage currently unfolding in this country. The drizzle added to the somber mood as poetry lyrics by contemporary Ukrainian poets were shared, evoking a soldier’s relationship with his gun (When You Clean Your Gun by Borys Humenyuk) and what children will learn from the loss of their parents (The Ballad of the Screaming Babies by Mekhala Saran).
A period of silent reflection was followed by John Lennon’s classic anti-war anthem Imagine and the ancient prayer of St. Francis of Assisi titled Make Me An Instrument Of Your Peace.
Those gathered were encouraged to contribute financially to reputable charities such as the Rotary Club, whose international partners are helping displaced people by building individual refugee shelters to house families, or Doctors Without Borders, who are on the ground to provide medical assistance during this humanitarian crisis.
While some comments on social media questioned whether such a gathering was actually doing anything other than benefit the attendees, Reverend Feltrin stressed the need to come together in community to share our anxiety, fear and distress in times of global crisis.
“By standing with each other and with the people of Ukraine, we recognize our common humanity and live by the words inscribed on our peace pole: May peace reign in our hearts,” she stressed. “It may seem like a small gesture, but peace has to start somewhere.”
The rally ended with everyone singing together I’ve Got Peace Like a River in my Soul.