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Peace movement alive and well in Cache Valley

October 10th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

Story & Photos by Caresa Alexander

LOGAN—“The world has been so kind to us, so why don’t we be kind to it back?” This innocent question was asked by 11-year-old Alesha Owens as she stood in front of the small but mighty group gathered in front of the Logan Tabernacle Friday evening to celebrate the International Day of Peace.

A slight breeze lifted peace flags and carried the message of peace through downtown Logan. Motorists passed by, many waved and honked horns in support of peace on earth. Homemade signs were held, poems were read and songs of peace were sung. The peace vigil was sponsored by Cache Valley Peace Works (CVPW).

In 1981, the United Nations declared an International Day of Peace, with the observance the following year. It is a day set aside to provide “an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date,” the group’s website says.

CVPW volunteer and organizer Brenda Chung was involved with a Peace Works group that began at Utah State University when she was a student there in the 1980s. The group dissolved as members graduated and raised families. But around the time of the beginning of the Iraq War, an informal group started meeting again to hold peace vigils in front of the Logan Library. Many Loganites were hostile toward their promotion of peace, Chung recalls, and the group had to cease the vigils for fear of a traffic accident.

“When the peace vigil started, at first we had some pretty verbal and abusive response from people driving by,” Chung said. “I don’t have any problem with them not agreeing with what we are saying or what we stand for, but the attitude was pretty bad.”

Since that early beginning to now, more than nine years later, attitudes have changed, she says. In September 2005 the group was formally organized with the name Cache Valley Peace Works to promote community outreach. The group began to work with Logan City to establish a peace proclamation, and in 2008, Logan council members voted unanimously to proclaim September 21 a Day of Peace.

“As the war has gone on, we have seen more and more positive responses from the community and less and less negative responses from the community,” Chung said. “As people who would give fingers and swear at us and all that, they stopped doing that.”

Chung thinks that with the change in presidential administrations and announcement of a timetable for combat troops to pull out of Iraq, which took place last month, the war has become less of a priority to people. But she feels it is still important for CVPW to continue the vigils outside the Logan Tabernacle, because they they still want to support troops that remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they receive a good response from the community.

“We still want people to remember that even though the Iraq War has entered a different phase officially, there are still 50,000 U.S. military personnel over there,” she said. “Even though they are called non-combat troops, they are troops, and they are still in danger’s way. Until everyone is out of the country, to us, the war is still not over.”

Chung noted that children also participate in the vigils. She is happy to see them there but said when people say negative or abusive things, feelings are hurt.

“When you are young like that, it is a little hard to be thick skinned about it,” Chung said.

But she was happy to report that some children take what they learn at the peace vigils and spread that message of peace at their schools. Some kids have started peace clubs.

Tara South, 11, was at the peace vigil with her mom, Ronda, her brother, Dylan, and friend Alesha Owens. They came from Soda Springs, Idaho, to participate in the vigil. This was their first peace rally, but they said they will share their experience with others.

Tara said she would tell her friends, “I went to a peace rally and it was really fun. Maybe you should go next year.”

Ronda read about the peace vigil on Facebook and decided to bring her children.

“I wanted to expose my kids to the idea that peace is wanted on earth, that it is not just me,” she said.

Although she opposes the war, Ronda still supports the troops. She remembers Vietnam and the disrespect the soldiers received upon their return home.

“They didn’t deserve that,” Ronda said, shaking her head. “They were simply doing their job, the same thing with our current soldiers. They deserve respect for what they are doing. But I do disagree with the reason for being over there. It has been going and going and it is time to stop.”

Ronda brought a sign with peace bumperstickers pasted on it. Her favorite sticker said Proud to be Peaceful. Depicted was an American flag with the stars arranged in a peace sign.

“Oftentimes you are treated that you are anti-American because you are about being peaceful,” Ronda said, pointing to the bumper sticker. “I think that it says it very well as the American flag. It says I’m proud to be peaceful but I’m very American and I’m a patriot despite that fact.”

Alesha pointed to the sign that said World Peace, with a smiley face between the two words. “I like that one,” she said. “World Peace is practically one of the many things the world might need right now. Because of all the soldiers and stuff and how they are being sent away to war just because there is no peace in the world.”

Dylan, a student at Idaho State University, agreed that peace is important.

“People need to be aware of the fact that peace is an option,” Dylan said. “I understand that war is necessary at times but peace is an option, it should always be an option. It should be the first option if possible instead of the last resort.”

For Kathy Snyder of Mendon, the questions are very personal. Her son, Capt. Brian S. Freeman, was killed in January 2007. Snyder believes that only peace can bring people together.

“All I know is that my grandchildren are paying for the war that killed their father,” Snyder said. “It just has to end, it has to end.”

Her friend, Pamela Watkins, also of Mendon, became involved in the peace efforts because of what happened with Snyder and her family.

“I was so frustrated and wanted to do something about it,” she said. “For years I’ve been disagreeing in the quiet of my heart about it and there comes a time when we need to speak.”

Watkins says that the push for peace is truly international. Last year, Watkins and her husband taught English to students at a medical school in China. One assignment was for students to interview elders and then give an oral presentation in English. Watkins said many of them had never talked to people about the experiences of China’s Cultural Revolution, because that was not something people talked about. She was stunned when she heard the reports.

“One student got up and said this, that I think is very applicable today: ‘The man I interviewed was 85 years old and when he became a doctor he knew his job was to heal China. When we become doctors it is our job to heal the world.’ So this is the young generation in China and how they feel.”

As a Christian, Watkins says she doesn’t understand why more people aren’t proclaiming the message of peace. She said that people should not be afraid to associate with peace organizations and gave some advice to the younger generation.

“Peace starts within you,” she said. “Let it spread. Share. Follow your heart and speak.”

The Cache Valley Peace Works invites all to attend the Peace Vigil held every Friday at 5:30 p.m. at 50 N. Main St.

For more information, visit the Logan peace website and the website for the International Day of Peace.


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  1. 2 Responses to “Peace movement alive and well in Cache Valley”

  2. By emlak on Oct 11, 2010

    “I was so frustrated and wanted to do something about it,” she said. “For years I’ve been disagreeing in the quiet of my heart about it and there comes a time when we need to speak.”

  3. By Brenda Chung on Oct 12, 2010

    Thank you for the great report, Caresa! May peace prevail on earth.

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