March 20, 2003

Buddhist Peace Group
Women Against War Rally

Visualize the Children

The Buddhist Peace Group participated in the rally sponsored by the Women Against War at the State Capitol today, one day after the invasion of Iraq began. When our turn at the podium came we silently ascended the Capitol steps holding pictures of the faces of Iraqi children. We asked those who gathered for the rally to join us in silent meditation:

"We are the Buddhist Peace Group, an ad hoc group of local Buddhists who advocate the peaceful resolution of conflict. In our way of thinking, and in our way of life, we do not condone any act of killing. Nor do we condone the actions of those who profit from suffering. Please join us in one minute of silent meditation, in which we visualize - with compassion - the children of Iraq."

A bell was rung to signal the start of the visualization, and after one minute the bell was rung again to signal the end of the visualization.

There was high energy at the rally - with quite a lot of talking, drumming, various groups doing chants, etc. But a deep, respectful silence quickly fell over the entire group during our visualization. Afterwards, each member of our Buddhist Peace Group was approached by persons who stopped to express to us their deeply felt appreciation for bringing that moment to the group.

The press sought us out at the Women Against War event, as a result of the pictures we brought to the rally and the press release about our upcoming 24-hour sunrise-to-sunrise 'Meditation for Peace', which had gone out earlier in the day. Reporters from the Times Union, Associated Press, NPR, etc, talked to us. In an article that appeared in the Times Union, it said: "Many of the crowd held up signs and pictures of Iraqi children, which were handed out by the Buddhist Peace Group."

We had not arrived at the rally intending to hand pictures out to the group at large, as the news article implied, but a number of people were moved by the children's faces and/or the visualization, and approached us to ask if they could borrow a picture to carry during the march and/or speeches.

Later, during the speeches down at the Federal Building, there was a little girl who had been on the march. She was about 4 or 5 years old. She was sitting on a bench off to the left of the crowd. Into the ground she had planted the stick to which one of our pictures was attached - the picture of a little Iraqi girl. She was dressing up her new friend in a little scarf and talking to her.

A prayer that was read at the Federal Bldg implored individuals to pray for those who suffer, but 'pray more' for those who cause suffering. As we marched down the center of Lark Street and through Arbor Hill, many people came out of their houses or to their windows and waved to us, flashed peace signs, or danced and swayed to the sounds of the drums that some individuals in the march were beating. It was as if each of these individuals felt momentarily liberated to openly express how they actually felt about the war.

There was a call-and-response chant that was used during the march. The call went like this: "What does democracy look like?" and the response was "This is what democracy looks like." And, indeed, it was.