Articles From the November 1995 Unification News
...And Let It Begin With Me
by Kristina Seher-Berkeley, CA
Hearts were beating with excitement as the 250 women, gathered in the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel in Los Angeles on Oct. 21, stood on tiptoes to get a better glimpse of the woman walking toward us in the spotlight. She was Coretta Scott King, founder of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia and the widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the slain civil rights leader. We were participating in the International Friendship Conference sponsored by the Women's Federation for World Peace (WFWP). Japanese and American women were to matched later that day as "sisters of peace" to help heal the wounds of enmity left from World War II. Mrs. King was to be our keynote speaker.
Some of the Americans in the audience had marched with Dr. King during the heady, sometimes brutal, and ultimately victorious civil rights struggle of the 1960s. One of them, Mrs. Freddye Davis, now the president of the South Alameda County, California NAACP, recalls marching with Dr. King as a teenager growing up in Birmingham, Alabama. Four little girls had been cruelly murdered when angry whites exploded a bomb in the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1962. Mrs. Davis and many other citizens, although frightened, knew that they had to make a commitment for justice and threw themselves wholeheartedly into the work for civil rights. Through Dr. King's deep personal commitment to nonviolent principles, his inspiring talks, and his unwavering example of courage and compassion, Mrs. Davis and her coworkers learned new tactics against the hate of racist whites. Instead of retaliating against the murderers, they marched peacefully, demonstrated, and prayed. As news and pictures of their brave struggle to meet violence and hatred with nonviolence and love filled the news media, idealistic whites as well as blacks, both young and old, came south to join them. The experiences they had there changed their lives forever. For Mrs. Davis, being at the International Sisterhood Conference with Mrs. King was "a dream come true."
As Mrs. King gave her keynote address, she shared her powerful vision of a nonviolent world with us. She exhorted us as women to join together "to make human development a greater priority in every nation than preparing for war." She reminded us that women have certain qualities which facilitate peacemaking: the nurturing instinct, "patience, open expression of affection, the preference for conciliation over conflict and creative resourcefulness in resolving conflicts." Mrs. King felt her message was especially appropriate to women, as in every culture it is the women who are primarily responsible for child-rearing. She encouraged us "to teach children the values of compassion and caring, patience and understanding," reminding us that to do so we had to show them examples of tolerance, forgiveness, love and sharing in our own behavior. Mrs. King made a special plea to us to teach children how to deal with conflict in an effective way, since conflict is an unavoidable part of life. "So much of the violence that we see in our world comes from people who don't know how to deal with personal frustration and conflict."
I was touched by a story Mrs. King related about the difficulty of nonviolent child-rearing in modern society. When her son Dexter (now an adult) was six or seven, he wanted a toy gun. Dr. and Mrs. King talked it over with each other. Then they explained to Dexter, kindly but firmly, that although they loved him very much, they could not permit him to play with toy guns. "A toy gun represents a real gun," Dr. King had explained. The violence that it can do is not something to take lightly in play. Mrs. King is very proud that of all her children, Dexter feels such a commitment to nonviolence that he has taken over the directorship of the King Center in Atlanta. I am sure his attitudes were influenced by the parenting he received as a boy. It made me more aware of the choices I am making in my own parenting! Mrs. King received a standing ovation after her inspiring remarks. We felt affirmed in our roles as spiritual guides in our families, and uplifted to look forward to creating a nonviolent culture in the twenty-first century.
At this point the American and Japanese women were matched with each other as "sisters of peace." Many wept as they exchanged names and addresses, photos, and gifts. Some Americans asked to be forgiven for dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some Japanese asked to be forgiven for being the aggressor in World War II. A deep feeling of peace stole over the room, blossoming into hope that our children can avoid the brutal crimes of the past. The women spent the rest of the day with their new-found "sisters", eating, chatting and dancing. After a delicious dinner, the swing music of the 1940s, performed by Bill Tole and the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, brought everyone to their feet! Tiny Japanese women and big Americans-holding hands, kicking back, swinging, moving to the music! We concluded by singing what has become the WFWP "theme song" all together: "Let There Be Peace On Earth." Even the performers had tears in their eyes as we concluded. I felt to the bottom of my heart, and most of the women there shared my feeling: indeed, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
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