During the weekend that followed the United Nations International Day of Peace, Sept. 21, the Rotary Club of Evanston held a Festival for a More Peaceful Evanston, culminating with a Family Peace Festival on Sept. 25.

Speakers described several aspects of peace, and, while the most concrete example of peace may be the absence of war, many tied peace to respect and love for others.

With her mother, Angelina, Maudlyne Ihejirika described some of the destruction of the civil war in Nigeria. “War is hell,” said Maudlyne Ihejirika. “Everything you’ve heard about war is true. Everything you’ve heard about war in Africa is true. … We’re so happy to be here today to say what war really is. … This festival shows the importance of love and hope.”

Angelina Ihejirika said, “I am very grateful to be here today. I think the festival is a gift from Almighty Father to the people of Evanston. Many people do not know the meaning of peace – it’s hard to get at. It’s such an expensive commodity that people do not give it out. Greed and selfishness and wanting more in the world have not given a chance to peace. To have peace is to know that the person sitting next to you is a human being.”

“We categorize our neighbors,” said Daniel French, who hosts a radio show from 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays on WCGO, 1590 AM. “The manner in which we carry ourselves reveals our approachability.”

Mr. French contrasted intangibles – “things that last” – with “things built in a factory, things that don’t last.”

“My tradition teaches that peace is not a state of rest,” said Rabbi Michael Davis. “Making peace in the religious sense is never complete. Peace is an aspiration; seeking that peace is an active state of being.”

Rabbi Davis said having difficult but meaningful conversations can lead to deeper understanding and advance peace in the community. “We can build relationships that will deepen peace between us. … My goal is to connect to the person I am talking to in the here and now.”

An example of a difficult conversation in the Jewish community, Rabbi Davis said, is the State of Israel. With the ground rules of confidentiality, no judgment or persuasion, and coming to the issue in the spirit of sincere curiosity, he said, “magic can – and does – happen.”

Avoiding difficult issues, said Rabbi Davis, “prolongs peace and quiet. It doesn’t avert the next phase of unrest. Let’s start to talk openly about what concerns us. … That is the way of peace.”Margaret Nelson’s anti-war puppets have populated parades and protests around Evanston for several years. Each puppet is at least five feet high and, carried in a parade, can be manipulated by hand-held steering sticks. At the Rotary Peace Festival on Sept. 25, four puppets stood along the paths in the Friendship Garden.

Most of the puppets are based on iconic figures: The pantocrator or Christ figure, is modeled on the figure of a Roman aristocrat. “All Earth’s Children Need Peace” is the message of the avatar of the maiden goddess of the Cyclades Islands, while the Bodhisattva calmly states, “Harm No One.”

“Peace is not a fantasy” says the fire-breathing dragon; and Isaiah of the Streets – a reminder of the many homeless veterans – tells the world, “War Is Waste.”

Ms. Nelson, a peace activist, says speaking out against war is patriotic. Puppet Humbert the Giant holds the message, “One World, No War.”

“We’re not supposed to be the bully of the world; we’re supposed to be the leader of the world. War decreases the security of America and of the world.”

Ms. Nelson showed the writer a banner she brought to the festival but did not display: “Stop funding wars in the Mideast and start funding jobs in the Midwest.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...