Once upon a time there were two women who traveled all the way to Europe to try
to stop a war.
“You want to do what?” her friend said. “But you can’t, you can’t, what difference
could you make. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard!”
“But if someone doesn’t do something, how many more people will be killed,
maimed or starve to death because of the war?” Emily answered.
“But two women traveling to Europe to stop the World War, ha! That’s the most
ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!”
“But someone must do something, and if we always think that the someone is
somebody else—then no one will do a thing! This time the someone is me!”
Emily Greene Balch, who was a professor at Wellesley College, and her friend,
settlement house founder Jane Addams, decided that someone must do something
about ending the first world war. As they packed their trunks, friends would visit
them saying, “But you can’t!” Emily and Jane would respond—”Oh yes we can
and we will!”
So in 1915, without the permission of the United States government, Emily Greene
Balch, a Unitarian, and Jane Addams visited fourteen countries, interviewing
twenty-two prime ministers, the presidents of two republics, one king and one
They talked to them all about peace and ending the war. They said, “Someone must
do something, and this time the someone is us!”
After a lifetime devoted to peace, Emily Greene Balch won the Nobel Peace Prize
in 1946, and the American Unitarian Association cited her for her peace work in
Emily Greene Balch was someone who did something. As a Unitarian, she worked
for peace.
For twenty years when I was leading sixty concerts a year with my elder
chorus, we ended each concert with the song, Let There Be Peace on Earth. It was
our prayer for our world from 60+ singers coming from all walks of life, all sorts
of careers, including the military, different faith communities from Roman
Catholic to Jewish to atheist to Unitarian Universalist to born again Christian to
even a Taoist.
There were corporation owners, brewery workers, postal employees,
teachers and high school Principals, housewives and more. All were survivors of
the World War II era. All lived through theKorean War which I can vaguely
remember as a toddler since my uncle Helge Sahlin fought as a Marine in that one.
For some reason I have memories of him returning. And World War II loomed
large over my childhood. We all experienced the Cold War, violence in our cities
and beyond, news from Vietnam, Cambodia, Biafra, the Balkans, Somalia and
countless other homelands across across our planet. We were not naïve. But still,
we sang:
Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth,
the peace that was meant to be.
With God our Creator, children all are we.
Let us walk with each other, in perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me,
let this be the moment now.
With every step I take,
let this be my solemn vow;
To take each moment and live each moment
in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me.
We all have the right to peace.
The Golden Tones was ministry for me but it took place in the secular arena.
And yet it gave me a place for little sermonettes, if you will. Each time I
introduced our ending song, I would also say something like: “It all starts with “let
peace begin with me.’ How can we expect there to be peace in the family, in our
community, our nation and our world if we don’t each experience peace, bring
peace, and pray for peace, however impossible it seems.” Peace needs to be our
intention. We all have a right to peace. We need to give peace a chance.
Let there be peace and let it begin with me, we sang. And then we would
close with the song from the World War I era, Til We Meet Again, when we
envision coming back together singing and being in community, whatever the
news of our world. Bringing transformation. Being peace.
This Friday evening I led that peace song at the beginning of a ceremony at
the Fillmore Peace Pole, which is located right in front of the Fillmore City Hall.
There were prayers from local Fillmore pastors and words from those who had the
vision for their Peace Pole which was installed in 2010. There were awards to the
One Step kids for bringing peace to the youth of Fillmore and to their homes. Our
group gathered that evening to continue to lift up that intention for peace, reading
the words inscribed on all the sides of the peace pole in a number of languages.
And we ended by singing Dona Nobis Pacem, meaning “Give Us Peace”, first in
the original Latin, then in English and then in Spanish.
Hanging from all the trees in the park were chains of peace cranes. Dozens
upon dozens of peace cranes. In fact these hanging from the pulpit this morning are
some of them which the organizers kindly gave me when they heard we were
focusing on peace this morning. You will have a chance to make your own origami
crane during coffee hour this morning. But how did the paper crane become a
symbol of peace. A story for this morning.
Every single day, school children visit the monument in Hiroshima where
they find a statue of a young girl, Sadako Sasaki, holding up an origami crane.
There is a long history of paper cranes in Japan. In Japanese lore, the crane—a type
of large, migratory bird—was thought to live for 1,000 years, and the animals are
held in the highest regard. There is a book dating way back to 179, Sen Bazuru
Orikake, which translates to “how to fold 1,000 paper cranes,” and which contains
instructions for how to make these special objects. But it doesn’t talk about the
legends. Our modern legend is the story of Sadako Sasaki and why it became
popular around the world to fold them and make a wish.
Sadako became the girl who folded 1000 cranes. She had survived the
Hiroshoma bomb but by 1950, she had swollen glands and was diagnosed with
leukemia. She died in 1955. After her diagnosis and during her painful illness, she
folded 1000 cranes. Her brother said, “She let out both the pain of our parents and
her own suffering with each crane. She hid her suffering and was very tolerant of
the pain. She didn’t want anyone to worry. She didn’t complain to her friends or to us. Her spirit encouraged others around her to speak of her bravery. “If it were
me,” he said, “I wouldn’t have been able to stand the pain, but I’m not Sadako.”1
In 2007, Sadako Legacy began donating Sadako’s original paper cranes
around the world to places in need of healing. They started with the National
September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. Twenty-Four Japanese
citizens were killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, and it got back to
Sadako’s family that people were leaving paper cranes at the fence near Ground
Museum staff added the cranes to the memorial, including thousands
donated by Japanese students. Moved by this, Sasaki decided to donate one of
Sadako’s cranes, which was unveiled at the museum in 2010.
In attendance was Clifton Truman Daniel, the grandson of U.S. President
Harry S. Truman, who ordered the 1945 atomic bombings. Sasaki, carrying the last
crane Sadako ever folded in a box, placed it in Daniel’s hand and asked him if he
would help them send a message of peace.2
The International Day of Peace, sometimes known as World Peace Day, is
held on the 21st of September every year. The General Assembly of the United
Nations declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both
within and among all nations and peoples.
The United Nations Member States adopted 17 Sustainable Development
Goals in 2015 because they understood that it would not be possible to build a
peaceful world if steps were not taken to achieve economic and social development
for all people everywhere, and ensure that their rights were protected. These
Sustainable Goals cover a broad range of issues, including poverty, hunger, health,
education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, environment
and social justice.
For instance, sustainable Development Goal 16 “Peace, Justice and Strong
Institutions” calls for promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable
development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable
and inclusive institutions at all levels. A peaceful society is one where there is
justice and equality for everyone. Peace will enable a sustainable environment to
take shape and a sustainable environment will help promote peace.
This year’s Theme of Peace Day is “The Right to Peace: The Universal
Declaration of Human Rights at 70.” The Universal Declaration of Human
Rights is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by
representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of
the world, the Declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in
Paris on December 10, 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all peoples
and all nations. The Universal Declaration, which is the most translated document
in the world is as relevant today as it was on the day that it was adopted.
Secretary-General António Guterres said, ““It is time all nations and all
people live up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which
recognizes the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of
the human race. This year marks the 70th anniversary of that landmark document.”
The Universal Declaration states in Article 3. “Everyone has the right to life,
liberty and security of person.” These elements build the foundation of freedom,
justice and peace in the world. 1
As John Lennon memorably sang back in 1969, “All we are saying, is give
peace a chance.” How can we give peace a chance?
You can support SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions by
seeking peaceful resolution of conflict when disagreements arise around you. You
can be part of the solution by taking small steps. You can prevent an injustice at
school or in your community by adopting a non-violent approach to problem
solving and reporting potential crimes, including online bullying.
You can engage by speaking up when others are at risk and stand with
others’ human rights at work, in school and around the dinner table.
You can reflect how each of us can stand up for rights, every day.
And today you can write postcards to our leadership urging the ratification
of the Treaty on the Prohibitions of Nuclear Weapons. As you write you can think
of Sadako Sasaki and the thousands like her killed or damaged by nuclear
weapons. It is unconscionable that the United States has not joined with countries
from A to Z—Afghanistan to Zimbabwe—to sign on to this treaty.
Human rights are everyone’s rights.4 We know, as Gina Valdés has written,
“There are so many borders that divide people, but for each border, there is a
bridge also.” Let’s find those bridges. Let’s each of us give peace a chance. Let
peace begin with each one of us. Let it be our song. Blessed Be. Amen.
CLOSING HYMN 159 This is My Song
BENEDICTION Mark Mosher DeWolfe
With what benediction shall I leave you?
This: In your life, may you know the holy meaning, the mystery that breaks into it
every moment.
May you live at peace with your world and at peace with yourself.
And may the love of truth guide you in your every day. Amen.
Countries Ratifying Treaty
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan,
Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil,
Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Chad, Chile, Colombia,
Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominican Republic,
DRC (Congo), Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia,
Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti,
Holy See, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan,
Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein,
Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius,
Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal,
New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea,
Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent
& the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, São Tomé & Principe, Saudi Arabia,
Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka,
Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo,
Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay,
Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

  1. from I have a Dream Speech