Peace Abbey Creates a Symbol of Unity in Sorrow Global Pandemics Stone Will Offer Healing MessageNov 28, 2020 12:41PM ● By Judy O'Gara
Shown is Phil Lussier, a member of The Life Experience School in Millis, with the Global Pandemics stone, created by The Peace Abbey for the world to share and express their grief at the losses due to pandemics. Photo by Lewis Randa
In an upside-down world where human beings can’t touch each other, The Peace Abbey Foundation, located now in Millis, Massachusetts, has created a palpable symbol of global unity, with a one-ton stone that acknowledges the weight of a shared grief. The stone, carved by Ackerman Monument Company in Holliston, reads “Global Pandemics: A Touchstone for Humanity”. It currently rests at The Peace Abbey’s birthplace, The Life Experience School on Lavender Street in Millis, where Mother Theresa visited in 1987.
The Peace Abbey’s Global Pandemics stone was created by the same company that created its Unknown Civilians Killed in War and Victims of Violence stones, Ackerman Monument Company in Holliston.
“This stone everyone can relate to, whether they lost someone, a job, a business. It’s a touchstone for bereavement,” says Lewis Randa, who, co-founder of The Peace Abbey.
He hopes the stone will serve as a prayer for health and healing, a way to acknowledge the united and difficult experience of loss felt by pandemics such as COVID-19.
Bereaved families and friends of those who died from COVID-19 or AIDS are invited to share their grief and loss by placing flowers, a photo or a small stone on the memorial, or to help pull the heavy tablet, via a caisson built for this purpose, to its next public viewing location.
As part of the National Week of Mourning, the stone was recently pulled to the Salvation Army in Central Square, Cambridge, where Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui read a proclamation welcoming the stone to the city. Calling it “a touchstone for humanity that will make its way throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond,” the Cambridge mayor’s proclamation asserted her city’s “solidarity with a global community and the profound impact, including the physical and mental toll COVID-19 has taken on the community, some of whom lost loved ones to the pandemic and who have been unable to gather to mourn their losses.”
Peace Abbey Chaplain Dot Walsh, explains that this stone, like others The Peace Abbey has created, was made to travel. On its journey, it may find a home.
The Peace Abbey’s other stones have had impact all over the world.
In 1994, The Peace Abbey created the Unknown Civilians Killed in War stone, which was unveiled by Muhammed Ali. Since that time, that stone has traveled in the United States, to Ireland, England and Japan.
“The stone makes its way through the world, and then, if a site or a religious organization wants to keep it, we give it to them and make another,” says Randa. The original Unknown Civilians Killed in War stone, for example, is kept at the Coventry Cathedral in England.
Walsh explains that another Unknown Civilians Killed in War stone found its way to Japan after its presence at Ground Zero in 2004 in New York. People who’d lost others to the violence of 9/11 touched the stone and shared their stories. A non-violence group from Japan happened to be visiting Ground Zero, among them a “hibakusha,” or survivor of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima during WWII. They expressed interest to Peace Abbey members to bring the stone to Japan. And so, that stone went overseas, to Asia, where the American peace activists participated in a ceremony expressing sorrow at the loss of life and injury caused by the bomb.
“Governments don’t apologize, but individuals can,” says Walsh. Participants in Japan, she says, were so touched, they asked to keep and care for the stone. They even created their own replica to present to Korea as a peace offering.
Walsh says the world needs this Global Pandemics stone in the same way, to heal. “Even the people who work in the hospitals,” she says, “it’s just so overwhelming that at the end of the day, they cry, and they go home exhausted. They need something like this stone. This stone has meaning for people all over the world.”
Although The Peace Abbey had had plans to create another stone honoring innocent victims of war, “When the pandemic happened, it was clear there was another message being fully expressed with the current struggle of humanity,” says Randa.
Pulling the stone with others, says Randa, is an effort that requires one “to dig deep within yourself to muster the strength, with others. It could have been lighter, but we chose to have the weight of the stone reflect the weight of its message.”
Randa notes that, as long as social distancing and mask protocols are followed, “anyone who might find solace in visiting the stone” is welcome at its Millis location.
“We’d like the public to know that, upon request, much as with families who lost loved ones on 911, we will organize short bereavement Stonewalks, if those who wish to participate are within safe, family units,” says Randa.
Find out more about The Peace Abbey at www.peaceabbey.org.