BETHLEHEM Ten years after their first gathering, a local anti-war group is still meeting each week to spread their massage of harmony.
On Monday, Jan. 28, members of the Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace organization marked their 10th anniversary by meeting at Delmar’s Four Corners and holding a short vigil. Despite the landmark, it was a typical Monday for the group’s members — since 2003, they have held approximately 500 vigils calling for an end to war throughout the world.
“I think we have made a big difference in our community,” said member Trudy Quaif, who was first encouraged to join the group by her son. “We’ve gained a lot of support and the community is a lot more aware of the injustices other people face in the world.”
Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace originally came into being shortly after a 2003 fasting rally organized by the local Women Against War chapter. A month later, the newly formed Neighbors for Peace group would be a small part of a coordinated worldwide rally protesting the war in Iraq.
One of BNP’s first locally orchestrated events was a candlelight vigil during which 350 people walked from the Four Corners, past Bethlehem Town Hall and back again. The group has continued to hold a similar event each Monday since that time.
Over its decade in existence, the group has grown to more than 700 members.
“I think we were kind of naïve in the beginning, in that we wanted to end the war in the Middle East and we really thought we could if we had enough people behind us,” said Quaif.
She said although peace throughout the world continues to be a goal, the group now focuses on educating the community about current affairs by holding forums, vigils and small discussion groups. Members also participate in demonstrations and hand out printed information to residents.