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Spiritual leaders move to international forefront for world peace

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - The prophesies of Turtle Island elders given at the United Nations in New York City, Nov. 23, 1993, continue to bear fruit and will be reinforced by ceremonies in coming days.

Chief William Commanda, Carrier of the Wampum Belts for the Anishnabe people, Arvol Lookinghorse, Keeper of the Sacred Pipe of the Lakota, Manuel Hoyungowa, grandson of Monongye, messenger of the Hopi, and others spoke at length to the General Assembly of the responsibilities all people carry to create lasting peace and brotherhood on this war-torn and environmentally beleaguered planet.

Four years later, on April 23, 1998, hundreds of thousands of people in more than 80 countries stopped for 10 minutes to "Pray for Peace" while leaders of the prayer movement, James Twyman and Gregg Braden, stood with 40 international ambassadors in the U.N. Plaza to pray for peace and a healing for the earth. Moments before the 10 minute international prayer vigil began, the prophesies of the elders were again evoked as a reminder that peace is a course of deliberate choice and individual action.

During the U.N. Millennium Summit, more than 1,000 spiritual and religious leaders from around the world gathered in New York City for the State of the World Forum. People like Commanda spoke urgently of the need for governments to take immediate action in initiating effective pollution standards for industry.

"A lot of things got to be stopped if we're going to survive," says Commanda, 87. "Even though governments are propagating billions and billions of more dollars for more medical care for people, they're not attacking the source of what causes all this sickness. They just keep on building more and talking about more technology and more government and more jobs and more pollution.

"They don't understand. And that's too bad, because they have children, too. And we love their children as we love ours. And the reason we do all these ceremonies, we're praying for them to open their minds and their hearts."

On Sept. 19, Millennium Peace Day, spiritual leaders from around the world scheduled a prayer ceremony at the United Nations Building. In Washington, D.C., American Indian spiritual leaders will open the Eighth Annual Prayer Vigil at sunrise Sept. 23. A circle of tipis will form the center of an International Peace Village on the National Mall around the Washington Monument.

Thirty hours of continuous prayer will be led by elders and leaders of all faiths. Talking circles, round dances and many other informational activities are planned.

It is clear, by their active role, that the first people of North America are taking a leadership role in the international drive for peace.

"We were told that we would be dormant for 300 years, maybe more, and that we would be awakened in this new time," Commanda says, "that we would be starting to focus and to teach our white brothers and sisters what has to be done in order to save their children.

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"If they listen to us, they will survive. We have to do it through love, and forgiveness is the key. Once the forgiveness is real... from the heart and (we) forgive them of all the bad things, then they will wake up. They will dream and see things and they will believe what's happening. We might just have time to save the destruction that's coming ahead."

One of the most spectacular "voices" for peace during this month's events is not a voice at all. The Cloth of Many Colors is a peace quilt 3/4 of a mile long and 3 feet wide. It carries the peaceful intent of tens of thousands of individuals, church groups, tribes, sewing circles and children from 38 countries who have sewed cloths and small quilts to be used in the upcoming ceremonies.

Each cloth or quilt has been taken into spiritual ceremonies and religious services and deliberately imbued with prayers for peace. More than 30 volunteers from around the world have gathered in New York City to sew all the pieces together in time for the ceremony at the United Nations.

At that time, the Cloth of Many Colors will be carried through the U.N. building and used as part of the Millennial Peace Day ceremony in the U.N. Rose garden. The cloth will then be taken to Washington, D.C., to be wrapped around the Pentagon and then the Capitol building and then used during the Prayer Vigil on the Mall.

The brainchild of singer James Twyman, the Cloth of Many Colors came in a dream while he was touring a refugee camp of 30,000 people on the border of Kosovo and Macedonia. Twyman saw the prayer-saturated cloth transmitting the frequencies of love and harmony from people around the world to all the world's leaders.

"Talking to people ... sometimes I'm simply moved to tears at their longing for peace," says Jim McManis, executive director of the Cloth project. "Simple, ordinary people coming from England or Spain or any place are praying for peace and have been for years. ... It's something in the human heart that is surfacing."

After the ceremonies in Washington part of the cloth will be cut up into 9-foot sections and presented as gifts to world leaders.

"The thought is, if these heads of state receive the shawl saturated with the prayers of all of these people from different parts of the world ... they would be moved or lead or directed, however you want to say that, to make an effort from their side to create peace in the world," McManis says. "Because there is such a longing, at the grass-roots level, for peace."

Everyone is invited to join a 24-hour peace vigil beginning 10 a.m. (EDT) on Sept. 19 and a 36-hour peace vigil starting at 7 a.m. (EDT) Sept. 23.

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