A Human Chain for Peace in Ann Arbor

by ALAN HABER

The "Human Chain for Peace" had a manifestation in Ann Arbor on Sunday, October 19. Clusters of people linked along the way at the Islamic Center and the Jewish Center, on Stone School Road, Plymouth Road, Broadway and the Bridge, Packard , Ferdon and Stadium, on Hill Street, on Campus, along Liberty, Main and Ann. I didn’t see everything. A very good and positive beginning. The objective was to make a hand to hand connection between the Islamic Center and the Jewish Center. I did shake hands at both ends, that is something, though neither end has yet officially embraced the idea of a mutual outreaching. I did make personal contact with most of the rabbis and the Muslim Community Association executive committee. All Jewish organizations knew this was happening. The mayor and number of city council members participated.

i drove the length of the chain. The good spirit of people was evident in every cluster. Many prayers, thoughts, messages were written and delivered to each end. Runners, riders and an electric car traversed the route, collecting messages, encouraging links to share names for future "link letters" and reporting on what was happening elsewhere on the chain. Some places were extended all along the block, Some were thinner, Some were connected with a blue ribbon. So many people helped, more than I could name, Many organizations supported and encouraged.

Odile sustained me and this endeavor, We first heard the idea of a human chain for peace together in Jerusalem last spring a year ago. We thought, if we could do it here it would be a help there, to people like us, promoting a peace vision of people living together. We thought we also needed it here. She also sustained me with chicken soup during my flu of the last several weeks. Faz the hello pizza man provided added inspiration and commitment to do it again. Someone arranged ideal weather.

Ruth Graves, Phil Carroll, Marcia Federbush, Tommy Spaghetti, Phil and Lee Booth were something of a committee. Susan W, Larry, Max, Ben, Claudia, Tom, Michaela, Peter, Julie, Barbara and Odile also were leafleteers, Joshua and Josh and Susan F and Terry and Dan were route runners, bikers and drivers, Yusif was my brother on the ride along the route. Robert and Rebecca at the Jewish community end and Faz at the Islamic center were poles of the chain. Bruce and Linda did video and photos. Bob already posted some photos on the internet. Susan C. helped with lists. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Veterans for Peace, Artists for Peace, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, Coalition Against the War, the Tuesday vigil, Peoples Progressive Network, Friend’s Meeting, Jewish Voices for Peace and Justice, the Reconstructionist Havarah, Zatone, Faculty for Peace, and the Wooden Spoon Cooperative gave various aids and endorsement. The Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace, Peace Generators and Students Allied for Freedom and Equality and the Center for Service and Involvement helped forward the invitation. Hathaway’s Hideaway gave us haven for our "meetings " Thanks to Phillis, Craig, Hassan, Anita and Mary. The Ann Arbor Agenda gave it beautiful spread on the front and back pages of the current issue. Thanks to Eric. The Ann Arbor News made it the "talk of the town" and interviewed me, and maybe will write a nice article (morning will tell). Thanks to Maryanne, Art and Katherine, WEMU and WCBN gave air time, Thanks to Bob and Mark. Mike from Access created some beautiful graphics and gave prominent Lowertown display to the "Join the Human Chain for Peace" banner made last year by Nina and Chantel, Forsythe Middle School students.. I’m sure many others helped and spread the invitation in ways I don’t know or forgot at the moment.

Some churches participated, particularly St. Francis, Christian Memorial, the Unitarian Universalists and the Friends.. and many were informed, Students from Angel Elementary School, Tappan Middle School, Pioneer and Community High participated and notice went to many school staff. The Board of Education Superintendents office approved the leaflet and the action for student participation. The permit and police departments had no problem with permits.

Hundreds of people did actually come out, and "put their bodies on the line" as it were. Many people came from out of town. Thousands and thousands of people heard of the human chain. Everyone, almost to a person, with whom I talked liked the idea; "cool," "awesome," "perfect" "inspiring" were embarrassingly frequent comments. This is a good beginning from which to continue. While far from perfect, it was accomplished. and has become a shared, mostly positive experience across a broad cross-section of Ann Arbor, both community wise and street wise. And the messages sent in each way can be a basis for deeper discussion and better understanding.

It could have been better. Calendaring was a problem, crossing both Jewish and Muslim holidays. Protocol was a problem, as is the usual case with independent, ad hoc, self motivated willful action that depends on no one saying yes, except those who want to say yes. Organization was a problem, we had no formal committee, coalition, procedures, and hardly had a meeting. We didn’t recruit enough workers to leaflet beforehand along the route so every house knew what was happening, and we didn’t get the map and material on our web site and we didn’t send enough notices to organizations and businesses and media and didn’t do enough follow-up explaining and personalizing the invitation, and the continuity of the line for people on the line was not always evident, and multiple other shortcomings could be noted. As one person said," if i had six wheels i’d be a truck," meaning i think, one can only do what one can do, given limitations. I did the best I could.

The next time, tentatively, pending further calendar check, is Sunday April 18, 2004. The experience of today, and six months to prepare make completion of the chain more than possible. The organizing model, "talk to your neighbors on either side, across the street and over the back fence" worked well. Many people were touched who would not otherwise have been involved. The organizing tasks are now much clearer, and understood by many on the basis of shared experience. The many links on this chain, by common action become an empowered continuity, not to be silenced.

***

Human Chain for Peace: peace message.

I hope this action will be all for the good. It would not have happened without human will, my wife’s and my own, and those from whom we originally heard the idea, and all those who have been touched by the image and made it their own.

Human will is what we need. It is an essential element in the turning of hearts, which is what we need. Make of it what you will. It is an opportunity.

The human chain for peace gives standing to the multiplicity of voices for peace who would, and will be heard. This is an action of radical democracy.

I have heard people say we will do it again in the Spring, more and better. Yes.

This is the decade for a culture of peace and non-violence for the children of the world.

I am enclosing some of what I have written for peace, which has still to be heard.

The war system is our common inheritance. Ours are the generations to stop the wars, stop the killings, elevate humility, do justice and practice mercy and loving kindness, the ways of most people in the world.

It is my hope that all the various messages sent in each direction will become the basis of further discussion, and be available , in an open space, for all to see, read and consider.

I hope the people in the links of the human chain will develop "link letters" to share communication. I hope eventually we can develop a democratic consultation and town meeting in and among all the communities of Ann Arbor of how "our town" can better be a light to other communities, and to the nations, and do some good in making the peace.

ALAN HABER lives in Ann Arbor and can be reached at: megiddo@umich.edu

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