This past weekend, my parish–Church of the Incarnation, hosted a group called Footprints for Peace. They are marching, running, and cycling from the nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to the UN Building in New York City, and stopped in Charlottesville overnight for refreshment and fellowship. Footprints for Peace states on their website:
We are a global community of friends who are dedicated to creating change through peaceful action. We organize events throughout the world that bring together in solidarity a moving community to deepen our understanding of spiritual, cultural, and environmental issues. Our aim is to educate, inspire, and empower individuals and communities in building a sustainable future.
Every five years, Footprints for Peace have walked as a group from Oak Ridge, TN, where the Hiroshima bomb was manufactured and where weapons of mass destruction are still being developed, to the UN Building in New York City, in time for the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Review. Our parish hosted a bountiful potluck dinner and breakfast for the group, and they shared stories in their lives of why they were making this pilgrimage:
- One marcher was a Buddhist Monk for 40 years who was living only 100 miles from the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in Japan. He was very disturbed by the devastating long-term environmental and human impacts of the nuclear pollution in his home country and is hoping he will be heard in New York. It was moving to hear his story and see his heartfelt devotion to march to the United Nations.
- One speaker was from the aboriginal peoples of Australia. She was very concerned about uranium mining in her homeland and the horrible impacts that have displaced communities. She loves Australia, and wants to protect the people and environment, and you could really identify with the plight of so many people being displaced without regard for human life as she told her story.
There was also a meaningful discussion about local environmental issues facing the local area:
- Fracking of gas in West Virginia and to bring pipeline across Virginia by Dominion Power.
- Additional nuclear reactor proposed at Lake Anna Nuclear Power Plant by Dominion Power. The current reactors needed to shut down and repaired after a 5.2 magnitude earthquake in August 2011, and realization that reactors sit on the fault-line.
- Mountain-top removal in nearby coal mining areas of Virginia and West Virginia.
- Fracking approved in George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
Encouragement was mutual with all in attendance to continue to lobby for issues to protect the environment. It was amazing to see this ecumenical group from many nations and faiths united in a noble cause to end use of nuclear power and weapons for future generations. I am really looking forward to the upcoming encyclical from Pope Francis, who will likely touch on the issues of protecting the environment and finding new ways to get power with renewable resources such as solar, geo-thermal, and bio-energy. Please keep this group in your prayers as they will be marching to Three-Mile Island Nuclear facility for a prayer vigil, and then onto New York City at the United Nations building by April 25, 2015.