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“Peace is something you have to work for, it spreads through friendship”

This was just one of the many messages and statements we found amongst many other words of wisdom when team NCRN attended the “Chain of Peace” event at St. Thomas’s Church on Thursday 17th November. It was a cold and rainy evening outside, which was a complete contrast to the light and warmth that enveloped us when we walked through the doors. Banners, posters, candles, pictures and poems could be found hanging from every available surface, the combined work of hundreds of our city’s young people. 25 Newcastle schools had taken part in the project, each taking time to reflect and discuss what peace meant to them.

We were all given an origami crane, and discovered that some of the young people had searched the world for stories of inspiration….. Sadako, a schoolgirl from Hiroshima in Japan, was two years old when the atomic bomb destroyed her city in 1945. She and her family survived the blast, but Sadako became ill when she was 11 because of the radiation she was exposed to. Whilst ill she began to make origami cranes, using any paper she could find. Sadly Sadako died aged 13, but by that time she had folded over 600 paper cranes. To honour her memory, her classmates wrote to schools all over Japan, asking them for money to build a monument in memory of Sadako, and all of the other children that had died because of the atomic bomb. After 3 years of hard work, they had finally raised sufficient money to build the Children’s Peace Monument in peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima.

To this day, thousands of children visit the memorial each year and leave their own origami cranes in memory of children who have died because of war, and as a prayer for peace. We were encouraged to take the cranes home with us so we could show our family and friends and tell them the story of Sadako, and share the message from the children that is written at the base of the memorial: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.”

After we had listened to songs performed by children from English Martyrs School, the Mayor of Newcastle, Cllr Hazel Stephenson, congratulated the young people for all of their hard work. She reminded us that it is “Important that all creeds and races come together to talk about how we can build peace in all our neighbourhoods”.

The Chain of Peace is a project that came about when leaders of the different faith groups in Newcastle came together to discuss how they could promote peace and kindness. Two days after this event, representatives of these groups joined together for the annual Walk for Peace in the West End. Over 50 people processed through the streets, under a banner of peace. They visited various places of worship from different faiths along the way to send the message that despite the differences, they share a common dream of a world at peace.