The Peace Light from Bethlehem is Coming to Litchfield Community ChurchDecember 19, 2014 Submitted by Joan Franklin, Troop/Crew 11, Litchfield Scouts
After witnessing the inhumanity of World War I, Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the International Scouting movement, assigned a new mission to Scouting: to strive for and maintain peace in the world. His vision was that, through the world brotherhood of Scouting, humankind would eventually achieve world peace. By providing our youth with opportunities of practice and internalize Scouting’s values, we are making that vision come true one Scout at a time.
The Peace Light from Bethlehem is a continuously-burning flame, originating from the Grotto of the Nativity in the Holy Land. It is meant to promote peace, harmony and unity among the people of the world regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. For several decades the International Scouting movement – both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts – has actively promoted global peace and harmony through the distribution of the Peace Light.
Now in its 28th year, The Peace Light from Bethlehem campaign was originally organized by the Austrian Broadcasting Company as part of a large charitable relief mission called “Light into Darkness” for children in need in Austria and abroad. Since 1986, a great deal of cooperation among Scouts from many countries has allowed the flame to travel all throughout Europe. Each year the light is passed on to Scouts in over 30 European countries and, for the past decade, to those in the United States, Canada and Mexico as well.
Each year, a child from Upper Austria is named that year’s Peace Light Child and travels to Bethlehem, in the Holy Land, to receive the flame from one of the Grotto’s oil lamps, which have been burning continuously for over 1,000 years. The light is then flown to Austria where it is distributed at a Service of Dedication to delegations of Scouts from all across Europe, who in turn take it back, with a message of peace, to their own countries. The Peace Light is then shared with individuals, families, houses of worship, hospitals, nursing home – with anybody who can appreciate the significance of this “gift.”
The Peace Light first came to New York in 2001, brought by Canadian Scouts who presented it at Ground Zero. In 2002, DHL delivered the Peace Light as a gift from Belgian Scouts to the Boy Scouts of America in NY. In 2003 the light didn’t make it to the U.S. Fortunately, members of the Catholic Committee on Scouting for the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens had kept the 2002 Peace Light burning and shared that flame again in 2003. In 2004 the Austrian Scout Movement, Austrian Airlines and the Boy Scouts of America International Division arranged to bring the Peace Light to NY on Dec. 4. Two security guards and Dr. Thomas Ertlthaler, International Commissioner of Austrian Scouting, flew from Vienna with the Peace Light in two explosion-proof British mining lamps, fueled by smokeless paraffin oil. Austrian Airlines has continued to bring the Peace Light every year from 2005 through 2013. It arrived at JFK airport in NY City on Thursday, Dec. 11, and the Scouts who gather there for the Ceremony of Reception will light their own lanterns with the Peace Light flame and then begin sharing it with others as they travel throughout the country.
The Peace Light is for everyone – Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and non-Scouts, old and young. While many Christians find special meaning in the fact that the flame comes from the Grotto of the Nativity, others (both Christians and those of other faiths) embrace the fact that this delicate flame comes from a part of the world which is in such desperate need of peace. The Peace Light flame is a powerful reminder that all humans are connected and that every individual has the responsibility to contribute to the promotion of peace in his or her own life. Each person who receives the Peace Light flame is asked to repeat this challenge:
I gladly receive this light
As a sign of my willingness
To be a channel of peace
through my words and actions.
Many churches share the Peace Light during ecumenical services, use the flame to light the candles on their Advent wreaths, and pass the flame from person to person during candlelight Christmas Eve services. Scout troops can make the Peace Light available to the public at community events, and individual Scouts deliver the flame to shut-ins and those experiencing loss, illness and hardships. Families often share the Peace Light flame with neighbors, relatives and friends, both near and far, challenging each recipients to share the flame with at least one other person, so that it can continue to spread far and wide.
More information available at peacelight.org, bsainternationalpeacelightusa.org and on Facebook’s “Peace Light –North America”