by Mark Hamlin
We were so honored to receive the news that the national Fellowship of Reconciliation would recognize PJALS for our work as part of their 100 year anniversary celebration events in New York City! I was excited to have our efforts publicly acknowledged and honored in this way by this very highly respected organization, of which PJALS is one of many world-wide affiliates.
I was asked to go to New York to represent PJALS to receive the award. I was excited to be going to New York, for my first time, but hesitated when I was told that I would need to give an acceptance speech. After my initial anxiety about that, I realized how important it was to share the work that we do at PJALS.
It was more than worth it as I enjoyed every bit of my time at all of the events. It started with the Centennial exhibit on Thursday evening for the opening reception at the Union Theological Seminary James Chapel. The exhibit of the history of FOR at the chapel was an amazing presentation of the events of the past 100 years of the FOR’s involvement in peace and justice efforts. I was inspired and very impressed with the work that went into the displays that covered the walls of the chapel.
On Friday evening at the FOR main offices at the Shadowcliff mansion in Nyack, they put on a moving memorial of the contributions of so many past members and supporters of FOR, from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to Pete Seeger. After the memorial in the yard, we all went inside for snacks, conversation and to watch the centennial short film about FOR’s history. I was impressed at how professional it was and found it to be very informative. I hope we will get a copy for all here to see.
The main event was on Saturday evening at the Riverside Church, where King gave his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, almost a year before he was assassinated. The event started at 3:00 with a multi-faith service, including beautiful music, singing and an address by Dr. Arun Gandhi, who I had the good fortune of spending considerable time with. This was followed by the reception and silent auction, which had some amazing donated items. After that we all sat down for dinner, some inspiring speeches, a live auction, the presentation of the three awards and mini-musical concert.
Ours was the first of the three awards presented and PJALS was given a glowing introduction by Laurie Childers, the FOR USA National Council President and a member of Western Washington FOR, who attended one of our Action Conferences here in Spokane. She said so many nice things about us that I was almost afraid to speak after that.
The next award, the “Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Award”, was given to two women from The Spirit House Project in Atlanta, GA, particularly for their excellent work on racial justice and building multicultural coalitions.
The last of the awards, the “Pfeffer International Peace Award,” was given to two young men, who I developed a close affinity to, as I spent a lot to time with them over the three days. One was Palestinian and the other a former Israeli soldier. Their organization is appropriately named, “Combatants for Peace.” They work at the “street level” to encourage people to take non-violent action against the occupation and violence in their lands.
I felt so honored to participate in this celebration and humbled to do so with so many people doing so much great work that I believe is so important to advancing peace and justice. I was able to learn from and connect with a number of people that can help me to further my understanding of work that I am so interested in. I really enjoyed making many new and close friends and felt like I belonged among them. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to represent PJALS, even though I was wishing so many other deserving people could have been there as well.