Woodstock is number 207.
In May, Woodstock became the 207th ‘city’ in the United States to affiliate with an international program determined to eliminate the possibility that another municipality in the world will experience the nuclear horrors which devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945, leaving a radiated aftermath which still lingers today.
Although technically a town and perhaps the smallest and least populated member in the Mayors for Peace organization, Woodstock has become one of 7,095 cities in 161 countries and regions around the world that formally support the abolition of nuclear weapons in solidarity with the program proposed by Mayor Takeshi Araki of Hiroshima, Japan in the 2nd UN Special Session on Disarmament at United Nations Headquarters in June of 1982.
A full day of remembrance will begin with a walk up Tinker Street at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, August 6, songs of peace on the Village Green; a ceremony at the Comeau Property with Supervisor Jeremy Wilber, and an evening concert with the Paul Luke Band and Sweet Marie and others at 7 p.m. at Mountain View Studio.
“I hope everyone gets how important this is at this time,” said Father John Nelson of the Church on the Mount in Woodstock, who helped open the door to the town’s involvement. “The image of what Woodstock stands for around the world is very much entwined with concepts of peace and brotherly love. If we are pushed into war with Russia or China, it’ll dwarf what happened at Hiroshima.”
In 2008, Fr. Nelson had organized a ‘War on War’ concert near the Church on the Mount atop Mead Mountain and a film crew arrived to record performances that would be interspersed with footage of soldiers who had been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. This would serve as the primary soundtrack music for Dave Mech’s documentary American Heart that featured bands like an updated Jefferson Starship, Big Brother & the Holding Company and others.
Open to people of all religions, economic levels or political persuasions who desire a peaceful world, the church, built in 1891, is now the home of Live Peace International, host of the annual Woodstock Walk for Peace events that grew from there to scores of sites around the world. Last year, for example, the church was visited by the Karmapa of Tibet. It was also a stop for the Native American ‘Unity Riders’ who traveled by horseback from Winnepeg, Canada to the U.N. in 2011 and many other peace-loving folks each year.
Fr. Nelson was in Hiroshima in southern Japan to examine the lasting impacts of the bomb on the civilian population and the environment and meet with the local Mayors for Peace, whose global organization was registered as an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1991. While he was there the Fukushima disaster struck the northern area of the nation as if to emphasize the urgency of his mission. He was the first individual from the West to be invited into a Buddhist temple located at Hiroshima since the bombing.
“After the war, Hiroshima declared itself a ‘City of Peace’ and August 6 as a ‘Universal Day of Peace,’” Nelson noted. “This year will be the 71st anniversary of that day of devastation and the 9th anniversary of the Woodstock Walk for Peace.”
After a 10:30 a.m. meeting at the intersection of Routes 212 and 375, the gathering will march up Mill Hill Road to the Village Green to sing songs of peace before continuing on to the Comeau property off Tinker Street, where Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber will welcome representatives from the U.N. and accept, on behalf of the town, the Mayors for Peace membership acknowledgement from a Japanese delegation and official registry of the town to its list of 7,095 cities. “Surprise guests” will also be present for the ceremonies.
Mayors for Peace membership includes acceptance of their campaign for worldwide recognition of a standard establishing a rule which insists that civilian centers “are not targets” and a spirit of commitment rising from the rubble of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to abolish the world’s nuclear arsenals by the year 2020. Approval of the program by the affiliated cities calls for creating world peace through renewed devotion beyond mere lip service and gesture to solving problems like hunger, poverty, environmental protection and human rights. Hiroshima looms as a haunting model of the alternative to such commitment.
Following a break around 4 p.m. for refreshment and reflection, ceremonies will continue at 7 p.m. at Mountain View Studios off Rock City Road with a concert featuring the Paul Luke Band, the Sweet Marie group and other performers to be announced.
Gather at the intersection of Routes 212 and 375 at 10:30 a.m. Saturday to ask of the American heart from the heart of Woodstock the simple question posed by Live Peace International’s official theme song by Tom Pacheco, “Why Can’t There Be Peace?” (which can be heard in several beautiful video renditions, including a particularly stunning one from Hawaii, at https://www.livepeaceinternational.org/ and elsewhere on the Internet.)