Harleston champions of peace

Published on: 1 September 2018

You may remember the occasion when St John’s Harleston had been invaded by cranes. Thankfully, it was a peaceful invasion of 1,000 paper origami cranes, each a folded message of peace from local school children. Rector Nigel Tufnell takes up the tale.

I became involved when the organisers asked whether they could use our church to display the cranes to the town. As a minister of peace, how could I refuse?

One of the organisers ensured that each one of the 1,000+ messages penned by our schoolchildren, residents, parishioners, community volunteers and others who came to see the cranes flying in St John’s was photographed – and this digital record of their thoughts and wishes about peace, together with photographs of highlights of an astonishingly far-reaching project, will be a lasting archive for the town, St John’s and everyone who contributed to it, or simply enjoyed it.

Another of the organisers was particularly movedby the messages written on the cranes by the children. She loved the directness from “We’re all different – deal with it” to the poetic wistfulness of “To all people out there, our cranes do need care; and people need nurses, and some people need purses: and stop people being dead so they can go to bed. Can you make leaders not make war, because it makes people poor? Peace.”

Since then the cranes have flown and what an adventure they have had!

The cranes were given a grand send off in St John’s before their wing-tips were taken in a clear sphere, representing the planet, to New York to coincide with the UN Peace Day in September last year. They landed briefly at the UN building before going to Ground Zero to share their message of peace at the memorial.

Then in February our little Peace Cranes went on their greatest adventure: up 22 miles to the very edge of space. The wing-tips in their round plastic space suit hitched a ride on a research balloon fitted with a video camera to record the journey. Then they parachuted safely to the ground, but not before becoming the highest peace messages in the world, at least for a little while.

Our peace travellers returned home to Harleston before heading off once more; this time to the peace memorial in Hiroshima. There they joined their call for peace with those of thousands of other Peace Cranes from across Japan and around the world. Finally, the wing-tips returned to Harleston, where the cranes from which they were cut were ignited in a moving ceremony, releasing their messages of peace to the wind, one final time.

“This amazing project made a long-term impression on many people, says Robin Twigge. “For me, personally, the journey gave me so many new experiences – but it was all about world peace; how precious our world is; and how to keep the passion for a united peace integral to our daily lives. How good that our paper wingtips left at Hiroshima will, in recycled form, enable the story to go on.”

Ian Carstairs, who devised and co-ordinated the project, was delighted with the way it blossomed: “It has been amazing to see a simple idea grow to link our community to other significant places through this most important message of all,” he said, emphasising particularly the inspired support of Robin Twigge, Chairman of Harleston’s Future who took the wingtips to New York and Hiroshima, and Pat Webb, Peace Officer East Anglia for Rotary International, who co-ordinated the involvement of local schools.

For me it has been a real joy to be a small part in this project, cheering on our little champions of peace and sharing their adventures on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to those already mentioned for making all of this possible, as well as to the warden and people of St John’s for making the cranes so welcome.

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