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Concordia Language Villages celebrates peace

When the Russian village was asked this year to present a gift to the Peace Site at Concordia Language Village, it selected flowers. The reasoning was that flowers are similar to peace in that they require patience, time, and tending to grow.

During each rededication program, one of the 14 Concordia Language Villages is asked to add something to the Peace Site. This year the Russian village, Lesnoe Ozero, was selected. The ceremony was held Friday at the Peace Site near Skogfjorden, the Norwegian village.

The Peace Site at Concordia Language Village is one of 980 Peace Sites by Minneapolis-based World Citizen Inc., a nonprofit organization. On Friday, Concordia rededicated the site, reciting the phrase, "May peace prevail on Earth," in all 14 of its village languages.

Lara Ravitch, the dean of Lesnoe Ozero, said wild carnations were selected, because the Russian symbol for peace is a carnation. To commemorate the end of World War II, she said, Russians wear carnations as a symbol of peace.

Ravitch also said 2007 was proclaimed by the government to be the Year of the Russian Language. In honor of such, she taught the audience how to pronounce a Russian word, which has two translations: world and peace.

"I like to think this represents that peace is inherent in the world," Ravitch said, "that the world always has peace in it, even when it is hard to find."

The Peace Site dedication was held Friday as part of International Day 2007. Included in the festivities were an opening ceremony, an international bazaar and market, and the site dedication of the Japanese village, Mori no Ike. The site dedication featured Japanese songs and the beat of taiko drummers.

During Friday's Peace Site rededication, the Rev. Lynn Ronsberg of Grand Rapids said people seek peace more than anything else in the world.

"There is probably nothing that is so sought after, so desired, and yet allusive," said Ronsberg, a member of the Concordia College Board of Regents.

Ronsberg said people seek not a sense of peace as in quiet, but a sense of wholeness, feeling love and joy.

She shared two stories about finding peace through understanding.

In the first, a physically- and mentally-challenged 12-year-old boy had always wanted to play baseball. While out with his father, he came across a game already in progress. His father talked to the coach about letting his son play, and the coach said the team losing in the eighth inning, so sure, the boy could play.

The boy entered the game in the ninth inning and played left field, although no balls came his way. In the bottom of the ninth, the team was down by four runs when the boy approached the plate with the bases loaded. The pitcher lobbed him a ball, and he missed on the first pitch, but connected on the second. The pitcher threw it over the first-baseman's head toward right field, so the boy kept running, with fielders showing him where to run to next. The right-fielder threw the ball over the third-baseman's head, so he ran home, meeting the fans who were cheering him on.

"There was peace," Ronsberg said, explaining that the fans and players understood that the boy needed a chance to feel like a hero. "Both teams won."

In the second story, runners were taking part in the 100-yard dash in the Special Olympics when one man tripped during the race. The rest of the runners stopped, helped him to his feet, and then they all held hands and walked across the finish line together.

Peace is "bigger than us," Ronsberg said. "It is bigger than the score."

The mission of Concordia Language Villages is "to prepare young people for responsible citizenship in our global community." Another International Day 2007 will be held on Friday, Aug. 10.

15th village added

Patricia Thornton, the director of summer youth programs, said next year there will be 15 languages at Concordia Language Villages as a Portuguese village, Mar E Floresta, will be added in 2008.