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Millions Around Globe Pray for Peace, Event Organizers Say

January 02, 1987|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer

It was billed as the biggest participatory event in history.

The grass-roots World Peace Event on Wednesday called upon peace activists to band together for a common cause: to spend an hour praying for world peace.

And that's what millions of them did between 4 and 5 a.m. PST, an hour when it was New Year's Eve in all the world's time zones.

They gathered in private homes, churches, temples, public meeting halls and sports arenas throughout the United States--and in more than 70 other countries, organizers said.

In Long Beach, more than 800 assembled at the Convention Center. In Palo Alto, 1,000 people--a full house--showed up at the Stanford Memorial Church. And in San Diego, about 400 turned up at the Community Church of Religious Science.

Special on Radio

In New York City, public radio station WBAI carried a satellite hookup with the Soviet Union to celebrate World Peace Event. The four-hour special featured entertainment provided by artists from the East and West, and included greetings of peace and the reading of a Soviet child's letter to President Reagan about the need to eliminate nuclear arms.

Organizers of the World Peace Event had hoped to attract 150 million to 400 million people to celebrate the end of the United Nations' International Year of Peace simultaneously and to usher in a new era of world harmony.

Organizers, however, said there is no way to determine exactly how many people participated.

"What's funny about this is, it's a grass-roots thing and there's really no tracking going on," said Marnie Weeks of San Clemente who, along with husband Pat, served as international coordinators for regional events.

"But the numbers are definitely there. Radio stations that announced it had to bring in extra staff to handle phone call inquires."

Regardless of the number that participated, organizers believe their goal was achieved.

Feelings That Remain

"The goal was to have people spend a part of the day all at the same time, experiencing peace," said Weeks. "And there's the whole thing about the power of prayer and that many good wishes and thoughts going out into the world can only help. And those feelings stay with people. Not only the people who actually took part, but everyone they meet throughout that day and possibly through the rest of their lives."

Robert Hans, an organizer in San Diego, estimated that about 2,000 people showed up at local churches, in addition to those who attended gatherings at other locations.

Carolyn Anderson of Palo Alto, a volunteer coordinator for the San Francisco Bay Area, said even more ambitious plans are in the works.

She said the nonprofit Healing Our World organization has been created to keep the momentum of this event and link the many people that were involved. Another World Peace Event is scheduled for August, she said.

"We will attempt to involve 2 billion people," said Anderson. "We've got big goals here."

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