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Pieces of peace: Flag display sparks season of nonviolence
A section of the peace flags on display at Lakeshore Mall. - photo by Tom Reed
As presidential candidates debate the politics of the war in Iraq, local schools, churches and senior communities have contributed to a display of peace at Lakeshore Mall that is part of a national project called The Peace Quilt.

More than 50 people ranging in age from preschoolers to senior citizens helped to create more than 100 squares that were sewn together to make roughly 40 flags declaring a statement for peace. Unity of Gainesville Church initiated the peace flag exhibit in celebration of its "season of nonviolence" that lasts from Jan. 30 to April 4. The flags will be on display at the mall near Belk’s department store until April 4.

The flags are decorated with nature scenes, flowers, butterflies, doves and hearts. Many flags bear the names of famous peacemakers, such as Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. Some proclaim peace, with phrases touting "Every act of love is a work of peace no matter how small," while others state "Love is the answer" and "No more war."

According to the exhibit’s description, even churches in Atlanta participated in the peace flag exhibit, including Hillside Temple and Unity North Atlanta Church. Local churches Free Chapel Worship Center and First Baptist Church on Myrtle Street, among others, joined Unity of Gainesville Church in the effort to promote peace.

Iris Arias, a member of Unity of Gainesville Church, made a peace flag addressing the Hispanic community with the word "Paz" decorating her flower-laden flag.

"We picked out squares and used our imagination," Arias said. "Everybody has a different idea of what peace is. To me, it’s a way of life, it’s how to be. You have to live it."

Arias said the peace flags were first featured at the Unity of Gainesville Church World Day of Prayer on Sept. 13. James Twyman’s "Children’s Cloth of Many Colors" peace flag exhibit displayed in March on the Mall in Washington, D.C., inspired the peace flags in Gainesville, Arias said.

She said the purpose of the peace flags is to enable people to make a statement declaring they are peacemakers and want peace for the United States and for other countries worldwide. The exhibit also invites spectators to explore the notion of peace not only for their community, state and country, but for themselves and for their homes.

"(Peace) is not going to happen at the top," Arias said. "It’s we the people that are going to make it happen."

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