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Spreading the message of peace for all

"When I invited my friends and family to join me today, several asked 'What is a Peace Pole?'" Geri Taran said as we gathered around a slender white column adorning her front yard in Lawrenceville. "Simply put, it is a physical representation of a philosophical statement embodying the desire for and wisdom of a peaceful state of living."

The Peace Pole Project was started in Japan in 1955 by Masahisa Goi, who decided to dedicate his life to spreading the message of peace in response to the bombings on Hiroshima. In the mid-1980s, Fumi Johns Stewart of the World Peace Prayer Society brought Peace Poles to the United States and they have been growing in popularity ever since. Peace Poles are four-, six- or eight-sided monuments bearing the prayer "May Peace Prevail on Earth" in a different language on each side.

Taran, the founding treasurer for Atlanta: City of Peace Inc. takes her place among hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have dedicated Peace Poles, including the Dalai Lama, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa. Significant locations include the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the Magnetic North Pole in Canada and the Allenby Bridge on the border between Israel and Jordan.

But Peace Poles are more than mere showpieces or tourist attractions.

"The state of peace is far from a passive one. Peace is active and proactive as well," Taran said. "My Peace Pole reminds me every time I look out of my windows or leave home or return that peace begins with me."

This was the first Peace Pole dedication I'd ever participated in, but these monuments inspiring peace prevail all over the county. One of Gwinnett's first Peace Poles was planted at the Academy for Somatic Healing in Norcross. Another, dedicated by the Universal Brotherhood Ministry in Duluth, beckons peace lovers at Simpsonwood Conference Center in Norcross.

In Dacula, Girl Scout Troop 582 unveiled their Peace Pole on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The girls hand carved "Peace" in 16 languages, reflecting the great diversity of their community. And Creekland Middle School's Peace Pole stands prominently inside the building as a constant reminder to students and teachers alike to help peace prevail.

When it comes to proclaiming the message of peace to all creatures on Earth, Taran's pole is possibly the most inclusive. Her languages include English, Hebrew, Japanese and Pawprints, the "language" of animals.

"I love animals," Taran said. "I find so many animals in my yard and I love thinking it is a peaceful place for them."

When she listed the array of animals that visit, she didn't mention the lion and the lamb. But if they ever do decide to lie down together, I wouldn't be surprised to see them in her garden.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.