History of the Peace Light
The Peace Light, symbolic of the Light of Christ especially evident at Christmas, is meant to promote peace, harmony and unity among the people of the world regardless of race, ethnicity or creed. For several decades, the International Scouting movement, Boy and Girl Scouts, have actively promoted global peace and harmony through the distribution of the Peace Light.
Now in its 28th year, the Peace Light from Bethlehem campaign was originally organized by the Austrian Broadcasting Company - ORF (Linz) - and was part of a large charitable relief mission - Light into Darkness, for children in need in Austria and abroad. Since 1986, there has been a great deal of cooperation between Scouts and Guides in many countries which has allowed the light to travel throughout Europe, such that the light is passed on 30 European Countries and for the past decade on to America, Canada and Mexico.
Each year, a child from Upper Austria travels as a pilgrim to obtain the light from the grotto in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. The light is then flown to Austria from where it is distributed at a Service of Dedication to delegations from across Europe who take it back, with a message of Peace, to their own countries for use at ecumenical services throughout the Continent. Scouts and Guides then take the light on to other churches, hospitals, old people homes, prisons, and places of public, cultural and political importance - to anybody that appreciates the significance of the “gift”.
In past years the light has been presented to Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Mikhail Gorbatshow, former King Hussain of Jordan, EU President Romano Prodi and other member of the European parliament, the UN Troops in Kosovo, US Military Chaplains, the Rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NY, and to the families who lost children at Sandy Hook, CT. At St. Paul’s Chapel, on Broadway, in NYC a Peace Light Lantern and flame is displayed on the Church Altar, presented as a tribute to the Church’s role in providing spiritual support and a place for quiet reflection and peace for Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers following the tragic events of 9/11.
“The Light of Friendship & Peace” was first introduced to the United States in the year 2000. It was flown over from Oslo, Norway with a brief stopover in London, England before landing in Bartlesville, Oklahoma the headquarters of Phillips Petroleum Co., the sponsors of the flight. The light quickly spread to six states in the heartland of America.
The Catholic Committee on Scouting of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, and the Greater NY Councils BSA International Representative again have the privilege of welcoming the Light to the United States, at the request of Austrian Scouting and in conjunction with the International Division of the Boy Scouts of America, following its long journey from the Grotto of the Nativity in the Town of Bethlehem, City of Jerusalem, in Israel, to Vienna, Austria and finally safely across the Atlantic Ocean to NYC.
Special thanks to our friends in Austrian Scouting and the professionals of Austrian/ Tyrolean Airlines for making this cross Atlantic Ocean Peace light Distribution possible. Following the reception at Our Lady of the Skies Chapel the Peace Light will be distributed by hundreds of Girl and Boy Scouts at various locations nationwide in order to promote peace and harmony. If there is to be World Peace it must begin at a personal level. Please note that while Scouts send the peace Light and receive it for the people of the United States, the symbol, when presented as a gift, can benefit and uplift people from all walks of life, ages, religions, cultures, etc. Our Committee’s goal is to see the Light, distributed to as many possible groups, organizations, and individuals as possible during Advent, Christmas and by New Year’s Day 2020.
Many Churches use the Peacelight in Advent worship services, parish tree lighting events, and many even maintain the Peacelight year round using the flame to ignite their Sanctuary Lights, Baptismal Candles, Votive Lamps, School and Rectory hot water heater and stove pilot lights. The Plast, Lithuanian and Ukrainian Scouting Groups in the USA and Canada have also widely supported the Peace Light distribution program. This year, these group’s Peace Light distributions will be open to the Polish Scouting Association’s members in the USA.
As residents of the World Capital City of New York we have a special interest in seeing that the Peace Light’s message reaches the families of U.S. Military and Government personnel worldwide, especially those who are currently deployed and will be far away from their families during the Christmas and the New Year Holidays. In the past volunteers, the Peace Light has been presented to Military Chaplains, representing soldiers from Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, Fort Bragg NC, the Pentagon and other duty stations. The Transatlantic Council of the BSA annually distributes the Peace Light widely on the European Continent to American families and military members working abroad.
The Scouting organization and the Indianapolis Catholic Committee on Scouting continues an amazing Peace project this holiday season, by maintaining a Peace Light distribution and tracking tool on their Web Site. “www.peacelight.org”. He tracks and maps the movements of Peace Light by zip codes across the USA, Canada, and Mexico. Scouters Roger Knutson and Joe Reding personally logged more than 10,000 miles traveling roundtrip to NYC to gather the flame at JFK in 2010 & 2011. In 2012 Joe Reding also developed a “Facebook – North America” web site. You are welcome to join this site and share Peace Light distribution plans and news with other members.
Worldwide, communities seeking international friendship and peace are a special concern of all Boy & Girl Scouts here and abroad. According to the ideals of Scouting, Scouts pledge to encourage everyone, all nations and peoples, through personal contacts to actively create Peace and fear-free living in their environment by being tolerant towards different ethnic, cultural or religious groups.