A siren sounded at 6:25 a.m. Thursday next door to the Rime Buddhist Center, and flashing red lights from an emergency vehicle leaving Fire Station No. 7 swirled around the interior of the temple.
But none of it disrupted the 30th Annual World Peace Meditation for the 200 to 300 people inside the former church at 700 West Pennway. Every New Year’s Eve in the predawn hours, people young and old from throughout the metropolitan area fill the Rime Buddhist Center to join others worldwide for interfaith prayers for peace, love, understanding and forgiveness.
Mayor Sly James told the audience the search for peace can seem “demoralizing” with news and social media reports of civil wars and foreign and domestic terrorism by some “idiot with a gun.” Neither the mayor nor other speakers mentioned the sirens that sounded for the109th homicide recorded Tuesday at 40th Street and Agnes Avenue.
But it and other local, national and global violence was on people’s minds. The number of homicides for 2015 compares poorly with the 81 homicides for 2014 — the lowest since 1972.
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The 2015 homicide count also shows that peace is a problem at home as much as ending the violence, warfare and refugee crisis is worldwide. But the group maintained hope that 2016 would be better at home and abroad.
Alvin Brooks, president of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, told the audience that some people might think that something is wrong with people getting together before 6 a.m. on New Year’s Eve. But “maybe something is right with us,” Brooks said.
“Peace around the world is needed, is it not?” Brooks asked.
In prayers for peace from the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, Barb McAtee with the Baha’i said: “Peace is not only possible, it is inevitable. It is your will.”
Another speaker with the council said: “The time is now. Peace is our solemn goal and our joyful duty.”
Music included “Journey of the Soul” from the Hindu tradition by Viswa Ammula. From the Sufi tradition, Turner Malika Lyon performed as a Whirling Dervish accompanied by Clark Jamison as the drummer.
During the service, Lama Chuck Stanford received the Bodhisattva Award. He is retiring this year after 20 years at the Rime Buddhist Center.
Under a nearby poster-size image of the Dalai Lama, James stressed the need for children to be taught ways of peace by their parents and other adults and to have it ingrained in all decision-making. Seeds of education and value for diversity must be implanted in youths to counter ignorance, fear and hate.
Those are excellent ways to counter people using violence as a means of solving problems.
People also must learn to treat others as they would want to be treated, James said. He quoted Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist, who said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
James encouraged the audience to be part of that group committed to peace. “There is no unreasonable goal as long as we work together,” James said.
For the New Year, reducing violence and the number of homicides as to be a priority for Kansas City and everywhere else.