COLUMBIA — Small plastic cups held the flickering flames of votives lit to mark the day terrorists attacked the United States. Mothers and fathers held their children. Couples and groups of friends sat close together as they listened to words calling for change and peace.
More than 130 people gathered on the steps of the Boone County Courthouse on Tuesday night to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor those who have lost their lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Columbia Peace Coalition sponsored the event.
“I came because I believe in peace and I want to encourage the end of the war,” said attendee Jan Coffman, 66, who’s been going to the vigils for three years.
The vigil, called a “A Peaceful World Is Possible,” was meant to raise awareness of the adverse effects of violence and to encourage peace and forgiveness, said event organizer Gregg Bush.
Bush, who has a cousin stationed in Iraq with the Air Force, said he does not approve of the war.
“You can’t resolve conflict with violence; it ends, but it’s not resolved,” Bush said. “The only way to resolve conflict is through forgiveness.”
The event featured the music of Midwest Chocolate and Poetry-in-Motion and speeches by rights activist Iman Sandra Labadia, psychologist Laura Schopp and licensed counselor Taleb Khairallah.
In his speech, Khairallah asked that people “engage in active non-violent resistance” and understand the psychological factors that lead anyone to believe that war solves problems. Those factors, he said, include fear and a lack of understanding of the enemy.
“We must develop realistic empathy for the enemy,” Khairallah said. “Realistic empathy does not mean sympathy, empathy means understanding.”
Joel Grantham, 19, who also attended Tuesday’s vigil, said he joined the Army as a reservist in 2006. After listening to the speakers, Grantham said he disagreed with their messages, calling them anti-military.
“I think peace is a really good idea, but it’s an idea,” he said. “You can’t have peace without war.”
Bush said his hope is that the vigil will encourage Columbians to rethink how they deal with conflict.
“I can’t physically go to another place and stop a bomb or stop a bullet, but maybe I can reach someone in Columbia and prevent them from dropping a bomb or shooting a gun.”