What does it mean to be an International Peace City?  Explaining Norwich’s Peace Poles-Norwich, Connecticut – USA

September 26, 2022

NORWICH — Originally erected in 2017, Norwich’s Peace Poles are tucked away in Howard T. Brown Memorial Park, past the old ice cream stand and across the water from the marina.

All four of them read “May Peace Prevail On Earth” in 30 languages, from English to Japanese, from Polish to Punjabi, representing all the languages in the city.

On Wednesday, members of the Norwich community marked the International Day of Peace with a rededication of the Peace Poles.

The Peace Poles, sponsored by the Norwich Rotary, have been moved a short distance from where they were originally erected, but still stand for a commitment to peace.

Jennifer Hubbard, President of Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary speaking during the Peace Pole rededication ceremony

What is the Peace Pole Project?

The Peace Pole Project was started by May Peace Prevail On Earth International. While a movement around “May Peace Prevail On Earth” started in Japan in 1955, the first Peace Poles appeared in the country in 1976, and became an international movement in the 1980s.

Holding ceremonies to dedicate or rededicate the Peace Poles are an integral part of having them, the organization’s website states.

Bonnie Hong brought the Peace Poles to Norwich. Who was she?

Many identify Bonnie Hong as the reason Norwich has the Peace Poles. She had a career in medicine, and served on the City Council from 1987-1991, including one term as council president. She was also an activist, and wanted to improve Norwich, Mayor Peter Nystrom said.

“She fought for things that she believed in that would better the city, and she never stopped giving her time,” he said.

After Hong’s political career, she continued with community service, including serving as the president of the Norwich Rotary Club, which worked alongside Hong to get Norwich the international cities of peace recognition. She died in 2021, according to her obituary. New restaurant in Colchester ‘Where I wanted to be’: Fornarelli’s second restaurant a homecoming for co-owner “For her starting this, having the communities become one, was an excellent, excellent thing to do, and we’re showing that we’re following in her footsteps,” said Rev. Lynell Axson of Evans Memorial ANE Zion Church and president of the Norwich Community Corps. Eventually, there will be a dedication plaque to Hong and an explanation of the peace poles at the site, said Carrie Szymanski, president of the Norwich Sunshine Rotary Club and chair for the Celebrate Cultural Diversity event.

Another peace pole still stands outside Hong’s house, said Roz Etra, who ran the rededication event.

Jennifer Hubbard, mother of Sandy Hook victim Catherine Hubbard, spoke at this year’s rededication. Why?

This year’s dedication was the first one since the pandemic. Highlights of the ceremony included Norwich middle school students reading essays about peace, reading the peace pole by people who speak some of the non-English languages, and Jennifer Hubbard, president of the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, donating local plants from the sanctuary’s pollinator garden to help create a pollinator garden at the Peace Pole.

Jennifer Hubbard’s organization is named after her daughter, a victim of the Sandy Hook shooting who wanted to work with animals when she grew up. The organization believes that if humanity can care for animals, it will create “a kinder and gentler world.”

There are also plans to put these “kindness gardens” at each of the city’s elementary schools, Nystrom said.

How is Norwich promoting peace?

One way the city has promoted peace is through embracing its diversity, including multilingual welcome signs, passing resolutions for health equity, and recognizing 51 important holidays for the cultural calendar of Norwich Public Schools, said City Councilor Swaranjit Singh Khalsa.

“Equity and justice takes us to the peace that people need,” he said.

Another way is through the cultural celebrations the city has year round, including Norwich Rotary’s Celebrate Cultural Diversity event, Greeneville’s Block Party, and those from Global City Norwich, Axson said.

Hubbard is from Newtown, but visits plenty of towns in her work with the animal sanctuary. She said the state as a whole is doing a good job promoting peace, implementing inclusion measures and preventing bullying in schools.

“A lot more work needs to be done, but you got to start somewhere,” she said.

What else does Norwich need to do?

The commitment to peace needs to start from the very top, including the city government, and there needs to be more events through each of the neighborhoods, especially the West Side, Axson said.

“We could do better and we should strive for togetherness,” Axson said.

Nystrom said, as the mayor, he needs “more self-awareness of the role that I play, or can play, or maybe should not play,” in the city.