Brownie Girl Scout Elly Vezzetti says a prayer while bathed in the glow of the Peace Light, a flame that traveled all the way from Bethlehem, Israel. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
A flame that originated in the city of Bethlehem, Israel made its way to Addison Township Dec. 20 as part of an annual journey designed to promote “peace, harmony and unity among the people of the world.”
Brownie Girl Scout Troop 76173 hosted an International Peace Light Sharing Ceremony at Kingsbury Country Day School.
Collected from the grotto (or cave) at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem – the town where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born more than 2,000 years ago – the flame, called the Peace Light, is kept burning as it’s passed around in 30 European countries along with the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts have been actively involved in the promotion and distribution of the Peace Light for many years.
This is the first time Troop 76173 has participated in this international campaign.
“When you have an opportunity to share that message of peace . . . how can you not take on that challenge?” said Goodrich resident Melissa Hansz, whose 7-year-old daughter, Claudia Hansz, is a member of the Brownie troop and a second-grader at Kingsbury.
This year, the Peace Light arrived in the United States, from Vienna, Austria, at JFK International Airport in New York on Nov. 25.
Hansz collected the flame in Ann Arbor on Nov. 30. Since then, she and her family have kept it burning 24 hours a day, rotating it between two oil lanterns and a candle.
“I didn’t realize the magnitude of what I was taking on, honestly,” she explained. “There’s a lot involved with it . . . You have to travel with a fire extinguisher in your car . . . Every two days you have to refill (the lantern) . . . It’s about $20 a week in oil.”
“Obviously, it’s a big responsibility to not let that flame go out. Far be it from me to let the flame from Israel burn out on my watch,” Hansz noted.
Shining from an oil lantern sitting on a table in the Kingsbury library, each of the Girl Scouts, along with their mothers, siblings and some Boy Scouts, took turns lighting candles from this flame that traveled across three continents and an ocean. Following the ceremony, the candles were to be taken to the scouts’ homes and some local churches.
“Our hope for the kids is that they understand what one person can do to share the light and if they are believers in Jesus Christ, they understand that their light needs to shine all the time,” Hansz said.
Prayers, music and a recitation of the Peace Light’s history were all part of the ceremony.
The Peace Light from Bethlehem campaign started in 1986. It was originally organized by the Austrian Broadcasting Company ORF (Linz) and was part of a relief mission called Light into Darkness, which helped children in need in Austria and elsewhere.
Each year, a child from Austria is sent to obtain the flame from Israel. The Peace Light is kept burning as it’s transported in two blast-proof miner lamps on an Austrian Airlines plane traveling from Tel Aviv to Vienna.
Although the Peace Light has traveled around Europe for more than three decades, it didn’t make its way to North America until 2000.
Over the years, the Peace Light has been presented to popes, heads of state and other political figures, soldiers and military chaplains, and those who have suffered horrific personal losses. The flame has made its way to churches, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and places with public, cultural and political significance.
Many churches use the Peace Light as part of their worship services and holiday celebrations, and keep the flame going all year long via candles, lamps and pilot lights.