The Bridge of Peace Ceremony came to us through inspiration. In 1995 and 1996, over 20,000 Japanese women came to this country on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. While our two countries were now allies, there still remained a gap, a distance in heart and trust between our two cultures. In an effort to heal the pain of the past and reach across the Pacific divide in our hearts, each WFWP USA woman chose to offer herself as a sister to someone from the other side.
The idea came from the notion of creating a way, building a bridge, to meet each other in heart and forge new relationships. The first Bridge of Peace was created to look like the Memorial Bridge that crosses the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., and stands between the former enemies of the Northern and Southern states. It also bore a resemblance to the Meiji bridge in Japan that is near the emperor's palace.
"If women all around the world take one another's hands as sisters, their men would cease to fight and kill one another... parents would no longer mourn the loss of their sons and daughters."
Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon
Founder of WFWP-International
When two women stand at opposite sides of the bridge, they bow a little in repentance for anything they or their ancestors might have done to cause pain to the other. The bow also means asking for forgiveness. As the two women cross to the center to meet each other, they cross over fear, prejudice, resentment, and pain, and embrace the other with a bigger heart and a bigger mind. Amazingly, many tears are shed, with laughter and smiles.
The Bridge is a symbol of crossing over the barriers that many of us hold in our hearts, or that generations past have held. It is also a symbol of being willing to embrace someone different so that we ourselves become bigger and greater by our ability to accept and love someone different.
We have used the Bridge of Peace to unite former enemies, and even some current ones. For example, we have used it in Ireland, between Catholics and Protestants; between many former European enemies; and even in Bosnia, between Serbs and Bosnians. We used the Bridge in Jerusalem, between Israelis and Arabs, between Jews and Christians, Christians and Muslims, and every other mixture imaginable. We danced together afterward with joy overflowing. It has been used to heal racism by uniting women and girls in a multicolor bouquet of sisterhood. It has also been used to reconcile couples who have considered divorce and want to renew their dedication of love. And many men have jumped in, to meet and reconcile with another brother, in order to join us in the spirit of unity and friendship.
The Bridge has a character and life all its own, and it never ceases to amaze and move us with the "magic" that happens in the healing and reconciliation it facilitates.
The 4 Steps for Peace Making:
- Responsibility: We break the chains of our resentments and anger by realizing these emotions poison and debilitate us. Our attitudes, thoughts and mindset are more essential than our external circumstances. As we take responsibility for our mindset and determine to begin anew, we can be liberated from the effects of past or present hurt even if our basic circumstance is unchanged.
- Respect: By recognizing the rights of the other, no matter who they are, we are able to open our minds to the possibility of a solution. Without respect, the only answer is death of one kind or another and the perpetuation of the cycle of conflict.
- Repentance-A Personal Cease-fire: As we take responsibility, we have the strength to see our own shortcomings and our capacity to disregard the needs and situations of others. To end conflict in our own lives, we need to hold a personal "cease-fire" precipitated by self-awareness, honest assessment of our own actions and a willingness to see from the viewpoint of the other.
- Commitment: As we embrace our partner of peace, whether new sister, spouse, friend or family member, we seal our personal commitment to one another and the tasks of self-development and peace building ahead.