On Saturday, December 11th at 2:36pm, the International Peace Light touched down at JFK Airport in New York. Two hours later, it was transferred to an oil lantern, fastened securely, and on the road.
Each year in late November (safety permitting), a child from Austria lights a lantern from the continuously burning candle in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the site of Jesus birth. The light, known as the Peace Light, stored in special explosion-proof lanterns, is then flown with a safety adviser back to Vienna, Austria, where it is shared with delegations from across Europe who distribute it with a message of Peace to their own countries for use at ecumenical services. Scouting organizations then take the light to houses of worship, hospitals, homeless shelters, nursing homes, and places of public, cultural and political importance – to anyone who appreciates the significance of the “gift”.
Last Saturday, Austrian Airlines purser Wolfgang Kerndler transported the Peace Light from Vienna to New York City. Over 150 people attended the distribution ceremony at the airport’s Our Lady of the Skies Chapel to welcome the light of peace and kindle their own flames.
The Light’s pilgrimage across the U.S. begins via volunteers, many of whom are Scouts and Scouters associated with the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA, transferring and sharing it in their communities. Many other dedicated volunteers meet, share, and move the Light across North America, person-to-person, coast-to-coast. It can usually be received in California within a week.
The Hansons, a Powhatan District scouting family who are part of Pack 1601, Troop 160, and Lab 314, made the 750 mile round trip trek to receive the Light’s entry into the United States and spread it through a number of stops in New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. Through each of the handoffs on this thread, it will reach thousands of Scouts and members of the community through vigils or worship services.
Due to the continuing pandemic, the National Capital Area Council International Committee was unable to host a distribution service. However, if you are interested in receiving the light for your Unit or for your family, you can track the route or find a nearby event at the Peace Light – North America webpage (https://www.peacelightnorthamerica.org/) or Facebook group.