From the ceiling of the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C. – home to the United Church of Christ justice advocacy office near Capitol Hill – hangs a colorful artistic display of 1,000 folded pieces of paper, creating peace cranes in a variety of colors. The exhibit, ‘Peace Onto Wings,' is much more than artwork: It is a public witness and an image for world peace, and a call to end worldwide nuclear armament.
"In many cultures, cranes are symbols of wisdom, and it is believed that their wings can carry souls to higher levels of spiritual enlightenment," said Sandra Sorensen, director of the UCC's office in Washington, D.C. who led the dedication and worship service for the project. "This radiant display of peace cranes is a true gift to the faith-based advocacy community in Washington. As we enter and leave the building each day, we can be reminded of our call to work for peace, justice and reconciliation. The cranes are a beautiful and gentle prayer of recommitment and rededication to this witness each and every day, a witness that that the world so desperately needs."
The entrance to the nearly 100-year-old building – the fourth-oldest building on Capitol Hill – has housed numerous exhibits of art that portray some form of social advocacy. For ‘Peace Onto Wings', 12 origami peace cranes hang from individual pieces of string attached to the high ceiling. Japanese legend says that whoever folds 1,000 paper cranes will be granted a wish, or good health and prosperity.
"The peace crane is a powerful symbol of peace and hope for a world without nuclear weapons," said the Rev. Mike Neuroth, policy advocate for international issues for Justice and Witness Ministries. The exhibit debuted last week on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and will remain up until Sept. 21, the International Day of Prayers for Peace.
The artist, Tirsana Paudel, is an immigrant from Nepal who came to the U.S. with her family on a lottery. This summer during her internship at the United Methodist Building, the high school senior learned of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, which prompted her to use her artistic skill and creativity to create the exhibit and debut it on Aug. 6. Paudel had help from her family and friends in folding the cranes. Visitors to the Methodist building can fold a crane and add it to the exhibit.
"Sixty-eight years after the bombing of Hiroshima, the paper crane is still folded by groups of young people to raise an awareness of the children who have died of violence and to call for an end to war," Paudel said on the exhibit's description.
The story of the Peace Crane begins with a young Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, who was 2 years old when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug, 6, 1945. She was diagnosed with leukemia, and died at age 12 after she began folding cranes in hopes she would be granted good health. Her wish was never granted.
The United Church of Christ has a history of advocating for nuclear disarmament and ending nuclear testing. In 2011, the 28th General Synod passed a resolution titled "U.S. Ratification of a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty." Neuroth said that ratification of the treaty is an important step toward building a safer world, and the United States remains one of eight countries that must ratify it before it becomes effective.
"As we continue to advocate for a world without nuclear weapons, the peace crane is a beautiful reminder of the power of hope and the importance of working for peace in our world today," Neuroth said.