'Culture walk' new to North Park's Day of Peace Festival

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A gathering in North Park on Sunday will focus on peace, even as several nations around the world are engulfed in conflicts.

The North Hills International Day of Peace Festival will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. at Point Grove on Lake Shore Drive in North Park. Pittsburgh North People for Peace and the North Hills Anti-Racism Coalition are sponsoring the free event, although donations will be accepted.

“The purpose of the International Day of Peace is for the entire world to recognize a day of nonviolence, the idea being that if we can observe one day with no violence, it could give us hope for two days of nonviolence, then three, maybe four,” said Mary Sheehan, 74, of McCandless. It could grow into a more peaceful world.”

Sheehan, chairwoman of Pittsburgh North People for Peace, is coordinating the event that revolves around the theme, “Who Will You Make Peace With?”

The festival will include games, ethnic dances, cultural entertainment and a peaceful gathering-of-hands ceremony. Authentic cultural foods — including Indian, Turkish and Middle Eastern dishes and American hot dogs — will be provided.

New to this year's celebration will be a “culture walk” consisting of displays, 20 inches by 30 inches, providing attendees with information about different countries and cultures. Brazil, China, India, Israel, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and the United States will be included.

“In addition, we're including eight countries with which the United States is in conflict. Those countries are Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, Syria and Venezuela,” said Barbara Matthews of Shaler Township.

Matthews is a member of the North Hills-McKnight American Association of University Women, a partner in the peace festival. “We don't want to emphasize the conflict with these countries but rather the positive and peaceful things that are happening,” she said.

In addition, chef Robert Sayre will speak about the Conflict Kitchen, a takeout restaurant in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood that serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict.

Created in 2010 by Carnegie Mellon University art professor Jon Rubin and CMU alumna Dawn Weleski, the restaurant focuses on one country at a time and introduces customers to that country's food and culture.

“The general mission of the restaurant is to stimulate public dialogue,” said Rubin, 50, of Pittsburgh's Point Breeze neighborhood.

Between 100 and 200 local residents from a variety of cultures, backgrounds and age groups are expected to attend the peace festival, Sheehan said.

Saif Abbas, 11, and his family live in Mars and have been attending International Day of Peace observances for the past three years. “My favorite part is the entire event because it's about peace all over the world,” he said. “Peace is something really important.”

Frances Sutter, founder of Pittsburgh North People for Peace, will turn 101 in October. Nothing will stop her from attending this year's festival, she said.

“My favorite part will be when all the people from all different cultures get together to honor and show the importance of the American flag and show how grateful we are to live in America,” the Marshall Township resident said.

A procession and ceremony with 194 flags from United Nations countries will be featured. Flag-bearers will recite, “Let peace live in” the respective countries.

“It is a prayer for world peace,” said Theresa Orlando, 74, of Shaler Township, president of the North Hills Anti-Racism Coalition.

The United Nations General Assembly created the International Day of Peace in 1981. While the official day is Sept. 21, the local event is set for Sunday to attract more people, Sheehan said.

Doria Shima, 23, a native of Burundi in eastern Africa, is looking forward to the festival. She's a senior at La Roche College in McCandless, majoring in international management and finance.

“In order for people to live in a more sustainable world of peace, we need to learn and embrace our different cultures,” she said.

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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