My name is Conrad Wetzel, I'm a resident of Champaign, and I want to comment on appropriate ways to observe the holidays. Many people feel that spending money should not be the primary focus of this season. What we do spend should go to further peace and social justice and a spirit of giving and sharing. I'd like to tell you about the Peace Bazaar, held annually in the Champaign-Urbana community and now in its 36th year. The Peace Bazaar is a community event sponsored by thirteen local religious organizations, where we sell donated items to raise funds for peace and social justice causes, both domestic and international.
The Peace Bazaar was begun in 1971, during the Vietnam War, when a Quaker project in Quang Ngai was supplying artificial limbs to civilian victims, especially children, on both sides of the conflict. The Urbana-Champaign Friends Meeting (Quakers) and the local chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom decided to help by holding a sale of used items, still usable and appropriate for gifts, and sending the proceeds to Quang Ngai. The first year, this event was called "Recycling the Holiday Spirit," because this effort seemed to express the concern for peace and compassion which is most appropriate for the holiday season.
The Peace Bazaar has grown into an incredible community event, and co-sponsors now include the Urbana-Champaign Friends Meeting (Quakers), Community United Church of Christ, UCC Campus Ministry, The Peace and Justice Initiative at First Mennonite Church, Channing-Murray Foundation, McKinley Presbyterian Church and Foundation, the Unitarian Universalist Church Social Action Committee, Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center, the Muslim Women's Outreach group, Jewish Social Justice Network, St. Patrick's Catholic Church Social Action Committee, the Church of St. Mary, and the Episcopal Chapel of St. John the Divine.
In 2005, with contributions from both individuals and local businesses, the Peace Bazaar raised $5,148. We were able to donate $429 to each of twelve peace and social justice groups, both domestic and international. This year we hope to raise enough to donate as much or more to ten other similar organizations. Local recipients of 2006 Peace Bazaar proceeds will include Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice, Frances Nelson Health Center, and St. Jude's Catholic Worker House. National recipients will include New Orleans Habitat for Humanity, ONE Spirit youth program (Pine Ridge Reservations, South Dakota, and Project Lakota (housing program at Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. International recipients will be the work of Anna Baltzer (volunteer with International Women's Peace Service), Islamic Relief, and MADRE, an international women's human rights organization.
The 36th annual Peace Bazaar will be held on Saturday, December 2nd, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at McKinley Presbyterian Church and Foundation, 809 S. Fifth Street, Champaign, Illinois (corner of Fifth and John). Please note that this is a new location. Free parking is available in two nearby university parking garages. Metered parking is also available.
For more information, please visit the Peace Bazaar web site at www.peacebazaar.org/. Come join this friendly event of "Recycling the Holiday Spirit.