Overcome with emotion, Kay Ballard had to pause several times during yesterday's Prayers for World Peace, an event she coordinated to bring a diverse range of spiritual leaders to talk about peace.
"This is a difficult, darkened time," Ballard said. "This is a somber and sobering time. But there truly is hope. If you doubt it, just look around at the artwork of the children."
And there, on the walls, were children's drawings of various nations' flags and symbols of what peace meant to them - rainbows, interlocking hands and doves.
"We're here to do something powerful - prayer," Ballard said. "They say prayer is a conduit for miracles, which is exactly what we need right now."
On the 12th day of the war in Iraq, Ballard gathered spiritual leaders to deliver their individual messages of peace. A rabbi spoke about making peace an active pursuit, while an imam talked about how the word peace in Arabic is a part of daily life.
"Allah's other name means 'The Peace,' and in the Koran, heaven means the home of peace," said Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat, the president of the Islamic Affairs Council of Baltimore.
Interspersed in the two-hour afternoon program were songs, candle-lighting and poetry readings. About 100 people came in out of the cold to participate at Faith Presbyterian Church in Northwood.
One speaker remembered a time when her life was filled with the sound of explosions.
"War was an integral part of my childhood," said the Rev. Sylvia Lewis of the Northern Chesapeake Unitarian Universalist Society in Fallston. She was 5 years old during the London blitz of 1940, when her mother would send her to school with lunch money, a handkerchief and a gas mask. "I was reminded of those days when I watch what is happening in Iraq."
She remembered the city being on the receiving end of increasingly sophisticated missiles that gave no warning until after the damage was done.
"I am dismayed that though the weaponry is smarter than it was 60 years ago, it still kills civilians, children," she said. "I'm not naive enough to think that we can eradicate evil, but I am convinced we have got to work together to combat evil in other ways than warfare."