Peace Light from Bethlehem comes to Rockford

The Peace Light from Bethlehem is used to light a candle at the church it is presented to at a Christmas Eve service. 

By Zach Cranmer, Troop 228 Historian

What appears at first glance to be an ordinary flame in a lantern actually is a light that has been burning for centuries and came a distance of more than 6,000 miles to convey a message of peace to a Rockford area church and others in the community.

The Peace Light was brought to the charter organization of Boy Scout Troop 228 and Cub Scout Pack 3228. Scouts from Troop 228 presented the light with its rich history of more than 30 years to Bostwick Lake Congregational United Church of Christ.

The flame made its way from Bethlehem, Israel, from the West Bank site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born, to Vienna, Austria to New York to Michigan and then to Rockford for the Christmas Eve services without ever be extinguished. The light came from oil lamps at the birthplace, which have been burning continuously for more than a thousand years.

The Peace Light story begins when Boy Scouts from Austria first extracted the flame from a lamp at the grotto at the Church of the Nativity in 1986. Austrian Scouts make a similar visit yearly to fetch the light and share with Scouts both internationally and throughout Europe.  Austrian Airlines has brought the Peace Light in several blast-proof mining lanterns to the United States, Canada, and Mexico over the past decade.

The flame spread over the years to landmarks worldwide through the support of the International Scouting movement. It lit up a lantern at the World Trade Center after 9/11, marked the site near the terrorist attacks in Paris, was shared with victims of natural disasters and school shootings, has been presented to Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, members of the European parliament, the United Nations troops in Kosovo, and others around the world.

According to a Scouting site, Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the worldwide Boy Scout movement, decided striving for and maintaining peace in the world should be part of the Scout movement after he witnessed the inhumanities of World War I.

The Peace Light is representative of the desire to promote peace, harmony, and unity among people of the world regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion.  The international Scouting movement promotes global peace and harmony through worldwide distribution of the light.

The Peace Light first came to New York as a gift from Canadian Scouts who presented it at Ground Zero. The light has been brought back to the United States continuously since 2004. American Scouts are working to get it distributed throughout the country.

The light came to the Eagle Spirit District of the President Gerald R. Ford Field Service Council in December.  Scouts in Troop 228 wanted to share the Peace Light with their chartering church.

The church presentation included a brief history and presentation of the flame. When the church lights were turned off during a candlelight vigil at the end of the service, the church was filled with candlelight originally lit from the Peace Light.

As the presentation guidelines explain, “This light gives us hope, that even though there is much darkness in the world, we can still see signs of loving and peaceful communities. We can still see people living together in harmony, and working together for peace and justice. As Scouts, we want to keep the hope of peace alive in our world, our communities, and our homes.”