“Give me oil in my lamp, give me peace in my heart” were the words a congregation of nearly one thousand Scouts and Guides from more than twenty associations across Europe and from overseas sang. They did so as their representatives prepared their lanterns to receive the Light of Peace of Bethlehem on 15 December 2012 during a touching ecumenical ceremony in Vienna, Austria. When you read these lines, and thanks to many more Scouts and Guides, the Light will have found its way to all corners of Europe, to capital cities, small villages, farms and villas, bringing with it its message of peace, hope, tolerance and warmth.
“It all began in 1986”, recalls Bertl Grünwald, one of the initiators within the Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs (PPÖ, Scouts and Guides of Austria), “when the Upper Austrian Studios of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF Landesstudio Oberösterreich) had the idea of sending a youngster to Bethlehem to light a lantern in the Church of Nativity and to share it during a ceremony organised in the framework of the “Light into Darkness” (Licht ins Dunkel) campaign organised by ORF each December. Then came 1989 and with it the downfall of a number of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and quickly the idea to carry a Light of Peace to these countries.” And since 1989 the PPÖ and ORF are active partners.
Ever since, Austrian Scouts and Guides have played their role as true Messengers of Peace and brought a little warmth, hope and joy to their families, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Each year other Scout and Guide associations joined in and helped spread the Light further around Europe and to other continents.
“’And He looked back on the seventh day and saw that all was good’ was the motto of this year’s ceremony”, explains Rudi Klaban, also from the PPÖ’s planning team, “as we wanted to link it to our annual theme which focuses on the environment, which is of course one of the many aspects of peace. We all hope to be able to leave our planet a little better then we found it. And this hope goes well beyond the Christian origins of the Light of Peace of Bethlehem. As a Messenger of Peace in its own right, the Light does not distinguish between nationalities, cultures or religious beliefs when it moves from lantern to lantern to reach out across the world.”
“It was very moving to receive the little flame from Christina, who had brought it to Austria”, adds Phillip, a member of PPÖ’s Scout and Guide Youth Council (PPÖ Bundesjugendrat), who was called forward to have the lantern of his fellow Salzburg Scouts and Guides (Landesverband Salzburg) lit.
“I think the theme was well picked”, Phillip continues, “The verse ’He saw it was all good.’ allowed us to reflect on how we interact and what we do with the richness our planet provides us with. Because we know: not everything is so good these days. Floods, earthquakes and tornados here, human tragedies, wars and bloody fighting there!”
The little Light of Peace from Bethlehem - small and fragile but at the same time strong and resistant – is a strong symbol as it carries its messages to the farthest corners of our world.
During the days following the ceremony in Vienna, many Scout and Guide associations across Europe and overseas were organising similar events in their countries to help spread the message of peace, tolerance, warmth and hope further. More than a million lanterns with the Light of Peace were taken home to families and communities this year!
Official images from the Light of Peace Ceremony 2012:
On the website of PPÖ:
On the website of the Austrian Radio: