WHIPPANY, N.J. – For the last 10 years, members of Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization in the U.S. have been participating in a beautiful Christmas tradition. A lantern lit from the place where Christ was born is flown to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, from where Plast members and other scouts retrieve it to share it with scouts of other nationalities, various organizations and the broader community.
This year the Bethlehem Peace Light will arrive at JFK on December 1 and Plast’s distribution of its flame will be on held Saturday, December 8, at 1:30 p.m. at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Whippany, N.J. (sjucc.com). All are invited to join in this Christmas tradition to share the Peace Light with their parishes, organizations and communities.
This everlasting light burns in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, where it has been burning for centuries. It is the symbol of peace, warmth and love. Sharing the Bethlehem Peace Light in modern times began in 1986, when a radio station in Linz, Austria, began a charitable relief mission for children in need. Since then, every year before Christmas, the flame from the Bethlehem Peace Light is shared across the globe. The flame is flown to Vienna from where scouts of every nationality distribute the Light to as many communities as possible.
Austrian Airlines allows an open flame in a secured lamp on its flight to New York. From there, it is transferred to lanterns of scouts in the U.S., including the Ukrainian scouts, or plastuny. In 2008, Austrian scouts flew the Bethlehem Peace Light to the United States. Representatives from various scouting organizations met at the airport, participated in a special ceremony at Our Lady of the Skies Chapel at JFK Airport in New York, and thus began the distribution of the flame throughout the country.
The Plast sorority “Тi Shcho Hrebli Rvut,” under the auspices of the National Executive Board of Plast U.S.A., distributes the peace light to other Plast groups in the U.S. During the ceremony, Plast “yunachky” (girls age 11-17) sing the beautiful “Bethlehem Peace Light Song” written by a fellow Plast member in Ukraine, Solomiya Keyvan: “Light of love, Light of goodness/ Carried in the lantern flame/ For everyone to know God’s house/ We will carry the Light,/ Sharing the love with everyone.”
From there, the Peace Light is passed on from person to person, never being extinguished during its travels. In this manner, the Light is shared throughout the U.S. This year, Plast U.S.A. hopes the Peace Light reaches the far corners of the U.S.
For more information about the Bethlehem Peace Light, its journey, advice about how to pass the Light on to others, safety precautions in handling the flame, etc., readers may visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/PeaceLightNorth America.