20,000 items in, knitting group spreads peace worldwide

Gathered around the display table on the porch at 18 Center, the APYA coordinators hold their knitting projects in front of the knitting group leaders. Left to right: Nikhat Dharani, Muslim coordinator; Susan McKee, founder of woman4women-knitting4peace; Emily Perper, Christian coordinator; Michael Harvey, Jewish coordinator; Kate Simmons, leader of Tuesday workshops; and Safi Haider, Muslim coordinator, wearing one of the Abrahamic Peace Shawls to be featured in the Sunday Sacred Song Service. Photo by Lauren Rock.

Countries that women4women-knitting4peace delivers to.

Beverly Hazen | Staff Writer

Knitting scarves, shawls, caps or dolls for women and children in need and learning to cultivate the skills of the craft is the role women4women-knitting4peace is ready to fill.

A casual gathering workshop is held at 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday in the first floor parlor of Hurlbut Church. Knitting is taught by Kate Simmons and questions about knitting are answered. Simmons said beginners learn in small circle groups.

“Chautauqua is a great place to knit, “ Simmons said.

Founded six years ago by Susan McKee, with inspiration from Sr. Joan Chittister and women from Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam in Israel, the organization is dedicated to crafting hope, healing and peace one stitch at a time, through nonviolent, compassionate action.

It has inspired thousands of individuals, men and women ranging in age from 6 to 102 years old, to create more than 20,000 items that have been personally delivered to women and children in local and global conflict areas of 43 countries. In the past year, more than 8,000 items have been created.

“Women have a common purpose — the well-being of all creation through intentional creative action that is non-radical, non-violent, day after day, person by person,” McKee said. “It is a powerful way to create peace in the world.”

Women4women-knitting4peace welcomes items knitted, crocheted, or woven that incorporate an element of three. An element of three symbolizes the Abrahamic faith traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and represents the knitters’ conviction that crafting peace among Abraham’s descendants will create the possibility of peace for all people and all of creation. The Abrahamic Program for Young Adults co-sponsors the Tuesday workshops.

Knitting Groups

» Knitting groups that gather in the winter are called Peace Pods.
» The nonprofit organization’s website is
http://www.knitting4peace.org. Susan may be reached at susan@knitting4peace.org.

Knitting Presentation

» Women4women–knitting4peace will make its annual presentation of custom-designed Abrahamic peace shawls to the APYA leaders at Sunday evening’s Sacred Song Service. To be a participant in the presentation, contact Susan McKee at 303-918-4617.

The number three also symbolizes the individual creator, the recipient and the creator of all women and children. The dolls, or Peace Pals, have three parts — head, torso and legs — and three colors may be used, with patterns and stitches divisible by three.

“People can knit together as a global community and all work toward a very strong Abrahamic commitment in the work we do,” McKee said.

This mission is viewed as a start in knitting the Abrahamic community together, living together peacefully and uniting the world in peace.

McKee said that in keeping with a Chautauqua tradition, specially designed Abrahamic peace shawls will be presented to each of the four 2012 APYA leaders at the Sacred Song Service, “Stories of the Family of Abraham,” at 8 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater. The shawls are knit by Chautauquans and this is the sixth year of the tradition.

“The APYA incorporates the three faiths with symbols. Representing Judaism, the Star of David is across the shoulders; representing Christianity, the cross is on the right front; and representing Islam, the Star and Crescent are on the left front,“ McKee said. “These will be presented at the end of the Service as a gift from the Chautauqua community.”

The shawls express gratitude for the APYA leaders living as models of interfaith cooperation, collaboration and compassionate coexistence.

“We, the Department of Religion, are so proud of the fact that this ministry was inspired by Chautauqua and born at Chautauqua,” said Maureen Rovegno, assistant director of the Department of Religion, “and that Chautauqua continues to be at the heart of this wonderful ministry of service that has brought such personal consolation and hope to people around the world.”

She said the department is grateful to McKee for her inspiration.

“Each knitted gift is a love letter from Chautauqua,” Rovegno said. “This is such a wonderful example of ‘inspire, commit, act.’ ”

Peace Pals, the easy-to-knit girl and boy dolls with medium or dark brown faces, are the most requested items. They are delivered to orphanages, hospitals and medical clinics.

Scarves are given to impoverished children after their physicals at clinics run by Global Dental Relief Project in India, Nepal, Vietnam and Guatemala.

Blankets made in the tribal sacred colors of red, yellow, black and white of the Oglala Lakota Indians are offered to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where unheated homes and extreme cold winter temperatures present difficult living conditions.

Women4women-knitting4peace offers two other knitting opportunities at Chautauqua. Brown Bags are welcome at both. A formal presentation about the origin and purpose of the organization is presented at 12:15 p.m. Monday in the west classroom of the Hall of Missions. At 12:15 p.m. Thursdays on the porch of the United Church of Christ Reformed House, people gather to knit and crochet and have questions answered.