The Stunning Sanctuary in Our Own Backyard: The World Peace Sanctuary in Wassaic, NY
Peace Poles—the multisided monuments that bear the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth”—can be seen in more than 250,000 locations around the world. But many people don’t realize that The World Peace Sanctuary, which is part of the large global organization affiliated with The Peace Pole Project, is located right in our own backyard, in Dutchess County.
Natural Awakenings recently met with Ann Marie Robustelli, assistant to the executive director of The World Peace Sanctuary, to tour their beautiful property and learn about their mission.
The Peace Pole Project
The Peace Pole Project was founded in 1975 in Japan by Masahisa Goi, founder of The World Peace Prayer Society and author of the universal message and prayer inscribed on every Peace Pole. For those who haven’t seen one yet, a Peace Pole is a handmade monument that displays Goi’s prayer on each of its four or six sides, usually in several languages.
“Our goal is to have a Peace Pole planted in every city throughout the world,” Robustelli says. “So far we have Peace Poles on every continent and in nearly every country.”
The Peace Poles have been planted at town halls, churches, schools, public places, private backyards and many other places, she says. When you plant a Peace Pole in your community, she notes, you are linking with people all over the world who have planted a Peace Pole in the same spirit of peace.
The classic white Peace Pole is a four-sided vinyl pole made onsite at the sanctuary in Wassaic, NY. While wooden Peace Poles, of varying heights and with up to eight sides, are made in Michigan. All carry the same message, “May Peace Prevail on Earth,” in four or more languages. Proceeds from the sale of the Peace Poles support the activities of the Peace Pole Project.
Alternatively, folks can make their own Peace Poles. The mission statement “May Peace Prevail on Earth” is a registered trademark, but anyone crafting a Peace Pole for noncommercial purposes can use the message for free, Robustelli says.
“We want to encourage people to craft and plant a Peace Pole independently, on their own, because they see it as a focal point and want to make a statement,” she says.
Wherever they are seen, the Peace Poles serve as reminders to visualize and pray for world peace.
Peace Pole ceremonies
Ideally, each Peace Pole is dedicated in a ceremony at “planting” time or unveiled during a dedication ceremony, Robustelli says. Some organizations opt for a group planting, where each participant gets to shovel some dirt and take part in the ceremony.
While each ceremony is as unique as its participants, she says, the intention is always that the shared prayers offered at a dedication will help activate the worldwide network of prayers for peace.
For large Peace Pole plantings and rededication ceremonies, Robustelli sometimes travels to and officiates over the impressive Prayer and Flag Ceremony, such as the one performed at the close of the Clearwater Festival along the Hudson River, by Jim Dugan. In the moving, heart-centered ceremony, participants are invited to invoke prayers for peace to prevail in all regions of the world.
Robustelli says these gatherings evoke meaningful communion, linking participants and viewers together to send out shared energetic words, thoughts and prayers for peace throughout the world.
Visiting the sanctuary
Perhaps the biggest secret about The World Peace Sanctuary is that it’s open to the public—and the grounds are phenomenal.
Visitors are welcome to roam the incredibly peaceful 154-acre property, which is open from dawn to dusk seven days a week. The sanctuary office, indoor community space and gift store are closed on weekends, but there is a porta potty outside for weekend visitors. Monday through Friday, visitors can stop by inside to learn more about The World Peace Prayer Society and purchase a desktop Peace Pole, bumper sticker or T-shirt at the store.
Picnickers are welcome, as are hikers. Bicyclists from Kent, Connecticut, often stop by because of their proximity to the state line, Robustelli says.
“When people come to the sanctuary, they are in awe of how peaceful it feels,” she says. “Families are welcome to unplug from the Internet and games and the TV and just be, without going to an amusement park—just be outside in nature.”
The grounds include a labyrinth, a Peace Path lined with the names of each UN member state, a large globe and a ceremonial field. The sanctuary is an ideal place for both families and individuals to explore or meditate.
Sanctuary for wildlife too
No pesticides or chemicals are used on the property, notes Jim Dugan, who manages the World Peace Sanctuary. The organization maintains a 14.5-acre meadow that’s a certified way station for monarch butterflies. The meadow gets cut just once a year, in September.
“Almost all hay fields that monarch butterflies rely on get cut three or four times a year, and get turned into bales of hay,” Dugan says. “And regrettably, what happens is all of those grassland bird species—their eggs and their nests, their babies, all monarch butterfly caterpillars—end up in hay bales.”
Dugan notes that the Audubon director of bird conservation in Connective saw a butterfly species in the World Peace Sanctuary’s meadow that he’d never seen in his life.
“That’s because of the dynamics of this meadow that we’re allowing to grow year after year,” Dugan explains. “They are going to generate a report for us, where we’re going to be able to make the property, through some little tweaks here and there and some plantings, even more diverse and more of a wonderful functioning place for more diverse wildlife in the future.”
The organization also maintains a five-acre “transition meadow”—something between a regular meadow and the start of a forest—which is a very rare ecosystem these days, Dugan says. “Meadows usually go straight to forest and stay a forest.”
He says these two very special ecosystems have seen successful nestings of meadowlarks, whose populations have gone down 90 percent from their peak because they nest in hayfields. The transition meadow also shelters nesting American kestrels, a species that has diminished mostly due to vanishing habitats.
For groups, the World Peace Sanctuary can arrange donation-based nature tours of the property, and while the organization doesn’t rent space out, it can host or cosponsor an event that’s aligned with its mission. Natural Awakenings readers who would like to know more are encouraged to contact Ann Marie Robustelli.
The World Peace Sanctuary is located at 26 Benton Rd., Wassaic, NY. The sanctuary office and gift shop are open Monday-Friday and closed on national holidays. For more information, visit WorldPeace.org. For inquiries, call 845.877.6093 or email [email protected]worldpeace.org.