ALL WE ARE SAYING, IS GIVE PEACE A NAME
Marion Schillo, 75, brings with her to Wisconsin a certain idealism, too, a degree of optimism that somehow she can help bridge differences in a suspicious, post-Sept. 11 world.
Around her neck she wears a medallion with the engraved names of three Muslim children and a pledge – in both English and Arabic – to work and pray for peace.
Back in California, where Frank, 73, was a longtime Thousand Oaks councilman and mayor, there’s a Muslim woman wearing the same kind of medallion with the names of three Schillo grandchildren.
As Schillo explains it, she saw a news report shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in which some government official was explaining the unexplainable to children.
After the official told them the attacks were by people who didn’t like us, a child reportedly asked, “If they knew our names, would they like us?”
That piece of child’s wisdom haunted Schillo. Like many Americans at the time, she wanted to do something to help. Still does.
“I couldn’t sleep at night thinking ‘I don’t know anything about Muslims. We have to start building bridges here,'” she said.
So she came up with the idea for the “I Know Your Name” medallion, where parents from vastly different cultures could respect each other and pray for each other because of their common love of their children and a shared belief in prayer.
An artist but not a jeweler, she found people who could help her design, translate and manufacture the pewter medallions, which she sells for $20. She matches the names of Muslim children, as provided by someone close to them, with a non-Muslim wearer, most likely a stranger, and vice versa.
“It is hoped that this medallion will move people to actions and to prayers that will help our children and our grandchildren be – not enemy combatants – but friends and neighbors,” she said.
Through word of mouth and visits to the mosque in her hometown, Schillo said she’s distributed perhaps 200 custom-named medallions, mostly in California. (If you’re interested in the idea, she welcomes e-mails at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
“I wanted everybody in the world to wear one,” she said.
She’s begun to contact Muslim-Christian dialogue groups and even visited the Arab World Festival at the Milwaukee lakefront to spread the word.
If she ever recoups her costs, she said, she’d share the proceeds with groups promoting understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.