A group of 15 people walked through the Oregon State University campus on Monday, the first steps in a two-week journey that will end on Aug. 14 at Naval Base Kitsap, home of the U.S. Navy’s ballistic submarine fleet in the Pacific, with a prayer to eliminate nuclear weapons.

The 13th annual Pacific Northwest Interfaith Peace Walk started in Corvallis this year, with the core group of participants arriving in Corvallis on Sunday and beginning their march on Monday. They’ll walk an average of 15 miles a day, with stops in more than a dozen Oregon and Washington communities including Salem, Portland, Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle.

Organized by the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist monastery in Bainbridge Island, Washington, and co-sponsored by a variety of peace groups, the march aims to call attention to the horrors of war and put pressure on political leaders to abolish nuclear weapons.

“It’s very easy to have a catastrophe on the earth now — not just climate change, but we have very varied technologies to kill people quickly,” said the Rev. Senji Kanaeda of the Nipponzan Miyohoji order, which has organized numerous peace marches around the world. “It’s the only single act I can do.”

Kanaeda, a native of Japan, said he’s participated in more than 100 anti-nuclear marches over the past 25 years or so, including a multinational pilgrimage that began on Dec. 8, 1994, in Auschwitz, Poland, site of the notorious Nazi death camp, and ended in Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9, 1995, the 50th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of that city.

In addition to the core group of 10 or 12 marchers, Kanaeda said, he expects others to swell the ranks of this year’s Pacific Northwest Interfaith Peace Walk.

“Along the way, local people join us,” he said. “Sometimes 20, sometimes 30 — every day is different.”

On Monday, the group took part in a panel discussion at OSU and walked to several student cultural centers, banging hand drums and carrying signs that called for peace. They were also scheduled to join the daily peace vigil at the Benton County Courthouse and visit the Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center before gathering for a community potluck at Central Park.

The group was hosted at Oregon State University by Linda Richards, an instructor in the College of Liberal Arts who took part in the 2015 march. Given the university’s connections to the peace movement, including the personal papers of Nobel Peace Prize-winning anti-nuclear activist Linus Pauling, Richards said, OSU made a good place to start the march.

“I really wanted him to talk on our campus,” she said of Kanaeda. “Because of all the peace work that goes on on our campus, I thought it was appropriate if we had his prayer for peace on our campus.”

Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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