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Five years and counting, a peace vigil stands firm

In Needham, Mass., peace activists make weekly pleas to end violence and remain hopeful that their message is heard.

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Most Saturday afternoons, Sue Fleming's family and friends know exactly where they can find her between 4 and 5 p.m. As leader of the Needham Interfaith Peace Initiative, she's typically on the town common in this suburb west of Boston, maintaining a peace vigil with a small group of like-minded residents.

For nearly an hour, in all kinds of weather, participants, including Mrs. Fleming's husband, Donald, hold hand-lettered signs bearing a variety of messages, hoping to catch the attention of pedestrians and passing motorists. Traffic is heavy as shoppers hurry to finish late-afternoon errands, dashing in and out of CVS and Harvey's Hardware across the street.

"Skillful diplomacy works," reads one sign. "War creates terrorism," states another. Other messages range from "End all torture" to "Do not bomb Iran," "Eliminate causes of terrorism," and "All nations are our neighbors."

Similar peace initiatives exist in other Boston suburbs – Arlington, Newton, and Milton, among them – and in cities and towns stretching from Chatham, N.Y., to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and from Stamford, Conn., to Seattle. Not all groups stage vigils. Some hold public events with invited speakers.

"There are lots of groups out there," says Mrs. Fleming. "They've sprung up like mushrooms."

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