For aging baby boomers, this phrase “Make Love Not War” became our generation’s slogan when it was distributed on buttons at the Mother’s Day Peace March in 1965, and was made even more popular when Bob Marley used it in his 1973 song War/No More Trouble.
While in 2018 this catch phrase may seem like a leftover from an idealistic hippie era, today in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, artists are using the spent artillery shells and bombs dropped during the war in southeast Asia, and making what they call peace jewelry.
The first time I saw a peace jewelry necklace last fall, I was speechless at this delicate disk made from a US bomb dropped forty or more years ago, on which the artist had carved "I Am Love I Am Light I Am Peace." As an overlay over the disk, the artist had created a geometric design of sacred geometry in silver: seven interlocking circles symbolizing the seven stages of creation that connect us all.
The Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War had been running on PBS, so the war was fresh in my mind, I held the necklace in my hand, and I thought how miraculous it was that I was holding a piece of once was a weapon of destruction, and now was a beautiful, powerful symbol of transformation as if from weapon to butterfly.
Bombs in Laos:
From 1964 to 1973 the US dropped 260 million cluster bombs, about 2.5 million tons of munitions on Laos over the course of 580,000 bombing missions. It is more than all the bombs dropped on Europe throughout World War II, leaving Laos, a country the size of Utah, being the most heavily bombed country in history.
Nearly half of Laos is now contaminated with unexploded ordnances, such as bombs, grenades, land mines. According to Legacies of War: “there are now close to 78 million unexploded bomblets littering rice fields, villages, school grounds, roads and other populated areas, hindering development and poverty reduction. More than 34,000 people have been killed or injured by cluster munitions since the bombing ceased in 1973, with close to 300 new casualties in Laos ever year. About 40 percent of the accidents result in death, and 60% of the victims are children. At this time less than 1% of the unexploded ordnances have been cleared.” (2012)
Artillery shells and mines in Cambodia:
During the Vietnam War, the US dropped 110,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia during a 14 month period through April 1970. Historians place the rise of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in part on the US bombing of the country. The expansion of the Vietnam War radicalized internal Cambodian political disputes. During the Khmer Rouge control of Cambodia, an estimated 2.52 million Cambodians died as a result of starvation, disease, and execution.
Mines, and bombs and other ordnances dot more than 740 square miles of Cambodia. Between 1999 and 2009 more than 1.2 million pieces of unexploded ordinance have been disposed. Still fishermen on the Mekong and Tonle’ Sap rivers find artillery in their nets.
Artist help clear hectares:
The peace jewelry artists in Laos and Cambodia that are featured on Seeds for Kindness donate a portion of their sales to clearing their lands of unexploded munitions and bombs. When you buy a peace jewelry item, you are helping to make Laos and Cambodia free of the destructive remnants of war.
We have limited quantities of these beautiful peace jewelry offerings. The artists’ hand -make each one, and only a small number are created before moving on to new designs. Once our inventory is sold, we will not be able to buy any more of these particular designs.
Give peace a chance:
For me, the peace jewelry is a healing bridge: helps heal Laos and Cambodian soil, clears the land of undetonated munitions, supports the artists, their families, and their cause. And the peace jewelry is healing to the wearer as well: turning bullets into peace art, a powerful reminder of transformation.