Lei of Aloha delivered to Nashville with message of peace, unity
April 9, 2023, 7:08 AM HST
A mile long lei woven by hundreds of volunteers in Hawaiʻi was presented to more than 500 leaders, elders, faculty, students and community of The Covenant Church and School in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday.
A delegation from Maui and Oʻahu delivered the lei along with hula and cultural protocol. Organizers say “it can be seen as a metaphor of wrapping and surrounding the community with aloha.”
“From Maui to Nashville, aloha is a message that transcends time and place, connecting people from thousands of miles apart,” organizers said.
One 1/8 mile section was hung on the stairwell where the shooting occurred and another presented to the first responders present that day.
An eight strand lei with a cowry shell attached was presented to the elders who accepted the lei on behalf of Pastor Scruggs. Printed on the cowry shell was his daughter’s name, Hallie Scruggs, and 1 Corinthians 13:13: Hope, faith and love. Love being the greatest of the three.”
“The people of Nashville and especially The Covenant School may not understand the Hawaiian words or protocol, but now they know the feeling and the love and connection we brought to help them heal,” said Maui resident and business owner Ron Panzo, who helped lead the effort to organize the event.
“We want them to know that there are people thousands of miles away who are grieving with them and woven into each part of the lei is the reminder that we are connected. We are one,” he said.
Panzo and friends created the Lei of Aloha for World Peace after the 2015 bombing in Paris. Since then, one mile ti leaf lei were created for other communities impacted by tragedy including: the Pulse nightclub and community of Orlando, Florida in 2016; Las Vegas in 2017; the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018; the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2018; and the Robb Elementary School in Uvlade, Texas in 2022.
“Each time we present the lei we are mindful that people have lost their loved ones and that there are survivors present who may still be injured in various ways,” said Panzo. “This presentation was especially delicate and we were mindful to bring religious leaders (Kahu) with us who share the faith of this community.”
Among the ambassadors was 10 year old Alohalani Cayaban who has now visited three schools to bring healing and aloha with the group.
Organizers say the Lei of Aloha is grounded in a quote from Aunty Pilahi Paki, an elder who, in 1962 said, “The world will turn to Hawaiʻi as they search for world peace because Hawaiʻi has the key… and that key is aloha.”
The Lei of Aloha mission statement speaks of people from very different backgrounds “sitting together, side by side, weaving ti leaves, weaving friendships and weaving prayers to wrap around the people of the world. Weaving leaves of different colors, once woven together it is impossible to tell them apart. It reminds us that we are one.”