A 10-foot-tall peace sculpture was unveiled and dedicated to the people of Wausau, Wisconsin, recently, to build a bridge between them and their Arabs friends in Egypt. Doves were set free at the ceremony for the monument, which features a large dove carrying the word “peace” inscribed in English on one wing, and in Arabic on the other.
The landmark was envisioned by Mostafa Saleh, a Fulbright Scholar from Egypt who is studying at the the area’s Northcentral Technical College. When Mostafa first arrived in America he was concerned about how he would be received from the Wausau community. But worry gave way after the warm welcome and kindness he received. He wanted to donate a gift to thank the town. He first thought about a sculpture involving pyramids but then decided on something to encompass all the Mideast, and not just Egypt. The peace sculpture resulted, which shows the planet Earth resting between the wings of a dove. On its base the word peace is spelled out in 37 languages, including Braille.
Peggy and Chuck MacCarthy, his “Mentor Family”, wanted to help too. Soon others stepped forward and the “Wausau Peace Sculpture” committee was formed. Local artist Pat Plunkett signed on and offered to coordinate the many facets of producing Mostafa’s metal sculpture.
Moustafa even emailed the White House with information about the project, and received a phone call in response.
About 150 people attended the November unveiling, including Richard Riley, the U.S. State Department Deputy Director of the Office of Egypt, and Deputy Consul General Mahmoud Amer from the Egyptian Consulate in Chicago. Richard Riley said “Secretary Clinton thought it was very important that someone from the State Department be here in Wausau today, to be a part of this ceremony.” He said that the best diplomacy comes on a local level, and pointed to any of the roughly 1,700 Egyptian foreign exchange students who return home with a positive American experience, playing a role in furthering efforts for peace in the Middle East. “The people that you’re hosting and befriending and bringing into your communities here will go back to their home communities and propagate that information among their people and their countries.”
Mostafa expressed what shared peace means to him — respect and love. “No matter where in the world we live, most want the same thing.” His voice was kind and excited as he spoke of his vision for the two cities becoming sister cities. He hopes to build a replica of his sculpture in Cairo.
Broad community support for the project developed as word spread about the project. To help in raising funds, T-shirts were designed and sold around town and at different events throughout the summer. Mostafa was the first to donate to the Peace Sculpture fund by donating his blood plasma. Other Wausau students then did the same. Many businesses then stepped up to the plate with their resources, as well. Steel makers, tube benders, finishers, even a manufacturer from Colwyn, PA. The college welding classes completed the sculpture base during their summer semester.
Kimberly Reed, a teacher at Northcentral Technical College and mentor for international students, said entire community picked up phones, set up meetings, and held fundraisers. There were challenges, but what project doesn’t face those? Sometimes, when dealing with erecting a city landmark, it can literally take years. The peace sculpture only took one year, and now welcomes visitors into the town with a powerful message of hope.
Peggy MacCarthy said that Mostafa will certainly be missed when he returns home on December 18. As a person, he has touched a lot of lives. They have touched his. But, even with the positive attitude sewn from his experience in this country, he may never return. U.S. Custom officials make returns sometimes very difficult. He was not sure if he would ever see the friends here again. He said the internet would keep everybody close.
To promote the ideas behind the shared sculptures a website is being built.
The artist who donated over 1,300 hours of his time and engineering prowess into the project said, “As a member of the human race, it clearly represents my thoughts, much the same as Mostafa’s thoughts, regarding the need for worldwide understanding and respect among all nations in the name of Peace and the better world that would surely follow.”
Mostafa, who will be returning to Egypt with seven other fellow Egyptian students, said before the unveiling “This comes from your money, this comes from your help, this comes from your support. I will try to create it in Egypt, so it will be like a bridge of people between here and Egyptians.”