Bears Bearing Messages of Peace
They come in one shape but in myriad colors and designs, representing 140 countries. They travel the globe and will soon be in Penang, Malaysia from August 28 to October 30, 2016. The United Buddy Bears are fiberglass bears with arms outstretched, appearing to be hand in hand and forming a circle. Free of charge, this display aims to bring a message of peace to different cities around the globe.
I first discovered these globetrotting bears when I was living in the Russian city of St. Petersburg in 2012. A visit to the historic Alexander Garden brought a welcome surprise. The sculptures, which measure 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) tall, formed a ring around the garden’s fountain. Children and adults were excitedly searching for the bears representing their countries.
Apart from the bears representing different nations, there were four additional figures that stood outside the circle of bears around the fountain. "The Golden Rule” and “The Global Ethic” are two gold painted bears holding a fiberglass heart in between them. On the Global Ethic bear are painted different religious symbols and messages about honesty and respect in various languages. There was also the “Einstein Bear”, reinforcing his quote about peace and understanding, as well as the “Respect for All Life” bear.
Since the bears began their world tour in 2001 the exhibit has raised more than 2 million euros for UNICEF and other organizations working for children’s welfare. While admission to the exhibits is free of charge to the public, funds are raised through donations and auctions of the fiberglass bears.