15 September 2007

Peace one day

By Rupert Read

Six years ago, the United Nations General Assembly set 21 September as the now permanent date for the International Day of Peace. In establishing the International Day of Peace, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that it would be appropriate:
    "to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as of the whole of humankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways […] The International Day of Peace should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples."
The Assembly's resolution declared that the International Day of Peace
    "will serve as a reminder to all peoples that our Organization, with all its limitations, is a living instrument in the service of peace and should serve all of us here within the Organization as a constantly pealing bell reminding us that our permanent commitment, above all interests or differences of any kind, is to peace. May this Peace Day indeed be a day of peace."
This year, the International Day of Peace is receiving more media and public attention than ever before. This is in part due to the remarkable efforts of British filmmaker, Jeremy Gilley (see http://www.peaceoneday.org/), who is a startling living reminder that one dedicated person can make a huge difference in the world. He started this whole process up, eight years ago – without him, the UN would not even have been discussing an International Day of Peace, because it was his lobbying that set the UN General Assembly on the path to the resolutions quoted above.

Due to the efforts of Mr Gilley, and of over 27 million people internationally who took part in 'Peace one day' celebrations on 21 September last year, the International Day of Peace now has a truly worldwide reach.

"But", I hear you ask, "What has all this got to do with me? What can I possibly do about it?"

Well, one thing you could do would be join those of us who are celebrating the International Day of Peace locally, this year.

For example, the Norwich Walk Together for Peace. Let me give you a flavour of what this upcoming event will look and feel like:

The Norwich Peace Walk will be a colourful celebration of peace, designed to help build community understanding in and around Norwich. It is taking place on Saturday 29th September, beginning outside the Forum in Norwich City Centre at 11am.

The Lord Mayor of Norwich will lead the Walk together with the MP for Norwich North and other representatives of cultural and faith communities in the city. Blue and white banners and balloons featuring the Walk for Peace logo – a dove supported by hands on a bright blue background - will be on show. Members of Norwich's Big Sky Choir will sing as the walkers assemble.

The interfaith group who have organised the Peace Walk believe that getting to know one another is a vital part of building peace. Peace isn't just about international treaties or 'peacekeepers'. Peace is in every step, every breath, every word. We make a little bit of peace, every time we respond coolly to the harsh words of another, or de-escalate a situation in our homes or workplaces. Norwich is a relatively peaceful city - compared to many hitting the headlines these days - because its citizens have historically made good human relationships.

Peace-making is a process. It is about connecting with the highest aspirations for everyone, acknowledging that all human beings who inhabit the same fragile planet, this one and only world of ours, desire the same respect for their ways of being. It is about knowing that the kaleidoscope of colour that the different communities who have settled in Norwich have made is the warp & weft of Norfolk cloth…

We "do different" in Norfolk. Let us take time to think about how all our citizens can live together in this beautiful part of the world, peaceably.

And in doing so, it is worth us all reflecting on the double meaning of Peace one day:
  • One day in each year when we all specifically do something in the cause of peace;
  • In the future, one day, peace will reign.
The first could help make the second happen. What will you do this year, for the International Day of Peace?

Thanks for help researching this column to Diana Stephenson and Ann Lewis.