Seeds of Change Festival, Rotterdam, 2009
an article by Petra van der Ham and Rein Heijne
In the Netherlands several events took place during the International Peace Week (20-27 September). On the International Day of Peace, Monday 21 September, the cities of The Hague and Utrecht hosted various activities during the day, whilst in Amsterdam the so-called “Night of Peace” was held.
The week was ended with the lively Seeds of Change Festival in the city centre of Rotterdam, on Sunday afternoon. This annual festival was organized by the Rotterdam foundation "House of Erasmus" in cooperation with the national organization "IKV Pax Christi", and was inspired by the principles of the "Earth Charter". Besides celebrating the Peace Week the festival aims to promote the city of Rotterdam as a "city of peace" by stimulating a "culture of peace", in an open and easy accessible way.
After the opening speech by Jan Pronk, former Minister of environment and development cooperation and former UN Representative, a varied program took place Fortunately the weather was quite agreeable so many activities could be held in the outside, on a big square. Some 20 colorful stands were set up, where several organizations dealing with peace issues, presented themselves. Of course the international peace flag was run up, as well as a peace flag that was designed by some school children.
A large outdoor stage was the venue for world music, peace poets; and a peace rap performed by three children. After a debate on "peace in the world and safety in the city", two actors performed a theater play on Desiderius Erasmus and Rumi Mevlana: famous philosophers from the past, from the western (Rotterdam) and eastern world (Persia) respectively. They called upon the people of today to further promote a culture of tolerance and non-violence.
The apotheosis of the festival was the so-called "street table dinner", attended by some hundred, known and unknown, Rotterdam people. The dinner was meant especially for a selection of Rotterdam "heroes": people who, in one way or another, had unselfishly devoted themselves to the promotion of a peaceful and sustainable city. People from different cultural organizations enjoyed the delicious (Turkish) food. The dinner, opened with several (religious) blessings, served as a perfect symbol of mutual feelings of global solidarity. After sunset, people felt as if they were part of the Tales of a Thousand and One Nights!
Question(s) related to this article:
What is a culture of peace city, and how does one become one?,
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Latest reader comment:
I believe that the development of a network of culture of peace cities can be a decisive factor in the transition from a culture of war to a culture of peace based on a profound reform of the United Nations system. The following are excerpts from my book World Peace through the Town Hall.
My experience working in the United Nations system for ten years and observing it closely for seven years since my retirement makes me optimistic that the UN system is capable of managing a transition to the culture of peace. The various specialized agencies that deal with health care, education, food and agriculture, science, communication, not to mention technical questions such as aviation, shipping, atomic energy, etc. are staffed by a capable international secretariat with experience in the day-to-day management of global issues. The UN General Assembly, as well as the international assemblies of other agencies such as the General Conference of UNESCO, provide important forums. Even the Security Council, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund which are now in the hands of a few powerful states and used to support their culture of war could play important roles in the transition to a culture of peace if they were transformed under control of "we the peoples" instead of the state.
For the reasons given throughout this book, a global network of local authorities is the best chance for an international political force independent of the nation-state that could take responsibility for the United Nations and direct it towards a culture of peace.
In summary, the cause of the United Nations seems hopeless for a culture of peace as long as it is under the control of the nation-states of the world with their culture of war.
Without being able to predict a precise date, we can expect within the next few decades that the American Empire and the globalized economy associated with it will crash as did the world economy in 1929 and the Soviet economy in 1989.
A global crash sets the stage for two possible political solutions which are diametrically opposite. One is a strengthening of the culture of war at the level of the state into fascism which was the predominant reaction in the 1930's. The other is the reorganization of the world's political structure to be based on cities and local governments rather than states. The latter would provide a golden opportunity for a transition to the culture of peace.
To avoid the "fascist solution," we must continue and intensify efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and educate people to recognize the danger signs and resist the government-industrial-financial conspiracies that move a country towards authoritarian rule.
On the positive side, it is urgent to develop a global network of local governments devoted to a culture of peace so that an alternative system will be available when the state system collapses.
This report was posted on October 27, 2009.
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