Student Observance of International Peace Day at the UN
an article by Anne Creter
I was among a small group of NGO “culture of peace activists” who got to attend the very noteworthy 2011 United Nations International Day of Peace (IDP) Student Observance on 15 September. This year the official UN IDP events occurred prior to the actual 21 September date because of conference room unavailability, due to renovations underway in the Secretariat Building. Since 15 September coincides with the International Day of Democracy, this year’s theme was “Peace and Democracy: Make your voice be heard.” (a fitting topic considering the Arab Spring and current Occupy Wall Street Autumn democratic people’s movements spreading like wildfire).
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The conference was organized by the UN Department of Public Information, in association with the NGO’s Pathways to Peace, United Religions Initiative, World Peace Prayer Society and Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots. 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the IDP which was established by the General Assembly in 1981 as an opportunity for people around the world to promote the resolution of conflict and to observe a cessation of hostilities. In recent years, it has become more and more widely celebrated everywhere – with this year’s massive global participation truly the best ever recorded!
Conference Room 4 bustled with an overflow youth audience -- a variety of wide-eyed student groups sprinkled with some older NGO’s in the sidelines. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr. Kiya Akasaka, welcomed us. The rousing program was facilitated by dynamic young actor / activist, Chris Bashinelli, who was delightfully interactive. His mission is to “bridge the gap between the youth of the world” to inspire them to make it better.”
The panelists included several famous UN Messengers of Peace (actor Michael Douglas, anthropologist Jane Goodall and singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder); 2 young UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors (former Sierra Leonean child-soldier / author Ishmael Beah and Olympic figure skate champion Yuna Kim); NGO Youth Representative (Chris Bashinelli); plus a UN Youth Champion (actress Monique Coleman).
Michael Douglas talked about disarmament; Jane Goodall of environmental conservation; and newly-appointed Messenger of Peace Stevie Wonder’s focus was on persons with disabilities. He ended by reciting the lyrics of his newest song, 10 Billion Hearts and summed up the day by saying that all people must “speak peace with their voices and we can only judge a person by the content of her or his character.”
Students then had the opportunity to ask questions of the panelists. The one I vividly recall went to Jane Goddall. She was asked if she ever got discouraged with all the horrible things going on in the world. Her surprisingly honest answer renewed my spirit, for she admitted to having times of deep despair. Yet she said something positive always manages to happen to counteract her discouragement and lead her back to affirming her heartfelt message of hope.
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LATEST READER COMMENT:
Participants in the International Day of Prayer for Peace have received the following letter from the World Council of Churches:
The International Day of Prayer for Peace (IDPP) 2007 was a special day around the world. On the 21 alone, people from about 50 countries visited our web page to find information and probably prayers. You have contributed to this day by observing it in your community and we want to thank you for your efforts and commitment. Thank you to all of you who have gone through the trouble of letting us know what you and your church or community is doing! This is greatly appreciated and will encourage others next year.
There is evidence that an increasing number of people, communities, churches and networks around the world are observing the International Day of Peace (UN) and the International Day of Prayer for Peace (WCC) http://overcomingviolence.org/about-d....e.html As the people who believe that peace is possible get together and pray, as they work for peace and justice, the momentum grows so that leaders and political powers begin to pay attention. Always remember that it was the perseverance of people, not least in churches, who brought apartheid to end and the Berlin wall to tumble.
A sign, discovered last week by the Living Letters team to the US reads: When the people lead the leaders will follow. This is what the International Day of Peace is about. A growing number of people, increasing the momentum for more peace and less violence. Your prayers are a powerful testimony and they strengthen the work you and other do in peacemaking. . ...more.
This report was posted on October 11, 2011.
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