Commemorating International Day of Peace with Words and Actions
By: Meghan Cree-Smith and Mishelle Oun
On September 21st, 2013, the Catalyst Team enjoyed a few moments of peace amidst the Times Square crowds and advertisements to commemorate International Peace Day. All around the world, people observed this momentous day as it was broadcast live via satellite in the name of Education for Children & Grandchildren, courtesy of MC Paul Sladkus from the Good News Corporation.
The International Day of Peace, as conceived by the United Nations in 1982, is dedicated to world peace and peace education. This year, it was held at a peace circle in the middle of Duffy Square, filled with all the flags of the United Nations. It is fitting that only a few blocks away, on 42nd Street and 1st Avenue, the United Nations Peace Bell sits in a shrine that reads, “Long Live Absolute World Peace.”
The year 2013 marks the 65th anniversary of the United Nations peacekeeping efforts, which remains one of its flagship activities. UN operations are more varied and complex than ever, and, with the help of its country teams, peace missions can continue to focus on enhancing security and building worldwide sustainable peace.
In a statement released for the 100-day countdown for the International Day of Peace, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared, “It is not enough to teach children how to read, write and count. Education has to cultivate mutual respect for others and the world in which we live, and help people forge more just inclusive and peaceful societies… We must support peace education programmes, protect students and teachers from conflict, help rebuild schools destroyed by war, and ensure all girls and boys have access to a quality education that includes learning about resolving and preventing conflicts.”
At Catalyst Review, we couldn’t agree more with that statement. By no coincidence, we published our most recent issue, Designing Peace, as our own way of commemorating International Peace Day. Designing Peace brings together stories of people working to sustain peace in their communities, from the United States, to Monterrey, Mexico to Bangkok, Thailand. We feature the UNFPA’s focus on youth in the design of peace for the 21st century, and throughout the issue we highlight the interconnectedness of education with adequate housing, environmental resilience, commerce, and culture among the many factors necessary for sustainable peace globally.
The International Day of Peace and similar efforts are crucial to amplifying the message that we need peace, and now. Turning conviction into actions is even more urgent. There are many ways that individuals can actively participate in the generation of peace at home, in their schools or workplaces, and in their communities. Here in New York, there are numerous organizations dedicated to the prospect of peace and are using education as the core of their work. To mention a few, the New York Peace Institute provides free dispute resolution mediation services and no topic is off limits no matter how big or seemingly small; Peace First elevates the role of young people in peacemaking through a curriculum they provide to schools and service organizations; Communities in Schools works within the public school system to empower students to complete high school and achieve in life.
The prospect of peace is often treated as a far-off dream or unattainable idea. It is easy to understand why, given the challenges that harm our sense of peace and security throughout the world on a daily basis. Yet, consider Martin Luther King, Jr’s words, “Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” We ought to transform the elusive idea of peace beyond rhetoric and focus on designing strategic, results-oriented, actionable steps to achieving long-lasting peace. Let’s build on the ‘talk’ and amp up the ‘action’. What will you do in your own life, organization, or community to actively make peace?