Thursday, September 21, 2006

Reflections on the International Day of Peace

NEW YORK- Today, 21 September, is the International Day of Peace - a day to celebrate the ideals of peace, observe global ceasefire and practice non-violence. To celebrate, we at Never Again International have organized a series of globally connected local events in 5 countries- Britain, Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and the United States.

At Speak Out for Peace, the New York City event I'm involved in organizing, there will be a diverse lineup of poets and musicians all performing on works around the theme of peace. I really wish we could share what we are doing with the global Never Again community. Every single piece of the event was donated- from volunteer planning time, to the venue space, to the free performances, to physical materials (donated drinks, paper for programs, etc). It's wonderful to see what inspired labor and generosity in our communities are able to achieve and produce without funding from institutions or rich individuals. It's incredibly inspirational to think about- and I feel tremendously blessed to be inspired by individuals like my friends, family, colleagues and community members whom I can admire from a close distance.

I'm writing to practice a bit what it is I'm going to say to open the event, which is most of the text of this blog. I want to inspire attendees to really take part in this symbolic day heart, mind, spirit and body because it can only become a reality if everyone on our planet embraces its meaning and breathes life into it. World peace does not come from grandiose declarations from podiums at press conferences, but out of convictions born in each of our minds and hearts that guide our speech and actions. The fact that this day is being celebrated is in itself a testament to the fact that a personal decision made by an ordinary individual has far reaching global effects. Jeremy Gilley's decision to found Peace One Day, launching a global campaign to get a fixed calendar date for one day where there would be no violence or killing, was both a personal one about his career and an altruistic one with the intent of improving the world. As with all things in life, our creative ideas have a gravitational force of their own- and voila! 7 years after he began his campaign, hundreds of celebrations of peace are occuring in all 192 member states of the United Nations on the day he worked so hard to get established.

This power that we all possess as individuals - the fact that our thoughts and beliefs give birth to the shared reality we and those around us live in - is incredibly empowering and emboldening but not something that we are often encourage to think about and use. A powerful example of the connection between the local and the global is what the United States did with the understandable pain, anguish, sadness, confusion and outrage resulting from experiencing the horrific and criminal acts of September 11, 2001. Those emotions have given birth to a global "War on Terror" that has unleashed pain and destruction on many more lives- instead of helping us evolve into a more just society that is able to avoid crimes against humanity. So what we think and feel as well as how we react to the world around us on any given day does make a difference in the way that the world turns- more than we realize.

But of course, I'm preaching to the choir here. We at Never Again believe and value the individual and the personal- and this belief lies at the heart of our mission of connecting young people and individuals around the world to dialogue and collaborate with each other for peace. That's why the NY team is bringing together the talented lineup of poets to inspire attendees- we want to make them think, laugh, cry, feel good. That's why we're setting up the Peace Wall because we want to get people to think and we want to hear those thoughts. And of course, we ultimately want to involve attendees in our work in the future.

So today, 21 September, let's renew our personal commitment our mission, to a more peaceful world. Let's celebrate our achievements as a movement. And let's challenge ourselve by doing one thing- big or small- to make that inner commitment and belief a reality. I'm sure you can all think of one thing you can do!

Remember: "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way." -Arundhati Roy

1 comment:

Ruth said...

I really wished I could have been there at the rally. I'm so happy that it was a huge sucess!