Today is the International Day of Peace, if you didn’t already know, an annual opportunity for United Nations agencies and various humanitarian organisations to together show that peace is attainable through their ongoing life-saving activities and assorted attempts to both educate and inspire.
Established by a UN resolution in 1981, making today’s anniversary the thirtieth, the first Peace Day was marked in 1982. Please take a brief moment to reflect on how many times peace has been fractured since 1981 and for what price? I’m reminded again and again of the child solider. Is there a more soul-destroying image than a child cradling a Kalashnikov?
Thanks to a quite brilliant film maker and inspirational peace campaigner named Jeremy Gilley, this International Day of Peace now has a fixed calendar date – and has since 2001. Now, on this day, all nations and people of every imaginable religious and political persuasion are invited to honour a cessation of hostilities and to further increase public awareness of peace-related issues through imaginative means. Thanks to celebrity and corporate support, and with its message spread with relative ease by social media, the Peace One Day, as has been seen with Live Aid and similarly successful mass movements for change, arranges concerts, requests donations, sells merchandise and all revenue goes into the ongoing campaigns to spare lives and educate.
Last year on this day, the movement drove the World Health Organization, with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, to vaccinate over 50,000 children and women of child-bearing age against deadly, preventable diseases, such as polio, meningitis, diphtheria and tetanus. They also launched a nationwide polio immunisation campaign targeting some eight million children across Afghanistan – the first mass vaccination of its kind.
In all, more than 650,000 people benefited from such life-saving activities held worldwide on one solitary day.
Next year’s target is the greatest yet: a Global Truce, a ceasefire, the largest ever recorded cessation of hostilities enabling relief workers to reach civilians in need of food, water and medical supplies. One day without any violence at any level of society. This year’s event begins the countdown to that vision.
I’d love to share your feelings, particularly as Gilley has blogged, “There is no point in being cynical; cynicism is simply a way of justifying inactivity.” Discuss?
“Peace begins with a smile,” said Mother Teresa, so surely we can all manage that for starters. If you want to do more, this year’s theme is ‘Peace and Democracy: make your voice heard’; here are some ideas for what you could offer beyond your smile.
The chatroom will be open to smilers everywhere tomorrow – from 3pm (UK).