We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom. – Dwight D. Eisenhower
In 1981, the third Tuesday of September was designated as the International Day of Peace by UN resolution 36/67. That date was chosen to coincide with the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly. In the resolution the General Assembly set out that the day “shall be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideal of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”[i] The resolution further invited all member states and organizations of the UN and the world to commemorate that day as they saw fit, including through education and cooperation.
The United Nations took up the discussion of this day again in 2001 when it reaffirmed “the contribution that the observance and celebration of the International Day of Peace makes in strengthening the ideals of peace and alleviating tension and causes of conflict.” The resolution goes on to discuss the unique opportunity presented by this day and its observance throughout the world. So, along with setting the firm date of September 21, resolution 55/282 goes on to declare “that the International Day of Peace shall henceforth be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, and invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the Day.”[ii] It further calls on governments, organizations, and individuals to, again, commemorate the day and encourages increasing public awareness of the day’s spirit as well as cooperation with the UN and the establishment of a global ceasefire.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Let us stand with the millions of people across the world who are suffering the devastation impact of violence and conflict. Let us share ideas and plans for helping and supporting them in their time of dire need.” It aligns perfectly with the 2015 theme: Partnerships for Peace—Dignity for All.
Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but the means by which we arrive at that goal. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Throughout the world and the U.S. there are many celebrations happening. Some are even being broadcast online to educate and share their stories with the rest of the world. Unify is planning a global meditation to focus on creating a foundation of inner peace as the first step towards World Peace.
The on-profit organization Peace One Day is striving to institutionalize Peace Day with the hopes that it will become “an annual day of global unity, a day of intercultural cooperation on a scale that humanity has never known.”[iii] Over the years the awareness and observance of this day has grown, as has its impact. In 2008, the UN reported a 70% reduction in violent incidents on Peace Day in Afghanistan. Through efforts by Peace One Day the awareness of Peace Day and its mission increased by 68% between 2012 and 2013. In 2014 more than 1 billion people partook and participated in Peace Day messages. The organization is planning to engage in more advocacy measures in hopes of continuing to raise awareness and observance of Peace Day worldwide.
In the U.S. specifically cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, are celebrating and encouraging peace in their communities and beyond. In Chicago, the Build the Peace Committee is partnering with Chicago Public Schools by providing peacebuilding activities, including a pledge to build the peace, peace breathing exercises, the peace crane project, a peace film and discussion, and a clean-up project. Their focus is integrating peace education in order to encourage a mainstream culture of peace in Chicago.
Philadelphia’s celebration will take place over a week with marches, peace workshops, meditations, dances and musical participation events, an exchange of peace cranes lead by the Peace Crane Project, soccer in conjunction with Peace One Day’s One Day One Goal Campaign, all culminating in a Minute of Silence – Moment of Peace at 12 noon on September 21st known as the Global Minute.
Peace is a day-to-day problem, the product of a multitude of events and judgments. Peace is not an “is,” it is a “becoming.” – Haile Salassie
While peace is a global concern, sometimes we also forget it is a local one. Supporting global efforts is certainly one way to help achieve world peace, but it can also start locally as well. Through education and just the way we deal with one another on a daily basis we can bring world peace closer than it was yesterday.
Peacebuilding happens everywhere and it is a process of strengthening our capacity, as a society, to manage conflict in non-violent ways. Many organizations working for peace realize that conflict is natural and it can lead to positive change. Problems arise when conflict descends into violence. Peace is more than just about bringing people together and resolving conflict without violence.
Some traits that encourage peaceful interactions are:
- demonstrating respect for the cultures and ideas of other
- trusting and being trustworthy,
- behaving with sincerity and acting in a principled way, and
- participating in peacebuilding activities because active interaction is key to transformation.
For decades, peace has crept ever closer with the efforts of people around the world. Many of those leaders known in for their contributions to world peace have believed:
- Peace is possible.
- Peace is not just a human right, but a human necessity.
- Peace begins with each one of us.
Peace is our gift to each other. – Elie Wiesel
Peace Day is also about addressing the violence that takes place in our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. For generations, more violence is committed by the fist than the gun, which continues to be the case. World Peace can seem a daunting task for anyone, but peace in ourselves, in our daily lives, that is much closer and more attainable.
Jane Goodall is quoted as having said, “Everyone can make a difference every day in the world. You have to decide what kind of difference you’re going to make.” Her words are a reminder that we have the capacity to choose how we will affect the world. And like the Butterfly Effect, which states that a tsunami in the Pacific can begin with the wingbeat of an insect in Brazil, suggests all our actions can have farther reaching effects than we might intend.
At Heritage Elementary, your Williams charter school, we have a no tolerance approach to bullying. This issue has become a serious concern in the American education system over the years, and with good reason considering that 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying, according to DoSomething.org, which is a global organization of young people working to “make the world suck less.”[iv] And according to StopBullying.gov, as many as 1 in 4 students have experienced bullying at school, including cyberbullying. Their statistics also say that most bullying happens in middle school and that, today, the most common forms are verbal and social. Along with the growing awareness of the problem, there seems to also be an increase in the frequency of bullying; though there are studies showing a decline in the rates of bullying. Even so, it remains a serious problem in American schools with far-reaching consequences.
Bullying does not just affect the person being targeted. Research has shown impact on the bullied, the bullies, and those who witness it; some of the effects of bullying can stay with a child long into their adulthood. This practice can have short- and long-term effects on students, including:
Negatively impacting their education:
- School avoidance
- Increased absenteeism
- Lower academic performance and grades
- Loss of interest in school or academic achievement
- Increased dropout rates
Leading to physical and mental health problems:
- Headaches and stomachaches
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Problems sleeping
- Low self-esteem
- Increased fear or anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress
Affecting their sense of well-being:
- Increased aggression
- Self-harm and suicidal ideations
- Felling alienated at school
- Fear of other students
- Retaliation behaviors
These effects not only manifest in students who have been bullied, but also in the bullies and bystanders who have witnessed bullying. No one is left unaffected by bullying.
But children can help put a stop to it in their schools by:
- Treating everyone with respect
- Thinking before you speak
- Finding something else to do, if you feel like being mean
- Talking to adults you trust
- Learning ways to be nicer to others
- Telling the bully to stop in a calm, clear voice
- Walking away from situations that make you feel unsafe
- Finding an adult to stop the bullying on the spot
- Avoiding places where bullying happens
- Staying with your friends or near adults—most bullying happens when adults aren’t around
- Speaking up when you see someone being bullied
- In forming an adults who can help
- Being kind to someone being bullied
- Sharing your ideas about preventing bullying with adults
- Being a role model to younger students
So let’s stand together and take action for lasting peace in our homes, schools, and community
… as well as the world.
What will you do to make peace on the 21st of September?
Farah Siraj: “What If” a song for International Peace Day 2015
[i] Resolution 36/67: International Year of Peace and International Day of Peace
[ii] Resolution 55/282: International Day of Peace
[iii] Peace One Day. “About Peace One Day.”
[iv] DoSomething.org. “Who We Are: And what we do.”