Around the world, a minute of silence will fall at 12 p.m. in each time zone on Sept. 21, as people gather together for meditation and prayer for global peace.
International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by a United Nations resolution that devoted a day to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.” United Religions Initiative (URI) has been a partner of International Day of Peace since it was established in 2000. The minute of silence in recognition of this day begins on Sept. 21, when the Secretary General rings the Peace Bell at the UN Headquarters.
URI Representative to the United Nations Monica Willard said, “For any interfaith organization, [International Day of Peace] gives people a focus to do what they do best, and know that they are recognizing this day with others around the world who they may never know or connect with.”
The theme of this year’s International Day of Peace is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” This theme grew out of the ongoing UN TOGETHER campaign addressing the large movement of refugees. The UN and URI encourages Cooperation Circles to participate in the Together theme through programs, meals and education.
“It’s only limited by their creativity,” Willard said.
Creativity is something Rik Yeames of the Greater Concord Interfaith Council has no shortage of. As a local Domino’s Pizza operator in Concord, New Hampshire, Yeames has recruited other local pizza shops to take on what he calls “A Piece of Pizza for Peace.”
Each year, as organizations such as Greater Concord Interfaith Council and Kids4Peace, both URI Cooperation Circle members, Veterans for Peace and others gather on Concord’s statehouse lawn, Yeames leads local pizzerias in the effort towards peace, with each pizzeria choosing one local and one international organization to donate a share of their sales to for that day. Altogether, a hunger for pizza raised just under $3,000 for peace last year.
“‘A Piece of Pizza for Peace’ can raise the conscious level of peace, but it can also be a fundraiser,” Yeames said, adding that his sales on International Day of Peace increased last year from that day the year before. “It’s better to raise awareness from the ground floor up than from the top down.”
While programs like “A Piece of Pizza for Peace” focus on awareness and fundraising, the Nashville Cooperation Circle recognizes International Day of Peace with a poetic community reflection.
After listening to nine different stories of peace from different religious traditions, they hold a reception where people can mingle and talk about ways they can be proactive about building peace. Joyce Wilding, coordinator of the Nashville Cooperation Circle, believes that this 90 percent religious service, 10 percent discussion order of events is an effective way to motivate a community to action.
“At this very dark time in our world, it’s overwhelming most folks,” Wilding said. “This needs to be a time just to hear the beautiful words for peace, a reflective evening to reduce the tension of ‘my faith is better than your faith,’” she said.
To learn more about how understanding of different religious observances and changes in policy can enhance peacebuilding around the world, URI North America provides an opportunity for young adults to apply for a URI-sponsored trip to the UN Headquarters.
Kelly Johnson from the Rothko Chapel Cooperation Circle, and Leah Schwartz from the University of Rochester Interfaith Council Cooperation Circle, participated in this two-day trip to the UN Headquarters this past February.
One of the most influential part of the trip for Schwartz was having the opportunity to connect with other CC members. She said that although being a part of a Cooperation Circle is a great connection, you don’t often get to meet or interact in person with members of URI across the U.S. She suggests to those chosen to visit the UN Headquarters to research special events occurring during their visit before they go. This way they can be up-to-date on the history of what is happening and get the most out of the experience.
While at the UN Headquarters, Johnson was interested in looking at the interfaith world on an international scale. “It’s coming together with people you don’t know to talk about ideas, but the next step is going back to your community and talking about how you will achieve those goals through programs that bring people together,” Johnson said.
And that’s exactly what Johnson is doing this International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, connecting with their local Cooperation Circles to promote education surrounding peacebuilding.
“International Day of Peace connects us to one another, to something that is our core mission and helps bring the UN into a local concept and a local action,“ Willard said. “In my mind, we will never get refugees replaced until we get to the basis of war. The aspects to create peacebuilding are absolutely essential to build a sustainable future.”
Contact your local Cooperation Circle for information on how you can help observe International Day of Peace this Sept. 21.
This piece was written by URI North America Storytelling Intern Grace King. You can read more of her work here.