In June 2003, a few months after the advent of the Iraq War, journalist Chris Hedges published What Every Person Should Know About War. The book, which posits answers to frequent questions about war, contains a disquieting statistic: out of the past three millennia of world history, humans have only been at complete peace for 268 years. It is undeniable that much of human civilization, past and present, has been shaped by the ravages of war and bloodthirsty conflict. Still, the global pursuit of peace has remained a steadfast goal. Despite the perpetual presence of mass violence, various world leaders and organizations throughout history have dedicated themselves to organizing peace movements aimed to foster harmony between all nations.
This is the ideology celebrated by the International Day of Peace, informally known as Peace Day — a holiday established in 1981 by a unanimous resolution from a General Assembly of the United Nations. Peace Day is devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples,” according to the U.N. Formerly recognized on the third Tuesday of September, a general assembly amendment in 2001 fixed Sept. 21 as the holiday’s official date.
The theme for Peace Day 2017 is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All”. Based on the U.N.’s campaign, this day promotes international acceptance of refugees and migrants. Official acknowledgement will commence on Sept. 15 when U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres will ring the Japanese Peace Bell at the Peace Garden at U.N. Headquarters, with an observed moment of silence. The following days will be dedicated to showing solidarity with refugees and encouraging all nations to support migrants. While the holiday has a political outlook, the U.N. encourages people everywhere to get involved with Peace Day, whether by simply holding a moment of silence or organizing a parade or workshop.
There are several vital initiatives for Peace Day recognition within Michigan. For the past three years, the Greater Lansing United Nations Association has hosted a weeklong ceremony known as Peace Quest Greater Lansing. Peace Quest kicks off with a half-day of celebration, the Peace Quest Day of Action, which typically includes a march and various other activities offered by local organizations and places of worship. This year’s Peace Quest will run from Sept. 17-24, with several events planned for the advocacy for world peace.
“We aim to bring together a broad cross-section of our community — diverse in age, race, and religion — and bring together people of like mind who value and want to work toward furthering peace,” said Lynn Bartley, co-chair of Peace Quest. “We strive to provide opportunities for taking action: signing petitions, sharing experiences with others who have different experiences and making plans together.”
The people behind Peace Quest intend to involve all citizens of the community, especially college students. “We are very excited that the Peace Quest Day of Action will be held at MSU [this year],” Bartley said. “We hope that many MSU students and faculty, national and international, will participate.”
“We are hoping to make Peace Quest Greater Lansing something that our community looks forward to each year — and that many become more involved [with] as time passes,” Bartley said.
Whether you join the efforts of Peace Quest Greater Lansing, volunteer with a local refugee or peace organization or simply take it upon yourself to learn more about a different culture, make sure to recognize the International Day of Peace this year.