The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly. Two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly unanimously voted to designate September 21st as its annual commemoration – a 24-hour period of non-violence and cease-fire for groups in active combat.
Through the years it has been realized that “active combat” is not limited to war zones. Active combat is experienced in cities and country sides aroused by fear, avarice, racism and other prejudices, politics, and contrasting ideologies.
The origin of the World Day of Peace can be traced back to 1967 when Pope Paul VI established it as a feast day of the Catholic Church. It was designated as a day of universal peace devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples. It has come to be a time to actualize those ideals – to promote and maintain peace.
The United Nations also celebrates the International Day of Living Together in Peace, annually on May 16th, to stir individuals to mobilize efforts within the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity.
Imagine people of all nations, cultures, religions, and backgrounds working side by side in harmony. The power of imagination has been the root of social change throughout the ages, however, if left solely in the imaginal realm, nothing happens. Change happens when our imagination inspires us to action – action that is uniquely our own – action that uproots us from our complacency and calls us each to use our Divinely imbued skills and abilities to support our world in rising out of violence into peace.
Some people who describe themselves as peace advocates have difficulty wrapping around the notion that they can be both a powerful presence for peace and be an activist. Jesus was a Love activist: He came to teach love, and He was an unwavering stand for what he believed.
An activist is merely someone who is willing to stand by and for his/her values and beliefs. It is a willingness to engage on behalf of something that matters – equity, environment, health, welfare, education, to name just a few. Often that stand is taken vigorously, perhaps emphatically, and is the out-picturing of a passionate desire to do good. It can be extremely empowering.
Spiritual activism engages the power of spiritual consciousness and groundedness to guide individual actions. Spiritual activism takes myriad forms ranging from contemplative prayer to marching and picketing. How we each display our activism is as varied as humanity. Our shared common goal is to effect change based on spiritual principles and values. The outward expression of our activism emerges from our inner work. Peace activists, generally, lean toward pacifism, choosing nonviolent methods to prevent or end violent conflicts, to end non-democratic rule, and to dissolve prejudices such as racism, homophobia, and gender biases. Spiritual activists, many of whom are Peace activists, use peaceful means to achieve change. I am both. We express our views clearly, but succinctly and at a volume that doesn’t have others reaching for ear plugs. We avoid winding ourselves into a frenzy over things we can’t control. Instead, we draw on inner strength and guidance using attributes such as our belief in the Oneness of all creation, Love as a universal principle, compassion and reciprocity, simplicity and optimism, harmony and humility, responsibility, and accountability. We set the intention to be kind and considerate and refrain from criticizing others. We join together to make the world a better place. We are drawn to like-minded people wherever we are and connect spontaneously.
The question arises, why should I be an activist? Activism seeks to influence social and political outcomes by mobilizing citizens to take actions that generate widespread or well-targeted public attention around specific issues.
The United Nations International Day of Peace and their International Day of Living Together in Peace are occasions in which Peace activists around the globe present public dialogues, peace meditations and vigils, and an array of educational offerings to heighten awareness and support of Peace. Each of these is a form of “Peace Demonstration.” We draw attention to the need to heal our planet and grow strong peaceful communities.
The actions we take are demonstrations of Spirit’s call within us to do our part to manifest a world that works for everyone. Each of us has an inborn desire to experience peace. We sense the call to remove all obstacles to the free flow of peace and love. We respond affirmatively to opportunities to become radiantly contagious purveyors of peace, connecting with individuals, bringing them together in small groups that grow into larger and larger groups of individuals dedicated to peace – the essential foundation of a world that works for all.
Our efforts cannot be haphazard – we need to abide in and as peace moment by moment.
This year marks the 42nd anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly declaration “International Day of Peace.” Its purpose remains strong and essential to the wellbeing of our planet and all its inhabitants. Life is better in a world at peace.
Regardless of where we come from or what languages we speak, we are more alike than we are different. Honoring our commonalities makes peace possible. We draw on the wisdom and experience of the peacemakers and peacekeepers to learn how we can individually and collectively be catalysts for peace – how we can manifest a world that works for everyone, everywhere.
Violence is common in nations and communities that struggle with poverty, disease, and limited access to education and healthcare. Until we are willing to soften our own perspectives so we can catch a glimpse of someone else’s experience, peace will remain beyond our reach.
Peace is possible. We have the opportunity to transform the world so that our loved ones can live in sustainable peace. We are called to step outside our comfort zones – to become Peace Advocates. The impact of each small act is immense.
Join me again in the imaginal realm: Envision and feel how different life would be if we all were simply kind and respectful of one another. We can all contribute to the worldwide culture of peace through generosity of spirit, prayer, advocacy, education and ensuring access to clean water and health resources. Every small effort makes a difference.
Today, more than any other time in history, peace relies on the commitment to not only achieve equality, but to secure equity for all persons – to fulfill our vision of a world that works for everyone, everywhere.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.