Archive for September, 2014

Peace One Day

September 19, 2014

Who inspires you? Jeremy Gilley inspires me. Have you heard of him? He’s a British Filmmaker who not only has a vision for a better world, but has taken considerable and consistent action toward creating it. In 1999 he started an organisation called Peace One Day and began talking to world leaders, including Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandala, Mary Robertson, the Dalai Lama and then the leaders of 76 countries to gain support for his proposal.


His proposal? An annual international ceasefire day. An International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations ‘as a day devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples’.

Jeremy’s goal was to make the day practical rather than just symbolic. On 7th September 2001, following 2 years of international lobbying by Jeremy and his team, the member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted that the International Day of Peace would be set at 21st September annually from 2002, and it would be an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence…a cessation of hostilities. Literally one day of global peace each year.IMG_1992

At the time the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan noted the ceasefire meant that ‘Where respected, it will have practical effect. Where truces are observed, medical and developmental agencies can provide vital services to civilian victims in safety. And even a one-day pause in the fighting gives us something to build on in the work to end conflict.’

It’s a day to pause, to think, to immunise children, to move supplies, to experience what a world without war looks and feels like. Hundreds of organisations carry out life-saving activities in areas of conflict on 21st September. In 2007 1.6 million children in Afghanistan were vaccinated against polio on Peace Day after the Taliban and the government agreed to cease hostilities and in the years since more gains have been made in Afghanistan thanks to International Peace Day. I wonder what they’ll achieve this year ?

On September 11th 2001, which was International Peace Day that year and 4 days after the vote, a prIMG_1365ess conference was planned in New York to announce this incredibly important commitment to the world. As Jeremy waited for Kofi Annan to arrive at the press conference an aeroplane flew into the building behind him, and he unwittingly caught it on film. The press conference and the announcement of an annual International ceasefire day never happened, however the seed of international peace had been sown 4 days before and I believe that’s significant.

Shocked by the events he witnessed, it’s been Jeremy’s mission ever since to turn that day into a reality. The goal of Peace One Day now is to make 3 billion people aware of the International Day of Peace by 2016, from 280 million people in 2012, and to make it a real day of global truce. Despite its overshadowed beginnings, the awareness and gains are growing every year due to the efforts of an increasing number of people and organisations.

What can I do? Peace beginIMG_2007s with each of us cultivating peace in our own lives. We’re all connected, so anything we do individually affects everyone else. If we’re enmeshed in relationships or situations that generate angst for ourselves or others then taking positive steps toward relieving that is going to benefit all. We can’t change anyone else, but we can change our own thoughts and actions.

Peace Day is also about reducing violence in homes, communities and schools. The Peace One Day website invites us all to think about ”What can you say to make peace with someone? What can you do to make peace with someone?…who will you make peace with? “

For me peace begins with listening. Listening to myself and listening to others. Respecting myself and respecting others. Being kind to myself and being kind to others. Caring for myself and caring for others. Imagine if there were deep listeIMG_1926ning in the places in the world where conflict is occurring.  Asking, ‘What do you need?’ and ‘How can we move forward together ?’. Hearing the pain of the other and saying ‘I’m sorry’ if my actions contributed to your pain.

Listening, empathy, acknowledgement, negotiating and forgiveness are the tools of peace.   It’s been through negotiation that the Taliban and the Afghanistan government agreed to stop hostilities for one day a year to allow life saving work to take place. It’s a start.

This is why the apology by Australian Prime Minister Rudd to the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Australians was necessary. It involved listening, acknowledging and saying ‘I’m sincerely sorry’. We could not begin to move forward without it, eIMG_1146ven though we still have a long way to go to bring about peace in my own country.

On the same day, September 21st this year, a global day of climate action is also planned to bring to the attention of world leaders, who are meeting 2 days later at the UN (except Australia’s Prime Minister!), that many of us are concerned we’re not taking action quickly enough to combat climate change. Many thousands will gather globally to signal to our leaders that this issue is above politics and religion and the differences that create conflict and war. This is an issue that highlights our common humanity and may end up being the issue that unites us all.

I’ll be attending one of the climate change rallies and joining a global meditation for peace organised as part of International Peace day. We have been invited by Be The Peace, a group of collaborating organisations, to arrange or join a meditation at 12 noon in our local time zone on 21st September and be involved in a global synchronized meditation and prayer for peace at 12 noon PST, which is 5am-6am September 22nd on the east coIMG_0574ast of Australia. I’ll also be thinking about who I need to forgive, who I am harbouring any resentment toward and commit to letting it go.

Jeremy Gilley has demonstrated what just one person can achieve when they’re REALLY passionate about something. What are you REALLY passionate about? He’s also demonstrated that every single person has the power to effect major change in the world and that we can’t and don’t need to leave it up to the governments of the world to bring about peace and change. I subscribe to the leading by example, ‘be the peace’, theory. Peace starts with me… and you.