World Peace Day
I first came across World Peace Day when Sally Burns mentioned it during one of our weekly meetings. As a university student studying political science, I was a bit confused by this concept at first– countless wars are occurring on this planet at any one time, it seemed absurd that people should stop fighting because it’s ‘World Peace Day’. In fact, as a hard-nosed realist, I believe that human nature renders any type of violence inevitable. Therefore, my first thought was – ‘what could possibly be the point of a day such as this?’.
However, the more I looked into the motivation behind the day’s creation, the more I began to realise that my initial reaction was misplaced. World Peace Day was not started by some international organisation, such as the United Nations (UN) – which is what I had initially assumed due to its history of being born about nations’ wishes for peace after the second world war. Instead, World Peace Day was started by just one person: Jeremy Gilley.
Jeremy Gilley decided in 1999 to create a documentary titled ‘Peace One Day which depicted him meeting ‘heads of state, Noble Peace Laureates, aid agencies, freedom fighters, media moguls, the innocent victims of war’. He also founded a non-profit organization with the same title and set out to convince the UN that the 21st September should be commemorated annually. His efforts were rewarded when in 2001 ‘a General Assembly resolution was unanimously adopted by UN member states, establishing this day as an ‘annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on the UN International Day of Peace’.
Since then, Peace One Day has successfully spearheaded numerous projects in some of the most challenging parts of the world, including Afghanistan. The immunisation of millions of children against polio and providing mosquito nets, food, and medicine have saved countless lives. The organisation also claims to have recorded a 70% reduction in violent incidents on Peace Day 2008.
Of course, the cynic in me is still dubious that World Peace Day has a significant impact beyond that single specific day in autumn. Can both grassroots and corporate action have a truly lasting positive ‘peaceful’ impact when constantly battling the domestic and foreign interests of states? One only has to consider Afghanistan, where the decision of a single global power caused much of the progress towards peace and development achieved since 2000 to collapse almost overnight. However, after reading the stories of children commemorating this day in classrooms spanning continents, whether or not World Peace Day has a lasting impact on the world-scale seems to reduce in significance. The fact that young people are reminded to forgive and exist harmoniously with one another, no matter their status, religion or ethnicity is irrefutably beneficial to humanity.
Furthermore, that Jeremy as an individual came up with this idea, and was able to have it officially commemorated, awed me. It reminded me that a single person can make a significant difference in this world. Maybe the root of my cynicism is the lack of belief in the ability of a single person to change the world – If World Peace Day proves even just this wrong, surely it is worth celebrating.
Best Wishes, Charlotte Bull