Famed singer-songwriter Gil Scott-Heron once opined, “If everyone believed in peace the way they say they do, we’d have peace.”
With regional conflicts across the globe threatening to turn into wider wars, if ever there was a need for peace to prevail on earth, now would be a great time. However, as we all know, it is never that simple.
The United Nations International Day of Peace is observed every Sept. 21. It was created nearly 35 years ago as a day to recognize the basic tenet that peace is necessary for all people to experience full human rights. As it does every year, the Wellington Rotary Club will host a ceremony in observance of the United Nations International Day of Peace. This year, that ceremony will be held on Sunday, Sept. 20.
Since its inception, the International Day of Peace has been a time for individuals across the globe to devote time and commit themselves to the idea of peace and to promoting peaceful ideals. The goal is a noble one; one which we wholeheartedly agree with: urging every member of the human race to look toward understanding and compromise, and promote peaceful resolution rather than waging war against those we disagree with.
But those goals always seem caught somewhere between our better natures and the real world we live in. According to the “Wars in the World” web site, there are currently 65 nations at some level of war (that’s one-third of the UN membership), and a staggering 658 conflicts between or among guerrillas, separatists and anarchic groups.
And as refugees make their way from strife-torn Syria to Europe and potentially the United States, we have to stop and wonder: why is it that we can’t solve what is surely one of the world’s oldest and intractable issues, choosing peace over war?
Sadly, we don’t have a clear answer. But it is possible to support efforts to end such conflicts, and we are not alone in this endeavor. Many groups across the world are involved in hosting or participating in a variety of peace-related events, all aimed at bringing awareness to others of the vital importance of bringing a positive result to the end game of peace in our time. Events vary in scale, form and duration. They may be as simple a gesture as lighting a candle for peace at midday, sitting down in silent meditation and prayer, staging a concert for peace or organizing a forum.
For example, the Wellington Rotary Club will hold its annual peace ceremony, aimed at promoting multicultural understanding and conflict resolution. This year, the hour-long ceremony will take place Sunday, Sept. 20 at 3 p.m. at the Wellington Rotary Peace Park, located on Royal Fern Drive near the Wellington library. The ceremony will include the words on peace poles — “May Peace Prevail on Earth” — read in eight different languages, speeches by dignitaries, reading a peace declaration and the release of doves as a symbolic gesture that peace is always within reach. Students who won peace-themed contests will be honored, as will others who have worked toward peace in our community.
But ceremonies are only a small part of the quest for peace. As we mark the 2015 International Day of Peace, may we be reminded that we can never truly contribute in the pursuit of peace for our country and the world, unless there is peace within us. Or, as Scott-Heron noted, “Peace is not the absence of war, it is the time when we will all bring ourselves closer to each other, closer to building a structure that is unique within ourselves, because we have finally come to peace within ourselves.”
The Wellington Rotary Club’s world peace ceremony is free and open to the public. The Wellington Rotary Peace Park is located at the corner of Royal Fern and Birkdale drives, near the library and Elbridge Gale Elementary School. For more information, visit www.wellingtonrotary.org.