International Day of Peace – 21 September 2021
Sheila Pantry OBE
The International Day of Peace, also sometimes referred to as World Peace Day, was first established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly, the first peace day was observed the following year, in 1982, the theme of which was “The right of people for peace.” The day is celebrated on the 21st September every year and devoted to “strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and people.”
What happens on the International Day of Peace?
The day is marked every year by the tolling of the Peace Bell at the United Nations headquarters in New York and a two-minute silence at noon. Since 2001 the International Day of Peace has also been established as an annual day of non-violence and cease fire by the General Assembly, when the UN invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities and to otherwise commemorate the day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.
On the day, many people around the world take part in activities or events centred on the theme of peace, such as peace walks, concerts and prayer meetings to name but a few. There are also lots of things that individual and groups can do to get involved. If you take a look on the Peace One Day in the Get Involved section, they have lots of information, ideas and resources. This year especially places significant importance on different sections of society working together in order to achieve peace as the theme of this year’s commemoration is “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All.”
“Every year on the International Day of Peace, the United Nations calls on the people of the world to reaffirm their commitment to living in harmony as members of a single human family... Without the support of governments, civil society, the private sector, faith-based groups and non-governmental organisations, peace will remain elusive. – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
The Peace Museum has a number of objects in its collection relating to the International Day of Peace one of which is a ‘Prayer for Peace Poster’ from 1985. On the front of the poster there is a symbol of a white dove, a symbol which is very widely associated with peace and the International Day of Peace. The poster was published to coincide with the United Nations Year of Peace which took place between October 1985 – 1986. The aim of the poster was to ‘intensify attention on the Prayer for Peace’.
Although the poster was created for the international year of peace, the prayer is still relevant today. “Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.”
About the prayer
The prayer for peace began to circulate in 1981 in England. The prayer does not belong to any particular faith or nationality. It can be said by anyone, anytime, anywhere. The appeal of the prayer is not confined to member of religions, but anyone who hopes for peace and believes in the power of thought. It is in every sense of the word a universal prayer for peace that is spoken in more than 40 languages around the world at noon each day.
How did the prayer become the prayer for peace?
The prayer first became known as the Prayer for Peace with very little organisation, when in 1982 it was said by the 900 delegates at the Assembly of World Religions convened by the Patriarch of Moscow to coincide with the second United Nations Special Session on Disarmament. It is thought to be the first time the world’s leading religions have ever prayed together the one prayer.
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