It may sound like a beauty pageant cliché, but achieving world peace is serious business. Observed each year on September 21st, World Peace Day, also known as International Day of Peace, is defined by a commitment to the end of war and violence and marked by efforts that may include even a brief, symbolic global ceasefire in combat zones.
Possibly among the best illustrations of the power and attainability of peace occurred long before the 1982 inception of World Peace Day, when a 1914 Christmas truce was carried out in a series of unofficial ceasefires between German and British troops along the Western Front during WWI. In fact the effort was so compelling, warring soldiers began to proclaim holiday greetings and sing out Christmas carols between enemy trenches, even walking across and meeting in “no man’s land” to exchange gifts.
With World Peace Day heralded by the ringing of the peace bell at the United Nations, the fitting bell was a gift from Japan in 1954. Cast from children’s coins donated from every continent except Africa, its inscription reads “Long live absolute world peace.”
Falling on the same date, September 21st, World Gratitude Day was conceived in 1965 at a Thanksgiving dinner at Hawaii’s International East-West Center by spiritual leader and head of the United Nations Meditation Group Sri Chinmoy. Delegates and high-ranking officials from a dozen countries in attendance reportedly pledged to commemorate the event and sentiment. A meditation teacher, author, artist, poet, and musician, Chinmoy advocated “selfless service,” among other practices, as a way to personal enlightenment and fulfillment, with gratitude a common theme.
So what can you do to take your own steps toward peace and gratitude on September 21st? While world peace is undeniably a profound concept, the ingredients of peace on a global scale start with tolerance and understanding at home. And even more than simple tolerance, gratitude for the richness of the diverse faiths and cultures that surround us in our schools, workplaces, and communities is a personal effort toward a world without war and violence. These ideas may help extend your world view, right here at home:
Do You Know Them?
Whether your life is rural- or urban-based, or you live in a small town or big city, diversity is everywhere today. Making an effort to get to know your neighbors, your children’s friends and their parents, and your co-workers better can foster greater understanding, compassion, and even real passion about other cultures. Invite someone to coffee or lunch, or better still host a multicultural get-together at your home or community center with the goal of learning more about one another by sharing food and conversation.
Read All About It!
If you love books, start a multicultural community book club where the theme is learning about others through the literature of or about their respective countries. Literary jewels like Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Eva Luna by Isabel Allende can open a cultural porthole.
Ingredients for Peace
Organize a series of multicultural cooking classes where diverse members of the community come together to share recipes and provide ethnic cooking lessons for everyone.
Make sure your child’s school is doing enough to immerse students in other cultures. Tolerance and understanding start with children. Given the right foundation, generations can grow up to create a world where global acceptance and compassion are a universal language.