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International Day of Peace

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Many events took place in September of 2001, one of which brought a collective voice of promise in a world otherwise overwhelmed with tragedy. Amidst unforeseen chaos, British filmmaker Jeremy Gilley saw his dream become reality. And, in that ironic twist of fate, the month and year became forever intertwined, perhaps making it all the more poignant, as one of incalculable loss, and one of hope.

Gilley's crusade, a grueling 6-year journey around the globe campaigning for a cessation of violence for one day each year, called Peace One Day, was filmed in its entirety and eventually became an award winning documentary. In 2001, his proclaimed Peace One Day resolution, achieved its primary goal. A United Nations general assembly resolution (A/Res/55/282) was introduced and backed by the United Kingdom and Costa Rican governments and was unanimously adopted by all UN member states. This resolution formally established an annual day of global cease-fire and non-violence on the proclaimed UN International Day of Peace - September 21.

Jeremy Gilley's mission was to gain support from all sectors of global society. Armed with determination and passion, he needed to persuade the international community via the United Nations to officially sanction a single calendar day to be universally adopted as a day of peace. This was no easy task, and yet he managed to schedule critical time with numerous heads of state, Nobel Peace Laureates, aid agencies, freedom fighters, innocent victims of war, and finally, top UN officials.

A tireless peace activist, he spent years on the road arranging meetings and facilitating discussion on issues of conflict resolution, human rights and criminal justice. He met with hundreds of the world's poorest children, often in war-torn regions, encouraging dialogue on moral, spiritual, social and cultural concerns. Assembling with African leaders in January of 2000, Gilley attended the Arusha Peace Talks in Tanzania chaired by Nelson Mandela.

With gathering support and credibility, Gilley engaged in hours of conversation with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Laureates, Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez, former President of Costa Rica, Shimon Peres, former Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, all of whom brought much needed attention and respect for Gilley's quest for peace.

Then, in August of 2002, Amre Moussa, the Secretary General of the League of Arab States requested his presence in Cairo, to give a presentation to all members of the Arab States. But on this day, and after years of passionate negotiation, Gilley's presentation included the official UN resolution of an annual day of peace to which he invited all member nations to observe September 21 as a day of cessation of violence.

"I think it is a great idea. Any moment where there is a day or a week that we can give the combatants to pause, to think, and reflect on what they are doing to their own people and to the environment will be a great achievement and I will support it 100%...individuals can make a difference and if each one of us did our bit collectively we will make a major contribution." Kofi Annan

Screened at dozens of international film festivals throughout Europe, Asia and North America, Gilley's documentary won widespread accolades and numerous prestigious awards. And yet, even with a United Nations resolution honoring September 21 as International Day of Peace, few are aware of this declared day of non-violence.

In an increasingly precarious and hostile world, where bloody wars and regional conflicts rage on in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka; where an already nightmarish existence of genocide continues to worsen in Darfur; growing sectarian violence threatens parts of the Middle East and Africa, and beneath mountains of rubble forever burying lives and memories in Lebanon and Israel, is a world seemingly less tolerant than ever before.

And while hatred and human conflict spreads like plague, not only have we waged war on our fellow human beings, but on our environment as well, both flora and fauna. Nothing seems to be spared the human destruction that is determined to end lives, cultures, landscapes, oceans and air, and all living things that make their homes beneath, above and alongside.

If only for a day, we can come together, as a group or individually, and find some way to declare peace -whether with neighbor, enemy, family, animal, land, or within ourselves - then perhaps a difference will be made. However insignificant it may seem, any movement, action, a smile or handshake, any simple gesture of peace, will not go unnoticed.

"Peace is actually, if you want, the art of continuation of our existence. If you want 365 let's start with the first day." Shimon Peres

While we are oftentimes dilatory at best, if responsive at all, to how we can make a difference in a world overwhelmed with catastrophe, violence and heartbreak, perhaps the first small step to easing the hurt we've wrought on one another and the environment can begin on a single day.

"It doesn't matter how you choose to observe Peace Day on September 21, what matters is that you make a commitment to do something on the Day." Peace One Day website

**Quotes and some background information on Peace One Day from POD website at
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Jan Baumgartner is the author of the memoir, Moonlight in the Desert of Left Behind. She was born near San Francisco, California, and for years lived on the coast of Maine. She is a writer and creative content book editor. She's worked as a grant (more...)

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