YOUTH TAKE THE LEAD
Youth and children took the lead as millions of people celebrated the International Day of Peace around the world. One cannot help but be charmed by their photos as they engage in many ways to promote a culture of peace.
Especiallly impressive are the hundreds of schools in all of the former republics of the Soviet Union where children cut out paper doves, wrote on each one the name of someone who died defending their country in World War II and sent them aloft in helium-filled balloons. This symbolic demonstration transcended the boundaries of political conflict. For example, teachers and children on both sides of the civil war in the Ukraine celebrated the day in the same fashion, often deploring that war had divided them from their friends and neighbors.
In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, youth peer mentors, taking part in leadership training as part of the constructive dialogues on religion and democracy project of International Alert, climbed a mountain and hauled hundreds of rocks to craft an awesome peace sign in Koh Tash village, highlighting the importance of peacebuilding (see photo).
Children often played the leading role in local celebrations. For example, in Northfield, Minnesota: "Students led the rally as speakers and performers, communicating the significance of the international holiday and why the next generation needs to step up to shape their future, Sunny Leonard, sixth-grader and rally organizer, made the closing speech before the march to Carleton College’s Weitz Center of Creativity. She said youth are the future and it’s they who needs to decide how that future will look."
In Pinto, Spain, a highlight of the celebration was the reading of a manifesto drafted by the Council of Children of Pinto which highlights the defense of peace along with various proposals to maintain it from the point of view of the children of the municipality.
The African Union celebrated the International Day of Peace under the theme "Engaging youth in peacebuilding". "This slogan has been celebrated to highlight the role of young people in achieving peace and development," said AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ismail Shragine.
In Colombia, youth are deeply involved in the reconciliation process. The Youth Network "This is Peace Too" in Tumaco, is carrying out various activities within the framework of the peace week, September 19, 20 and 21 as part of the strategy to reflect on the situation of the country and to transmit messages about forgiveness and reconciliation. They are performing activities such as staging and theater image with a gallery of body images. Young people who are part of the project "Use Your Power to Build Peace" are also participating in the Youth Encounter for Peace in Tumaco, where they exchange ideas with other young people with different youth processes for peace that take place in the surrounding municipalities. Among their activities are murals, ancestral recovery through women’s songs and young songwriters, actions that favor the integration of communities and the construction of healthy spaces for the population.
To celebrate the International Day of Peace, students studying at universities in Uganda from South Sudan are embracing their country’s cultural diversity to foster peace rather than focusing on tribal differences that have torn their country apart. The South Sudanese Students' Union in Uganda organized a festival in Kampala as part of a series of events marking the United Nation’s International Day of Peace on September 21, whose theme this year is: "Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All." Organizers said the event brought together South Sudanese communities and students in Uganda who have been divided along tribal and political lines.
In many cases, music is being used as the universal language of peace. The annual music festival in Nouakchott, Mauritania around the International Day of Peace is dedicated to "jazz music as a vector of peace, freedom of expression and unity." An especially remarkable example of music for peace is the map of hundreds of Montessori schools around the world taking part on September 21 in the project “Sing Peace around the World."
Thanks to the new generation, yes, there is a global movement for a culture of peace. To quote Karen Stanley, an organizer of the events in Lexington, Virginia, "there are lots of places around the globe that are connecting to each other with the International Day of Peace. So it was exciting just to add our little town into that mix and do something for peace."