September 21 was designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace in 1981. Marked as a day to commit to peace, and to establish a culture that works to build peace in a sea of division, there are many things we can teach our children as we honor the day.
When I was a teacher, I often marveled at the simplistic views of children. When we celebrated the International Day of Peace in September, the children I taught didn’t seem to understand why we had a day for that, as their lives were ones mostly knowing nothing but a peaceful world.
September 11th, 2001 changed that. My students had an upfront look at what the world without peace looked like. Teaching in a military community as I did with many children having parents active in Iraq, 09/11 was difficult for us all.
But how children reacted in the aftermath was astounding and amazing to me. Then, more than ever, they realized the value of peace, and of looking for peaceful solutions. I taught my students that if they were not part of the solution, they were part of the problem, and they took that to heart. This was the goal in 1981 when the United Nations unanimously voted for the resolution enacting The International Day of Peace, and one that is still relevent today.
This year’s theme is Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for all. All over this world, people will gather to practice peace — with meditation, music, marches and events like yoga and mindful living seminars. A quick look at the events page shows that there is a global commitment to peace in this world, but when you zoom in on the map, you can see there is still room for more.
This is where we can make a difference. When we teach our children to use the filter of, “Is it kind? Is it loving?” before they say something to someone, we teach them respect for the feelings of others. When we teach them that standing up for someone’s rights even when no one else may stand is the right thing, we teach them that all deserve safety, regardless of their views.
When we teach them that things like skin color or religion or preferences for gender or simple likes and dislikes should not make a difference in how we treat people because we are all humans, we teach them that dignity should not be a privilege, but a given. When children grow up believing this and living this, they make a difference in the lives of others, and in their world.
When we teach them that peace is something that (sadly) has to be pursued, we are teaching them to be citizens of this Earth, rather than citizens of their own individual worlds — and this may one day bring us to where peace is not such a pursuit as it is a way of life.
The United Nations joined with the NGO (non-governmental organizations associated with the UN) Pathways To Peace in 1984 to establish a Minute of Silence at noon across world-time zones, in an effort to have ‘Waves of Peace’ across the globe. This is a wonderful and easy way to share with your child, and/or your child’s school/co-op/neighborhood a simple practice that unites people worldwide, if only for a minute. It can lead to bigger discussions about peace, and how we can be involved in peaceful processes as well.
For more information about International Day of Peace, you can find activities and events here.
Photos: UN International Day of Peace