A day for peace

THIS Sunday is International Day of Peace. The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by resolution 36/67 of the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with its opening session, which was held annually on the third Tuesday of September. The first Peace Day was observed in September 1982.

In 2001, the General Assembly by unanimous vote adopted resolution 55/282, which established September 21 as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the General Assembly Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace, the theme of this year’s International Day of Peace is the “Right of Peoples to Peace”. This anniversary offers a unique opportunity to reaffirm the United Nations commitment to the purposes and principles upon which the Organization was founded. The Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace recognises that the promotion of peace is vital for the full enjoyment of all human rights.

Last year, a week before the 2013 International Day of Peace, Christian leaders in Fiji at the conclusion of a WACC Pacific Symposium on Communication Rights for Peace released a statement which contained their vision for a truly democratic, peaceful and prosperous Fiji.

In the statement they acknowledged that, “it is no longer possible for us to pray, preach and do theology with our backs to the suffering of the people,” and that: “Peace begins with each person practising equality, simplicity and humility. Peacebuilding continues especially in the midst of intolerance and injustice existing as patron-client politics.”

With one voice, they affirmed, “our God is a liberating God who hears the cries of the people”, and, the Kingdom of God:

o exists when there is peace, love, justice freedom and respect for human dignity;

o extends wherever God’s will is done on earth; and

o we are called to participate with God in bringing about God’s Kingdom.

Their united message to society was for a democracy that was inclusive and participatory and walked in humility and love. This included the transformation of power structures from patron-client to one in which people participate freely and responsibly in the political affairs of our country; and the transformation of a culture of silence into a culture of dialogue in which all people are empowered to speak up, voice their concerns and express themselves.

They called for the transformation to a society of peace, respect, compassion and justice, tolerance and inclusiveness and recognition of our diversity.

They challenged the Christian community in Fiji to model God’s love in our day to day life;

o to speak truth in love — that separates evil from righteousness;

o to act with trust and faith in God’s liberation;

o to listen to the hurt of God’s people and inspire them to hope;

o to live in holiness, simplicity and humility;

o to strengthen our relationships with each other and build relationships through dialogue with our neighbours; and

o to commit to working and speaking together in our common mission of contributing to the actualisation of God’s Kingdom and God’s shalom.

In a statement prepared for 2014 International Day of Peace, UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki moon said: “Peace and security are essential foundations for social progress and sustainable development. That is why, three decades ago, the United Nations affirmed the right of peoples to peace. Throughout the coming year, we will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.

“Our organisation is founded on the pledge to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.

“We have made much progress. But much remains to be done. We must douse the fires of extremism and tackle the root causes of conflict. Peace is a long road that we must travel together — step by step, beginning today.”

The UN Secretary General called for the world to reflect on peace – and what it means for our human family, and hold it in our hearts and minds and tenderly nurture it so it may grow and blossom.

Anyone, anywhere can celebrate Peace Day. It can be as simple as lighting a candle at noon, sitting in silent meditation, or doing a good deed for someone you don’t know. Or it can involve getting your co-workers, organisation, community or government engaged in a large event. You can also share thoughts, messages and pictures to commemorate Peace Day on social media.

In Fiji, the commemoration of the International Day of Peace begins on Friday September 19 with the opening of an interactive exhibition titled “No Nukes: Putting Human Security First” by femLINK pacific, at the Toorak Gallery in Suva.

On the International Day of Peace itself, which falls on a Sunday (21/9/14), Centenary Church will become a space for an Ecumenical/Interdenominational Church Service to mark the 2014 International Day of Peace — Peace Sunday from 3pm to 5pm on Sunday for worship and prayer. The theme for the service is “Living the Peace of the Kingdom”. The service is a partnership between the UN, ECREA, and the Christian community, facilitated by the Methodist Church.

This Sunday, join millions of people around the world as they participate in activities, events, concerts and festivals to celebrate the International Day of Peace, recognising that the promotion of peace is vital for the full enjoyment of all human rights.

As we conclude our national elections and look to the future, let us come together to recommit this nation to being a just, peaceful and inclusive society, where God’s shalom can flow freely.

“Simplicity, serenity, spontaneity.”

* Reverend James Bhagwan is the secretary for Communication and Overseas Mission, Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma. The views expressed are his and not of this newspaper.

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