Tomorrow, the world will observe the International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day. First celebrated in 1982, declared by the United Nations as a day to be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace, with the date of 21st September officially adopted in 2001 with a resolution of the General Assembly of the UN, further declaring it as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence.
The term peace entered English vocabulary circa mid 12th century from Old French pais ‘peace, reconciliation, silence,’ deriving from Latin pacem ‘treaty of peace, absence of war.’
The initial meaning of ‘freedom from civil disorder,’ is first attested in use in an update to The Anglo-Saxon chronicle circa 1160, and the sense of ‘absence or cessation of war or hostility,’ first recorded in use in Layamon’s Brut circa 1200.
The white dove, as one of the most celebrated symbols of peace, originating from Early Christianity as a symbol of gentleness and the Holy Spirit, is attested to illustrate the advocacy for peace since circa 1917, with the White Dove, drawn by Picasso, becoming the symbol of the 1949 Paris Peace Congresses and his words: “I stand for life against death; I stand for peace against war” strongly resonating the idea of pacifism. With the term to name the advocacy of peaceful methods as feasible and desirable alternatives to war, coined by the French writer and anti-war rhetoric Émile Arnaud and first recorded in use in his speech in the 1902 Proceedings of the 10th Universal Peace Congress (Glasgow, Scotland): “The negative programme of Pacifism is anti-War-ism.”
With the current decade witnessing over 30 wars, some of which still ongoing, and the fact that we are now further away from world peace than at any time in the past 10 years, there are a few countries in the world which can be considered truly at peace, not engaged in any conflict, and it is Iceland to top the list as the most peaceful country in the world.
The worsening conflict in the Middle East and the lack of a global solution to the refugee crisis, have all contributed to the world being less peaceful, and have, naturally, also inspired this years’ theme of the International Day of Peace: Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All, to promote respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life.
The day, as usually, will start with ringing the Peace Bell at United Nations Headquarters in New York, calling for a 24 hours cessation of hostilities around the world, and will focus on engaging the world to show support for all refugees and migrants. UN acknowledges the concerns of host communities in terms of cultural differences, among other, but strands strongly against the division of the world on the basis of ethnic and religious differences, with Secretary-General António Guterres stating that: “We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbours as ‘the other’.