International Day of Peace: a brief history.
In 1981 the International Day of Peace was established by the United Nations. This important day invited people from all over the world to commit themselves to the cause of peace. Peace is not merely the absence of war. Peace is the cultivation of actions and attitudes that contribute to a world where all people can live their lives as they choose without persecution or the threat of violence.
We celebrate the International Day of Peace on September 21st. This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Perhaps the most important document written on human rights and the most translated document in the world, the Universal Declaration was written by representatives of various backgrounds from all over the world. It was read by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948. Among many other important commitments, the Universal Declaration states the necessity of things like freedom from discrimination, freedom from torture, freedom from arbitrary detention, the right to privacy, freedom of movement, and the right to asylum for a peaceful global society.
Interestingly enough, those who compiled the draft of the Universal Declaration did not include peace itself as a universal human right. However, it was very clear that every human being has the right to the building blocks of peace: life, liberty, and security of person. The theme of the 2018 International Day of Peace is the right to peace itself. This year the U.N. asks, “What does the right to peace mean to you?”
Peace from a Yogic perspective.
Yoga is said to be a peace-promoting practice. When we participate in our practice, we certainly may feel more peaceful. When we leave the studio, we are less reactive and more responsive to the people we come into contact with. However, our practice’s ability to support us in promoting peace in the world doesn’t stop there.
The Yamas are the ways a yoga practitioner interacts with the world around her. The first Yama is Ahimsa, which means without violence. As yogis, the principle of non-violence governs everything we say and do. However, peace cannot be achieved simply by not doing things that cause conflict. That is passive peace. Passive peace is dangerous peace because it is only peaceful for the few people who can afford to look away from the world’s problems. Sometimes it takes a bit of friction for peace to arise. In the midst of violence, we must do more than not be violent. We must actively wage peace.
Cultivating stillness, waging peace.
Peace is an active force. It is present not only in what we abstain from doing, but what we choose to do. However, we cannot wage peace from our anger at the injustices in the world. When we engage in practices such as yoga and meditation, we are better able to still and quiet the mind. Thus, we experience peace. It is from this peaceful center of our being that we are positioned to take right action in the world.
All of the world’s great spiritual traditions, including Yoga, teach some form of the idea that what I do to you, I am also doing to myself; what you do to me, you are also doing to yourself. In yoga this is the concept of Oneness. Every serious spiritual practice, from Buddhism to Christianity to Paganism to Islam to Yoga, encourages its practitioners to address suffering to the best and fullest of their ability.
On International Day of Peace, what will you do to create a more just, peaceful world? There are ways we can participate alone and in community. Perhaps you spend time in meditation or prayer, spend an hour in service to others, or write letters to your elected officials sharing your ideas about what it means for all people to have the right to peace. If you are interested in participating with others, check out the following organizations: Peace Ripples, Global Feast, Roots and Shoots, and the Peace Crane Project. Also, remember to join with others all around the world in taking one minute of silence at noon on Friday September 21st.