By David Wick, PTP Director & CPI Team Leader, adapted from original article by Eric Kasum
On September 21, we observe the 31st annual UN International Day of Peace, a.k.a. “Peace Day.” This Peace Day also serves as the annual highlight of the Culture of Peace Initiative (CPI).
To commemorate this historic day, in 2012 the Catalyst interviewed Avon Mattison, co-founder of Pathways To Peace, and one of the pioneers who worked with the United Nations to create the International Day of Peace. Her decades of work in Peace offer an inspiring story of someone who had an idea, took action on it, and is having a tremendous impact on Peacebuilding today. Her story also sheds light on the history and significance of the International Day of Peace.
As a child during World War II, Avon was inspired to dedicate her life to Peace. In 1961, during the Cold War, she gathered an international group of people who initiated momentum to create a universal Peace Day through the United Nations. Avon subsequently forged a close colleagueship with Dr. Robert Muller, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Amb. John McDonald, (who drafted the original UN Resolution). Working co-operatively with the UN and diverse stakeholders to adopt this idea took a long, determined effort. “For this idea to become a reality, it required the persistence, goodwill and synergy of a group of people until this idea coincided with divine timing ,” Avon notes.
Finally, in 1981, the United Nations passed a resolution to observe the International Day of Peace. The first “Peace Day” was celebrated in September 1982. “Most people don’t realize how significant this was for Humanity,” Avon says. “This was the first time in history that all the nations of the world came together to create a universal day of Peace.”
Avon was one of the first Peacebuilders to realize that Peace is much more than merely ending war.
“Personal and planetary Peace are inseparable. Our individual and collective thoughts, words and actions - on a daily basis- contribute to building a culture of Peace when, as Albert Schweitzer said, there is ‘a reverence for all life’. “
As Avon’s fellow Peacebuilder James O’Dea notes: “The modern peace movement is not about anger and outrage and marching in the streets. The peace movement today is doing the work of quietly transforming the culture from the inside. It’s about teachers teaching children, people in communities teaching nonviolent conflict resolution and nonviolent communication, and business leaders making socially conscious choices for a more humane and sustainable planet. Avon is a true inspiration for all of us. She has worked tirelessly her entire life to create a culture of peace.”
(See this great video about the International Day of Peace 2012 featuring Avon and other Peacebuilders.)
Other Peacebuilders like Michael Johnson, David Wick Joanie Ciardelli, Masankho Banda, Jean Trudel, and Melvin Weiner, of Pathways To Peace (PTP) also dedicate their lives to Peace by building co-operation among diverse organizations and countries through the Culture of Peace Initiative*. Melvin made it his purpose to place the UN International Day of Peace on calendars worldwide. His effort has been so successful that now the International Day of Peace will reach more than one billion people this year. Placing “Peace Day” on calendars worldwide goes another step toward making it possible for people who are committed to Peace around the world to observe a day of Peace at the same time.
In 1983, Avon also pioneered with her PTP colleagues a local/global “Peace Wave: a Minute of Silence, Moment of Peace” on Peace Day at noon in each time zone. This “Peace Wave” has become one of the shared focus points. Such is the power, the ripple effect, of a little girl’s vision.
The story of Peace – the task of creating a new story for humanity – is still being written. Even though we stand on the shoulders of giants like Avon and many others, the next chapter of this book must be written by you. It’s never too late to have your vision become a reality.
What is your pathway to building a culture of Peace?
*The Culture of Peace Initiative (CPI) (formerly "We The Peoples" Initiative) originated in 1983 as a programme of Pathways To Peace by Avon Mattison, and Robert Muller. It is a local-global PeaceBuilding Initiative uniting our strengths along diverse pathways to realize a Culture of Peace for All. CPI highlights inter-generational and inter-cultural PeaceBuilders, the unseen and unheard people around the world, who are revealing the emerging Culture of Peace. In 1989, this Initiative was granted Peace Messenger Initiative status by UN Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar. You can receive the CPI newsletter by going to www.cultureofpeace.org and subscribe to “Get CPI Updates & Newsletter.”
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This article appears in:
2013 Catalyst - Issue 15