The International Day of Peace, Friday 21st September 2012

“I urge everyone, between now and 21 September, to think about how they can contribute. Let us work together to ensure that the Road from Rio leads us to sustainable development, sustainable peace… and a secure future for all.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Last week, thanks to my lovely Students’ Union, I was lucky enough to attend the annual RAG Conference at Loughborough University. RAG stands for ‘Raise and Give’ and is a society that I jumped on board with at the beginning of my first year at Southampton University, after getting the bug for charity work from my experience with CAFOD. RAG societies can be found in many universities nationwide and are responsible for student fundraising through events, street collections and in lots of other exciting ways! Each university RAG society (or ‘Ducks’, as they are called at Durham!) has a different system, but at Southampton we select which charities to support annually via a student vote.

We were welcomed to this year’s conference with a talk by Loughborough’s keynote speaker, Mr Jeremy Gilley – founder of the charity Peace One Day. Before the trip I had never heard about the UN International Day of Peace, which has been recognised on the third Tuesday of September since 1982 and, since Peace One Day’s involvement in 2001, now takes place every year on the fixed date of the 21st September. It is celebrated as a day of non-violence and cease-fire. Following the talk I found myself a little blown away not only by the concept, but by what it entails, what the consequences of having just one day geared towards a global truce have been and how they could be carried on into the future. The part of Jeremy’s talk that most struck me was hearing about what this one day of peace has already facilitated. 4.5 million children have been immunised against Polio as a result of Peace Day agreements in Afghanistan since 2007. In 2010, the day contributed to ‘a total of 88 life-saving and humanitarian activities by 28 organisations in 31 countries’. The results from raising awareness of this one day have been quite huge and I think are an important continuation of the reflection of the peace philosophy surrounding this year’s Olympic games. Furthermore, what is also interesting is the relationship that this goal could have in relation to sustainable development.

The International Day of Peace offers people globally a shared date to think about how, individually, they can contribute to ensuring that natural resources are managed in a sustainable manner, thus reducing  potential for disputes, and paving the road to a sustainable future, the “Future We Want”. The UN

I’ve learnt a lot from Jeremy’s talk, and from going home and researching the International Day of Peace. If you want to get your youth group or school talking about International Peace Day, have a look at CAFOD’s dedicated Liturgy, and for more information on the International Day of Peace, visit http://www.un.org/en/events/peaceday/.

Catherine Mitchell

CAFOD Southwark volunteer

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