The Peace Icon and the Olympic Opening Ceremony

As preparations for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games are well underway, we can reflect a little on the privilege of peace and the work needed to extend it to all corners of our troubled globe. The original Games were intended to break the cycle of war in ancient Greece and replace it with friendly competition. That same spirit still motivates us today. Who knows what could be achieved if international governments were to fulfil their pledge to honour the Olympic Truce between 27 July and 9 September 2012 (the 42-day period of the Games)?

CAFOD have gone further in calling for the observation of 100 Days of Peace from 8th June – 28th October 2012 (50 days either side of the Games), reflecting the original Truce which enabled athletes and spectators to travel to and from the Games in safety. Can we contribute to building peace and creating a lasting legacy of peacefulness during this time? Many schools, parishes and charities have already taken up the challenge with activities ranging from peace assemblies to CAFOD’s “Pass it On” video uploads.

One special point of focus this summer will be the travelling Pax Christi Icon. The Icon has already been and will continue to be hosted by sixteen different parishes in the three Olympic Dioceses of Westminster, Brentwood and Southwark where it will provide a focus for prayer and reflection.

Throughout these days we are asked to keep in our prayers those people from conflict zones who need to know that they have not been forgotten. We ask that we will become agents of the Jesus who says, “Peace be with you”.

This sacred painting was made at the Monastery of St John in the Desert and given to the Pax Christi move-ment in 1999. Entitled “Christ is our Reconciliation”, its twelve panels depict Biblical stories and saints as-sociated with the deep movements of the heart needed to bring about peace. On the day of the Olym-pic opening ceremony the Icon will move to St Francis of Assisi Church, Stratford, which will be open for 24 hour exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Other churches are holding Mission Weeks or ecumenical events for peace while the Icon is with them. While the Icon is at St John Vianney’s the parish centre will also be hosting a Music for Peace workshop on 16th June where Frances Novillo and Jenny Kettleton will facilitate an event for parish singers and musicians from across the Diocese to learn peace-themed mu-sic which can be used throughout the 100 Days and beyond.

For more details about where you can visit the Icon, click here.

Adapted from ‘An Invitation to Take Part in the 100 Days of Peace ‘ by Colette Joyce, Project assistant at the ‘100 days of Peace’ office (office@peacelegacy.org.uk)

OLYMPIC VALUES INSPIRE YOUNG PEOPLE TO PASS ON THE PEACE

Pass It On launch

The Flame National Youth Congress at Wembley Arena provided the perfect backdrop for the official unveiling of Pass it On, CAFOD’s Olympics peace campaign aimed at children and young people in England and Wales. Inspired by the 100 days truce that accompanied the Ancient Olympics, CAFOD is encouraging its young supporters to take part in the online initiative by uploading video clips and posting personal messages to all those in the world who are not living in peace in 2012.

Four young ambassadors for the aid and development charity joined Abdi Dima, representing CAFOD’s Kenyan partner the St John’s Sports Society, on the Wembley stage to launch Pass it On. They shared their own personal accounts of how they have seen sport bring people together before orchestrating an 8,500 strong Mexican wave around the arena to symbolise the ‘passing on’ of peace to everyone in the room.

Speaking on the day of the launch, Abdi said:

 ‘I live in Korogocho, one of the largest slums in Nairobi, bordering the city dump.

 “Life is very hard for young people. High poverty and unemployment easily leads to drugs, crime and violence. In 2008, after the Kenyan elections, there was terrible violence between rival factions and ethnic groups. I saw people burned out of their homes and forced to flee for their lives. It was sad to see so many young people of my age engaging in violence against each other.

 “Life since then has been very hard but the sports society helps kids in the slum to have fun, and at the same time it teaches them confidence, team work, tolerance and discipline. Our motto is “Pamoja Tunaweza” (Together we can), and we are open to everyone regardless of their ethnic background and religious beliefs.

 ‘My life would be a disaster without karate, without it I could have fallen into the many traps that await young people in Korogocho. Instead I am part of something positive where people can come together, play together, get to know each other and feel comfortable. We are building peace in our own community. This is the message that I bring today, a message of peace that I hope everyone here will pass on and live out in their own community.’

 So far, hundreds of people have shown their support for Pass It On, by uploading their image to the website, including The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Father Christopher Jamison and Olympic champion Jason Gardener, MBE.

CAFOD supports a vast network of schools and youth groups in England and Wales, helping to provide its young supporters with the skills and knowledge to tackle social injustice on a global scale and become agents for change in their own communities.

CAFOD Director, Chris Bain said:

 “It was excellent to see so many young people come to the Flame Congress, and participate with such enthusiasm. It is testament to the fact that – despite the bad publicity young people in our country often get – the vast majority are good, caring, enthusiastic individuals who want to make the world a better place. CAFOD takes great pride in the work we do not just to support young people in the poorest countries in the world, but to empower young people here in Britain to take positive action in their communities. The Pass It On campaign is a great example of that.”