personal reflections on human rights...and other stuff

Peace of Mind

Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace, or World Peace Day. Not a day that too many people know about - it's probably up there with International Literacy Day from a couple of weeks ago. But I gather people know about Peace Day more than they know about World Meteorological Day (March 23 in case you didn't know, like me). 


I asked Facebook friends what they were planning on doing to celebrate today. A few friends responded, some with tongues firmly in cheek ("Vote for Palin" - at least I hope that was in jest!), others sharing some experiences of their fieldwork. A friend from Nepal wrote this: "Participated [in a] program to mark In'l Peace Day organized by local peace committee and Human rights network....The specialty of the program was chaired by child conflict victims and many speakers were conflict victim children of mid west region of Nepal...." The significance of this statement should not be trivialized. When I first visited Nepal in 2004, during its civil war, my friend told me that children were being abducted on their way to school and brainwashed into fighting for the Maoists (the armed forces, it must be said, were not much better). How wonderful it is to see children who were once victims of the conflict now in a position to talk about peace.


Actions around Peace Day will be for many of us individual changes: small but noticeable efforts. Try to think of something you can do today - only today, and do it. Then see what would happen tomorrow if you did it as well. And the next day, and so on until it became either a habit or so ingrained in your character that it transforms itself into an automatic reflex. Take this zinger from a friend: "Not be a bitch to my bitchy colleague. Does that count?" Of course, not being a bitch (regardless of gender) counts. Perhaps not being a bitch might prompt my friend's bitchy colleague not to be so, well, bitchy. To paraphrase Major Frank Burns from M*A*S*H, it's nice to be nice to the nice (and the not so nice).


We took some time at the office today to write personal signs that all started with "I will" and ended with "for peace." Some of our signs were about:

Our individual actions for peace at the Equitas office

  • Baking a cake for peace, which we all ate for peace.
  • Hugging her kids "extra hard" today for peace. 
  • Acting rather than reacting. 
  • Sensitizing people around her on the importance of peace here at home and elsewhere.


Peace can take on a range of meanings - it can be a plea for non-violence among warring states as much as it can mean showing kindness to a stranger. My peace sign at the office today was "I will blog for peace" and I honestly did not know what to write about, the topic was so broad. I'm thankful that my colleagues and friends on Facebook provided the fodder required for posting on peace. But there is another form of peace that's been lingering in my head since yesterday, and it's one's own peace of mind. A friend wrote to me yesterday with the sad news that her sister had taken her own life; she left behind a husband and two children. I thought back to tragic events last year when someone I knew took his own life. How unattainable inner peace must seem to someone who chooses to end their own life. The loved ones who are left living can sometimes face a tremendous sense of guilt, and in plenty of instances, they have done all they could have. So if I have any kind of message I'd want to get through on this day of peace, it's to keep an eye out for those around us who aren't at peace with themselves and to lend a helping hand, or at least an attentive ear. 


I'll end with reference to a song probably not heard often on this day. Apart from the standards "Peace Train" and "Give Peace a Chance" that you might have heard today, I've had "Peace of Mind" by the 70s rock group Boston rocking in my head:


I understand about indecision 
But I don't care if I get behind 
People livin' in competition 
All I want is to have my peace of mind.



And on that note, peace to you all.



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