Editor’s Note: Good Morning. United Nations relief worker and Comox mom Kelly Flynn is here today to remind us all to pause from the grind of our busy daily lives to remember those people lost throughout the world due to the violence of war and for the peace in which we now live here in North America. The U.N. International Peace Day is Sept. 21. Let’s all take a moment and hug our kids, reminded that so many people cannot do that.
This month boasts a day to recognize Peace in the World – a day of cessation from violence in war torn countries and regions. I am sure that our forefathers and foremothers who fought in and supported the efforts of World War I and World War II would have never imagined that it would take us another 50 odd years to actually have the need for such a day of global recognition – the need for ceasefires and agreed upon non-violence – after what was fought for and the lives lost in Europe.
However, contrary to their efforts for greater world peace, the earth continues to be rocked by conflict and proxy wars – from Darfur (one of the largest locations of sustained human displacement, starvation and “organized genocide”) to Somalia (a government-less state over-run by clans who rule the economy and the streets of the capital city) to DR Congo (where continued human displacement and poverty shields rebel groups thus allowing them to be out-right lawless and brutal towards innocent civilians) to Colombia (the ultimate terrorizing grounds for drug cartels and the alike) – we seem to have our fair share of horrifying conflicts to reflect on.
In 2007, there were over 20 active battlegrounds raging in conflict on the face of the Earth thus creating humanitarian emergencies and notable human displacement that demanded international interventions. Wars out number signed and agreed upon ceasefires. This is nothing for us to be proud of.
For me, I returned to Canada from overseas humanitarian work in late 2006 after witnessing the human atrocities of the Sri Lankan civilian war that continued in tandem with the complex recovery after the devastating tsunami of 2004. After 18 months of front-line field work, it is safe to say that I came home slightly shell-shocked with the need to seriously reconnect with the wide-spread peace found in Canada.
The Comox Valley offered me an environment to live in with no guns, no bombs, no security force-driven cordon searches or terrorizing air raids in the dead of the night. It also offered me a place to atone the feelings of guilt that I had surrounding being able to leave a war zone as an international aid worker in possession of a Canadian passport, and head home for peace, when hundreds of thousands of nationals did not have this life-saving luxury. My deep atonement continues to this day and may just be a life long process. Time will tell.
In deep reflection (and atonement), and at home in 2008 after doing short consultancy missions to war-ravaged Burundi, about to boil-over into civil war Yemen, a return to northern Sri Lanka after the government so-called won the war, and to Kenya following the widespread political violence following the national elections, I innocently stumbled upon a documentary DVD in my local video store.
Like many aid workers, once you are home, and not on a mission abroad, you often read and watch war-focused books and flicks. I am not sure why this is the case and I seem to be no different from many of my colleagues. This is likely our cathartic way to bridge a peaceful life in our home communities while still trying to make sense of where we work in the field.
That aside, my husband and I curled up one night to watch our rental titled The Day After Peace. I was intrigued by the title and wondered if the concept was even possible. My skeptical side joined us on the sofa that night, however from that evening onwards I have been lifted by the efforts of a man named Jeremy Gilley and his monumental coup d’état (no pun intended) in establishing the recognition of Peace One Day.
In short, the film Day After Peace charts the remarkable 10-year journey of award-winning filmmaker Jeremy Gilley to establish an annual Peace Day on September 21, as finally voted on and recognized by the UN General Assembly. The camera follows Jeremy as he dares to travel war-torn countries of the world to recognize an official day of ceasefire and non-violence. Jeremy’s story is bittersweet – a peaceful day has been recognized internationally in theory but even after the member states of the UN unanimously adopt Peace Day, not a single-day ceasefire has been brokered, agreed upon or practiced on Sept. 21st.
In writing this, I am hoping that in 2010 Jeremy’s dream, one that we should all hold in the highest of regards in our hearts and minds, may come true. Maybe this year, in one war torn country or region, there will be an organized and observed day of peace – a 24 hour ceasefire agreed upon by all warring parties – where both fighting sides put down their guns and pause. Where civilians can live out one normal day with friends and family; and where we in our peaceful countries and communities may beam our hopes and thoughts towards others who aspire and hope to live and have what we get up to and enjoy every day.
I have high hopes for Jeremy and his breathtaking tenacity for his mission this year. If you ever wondered if peace was possible and/or if the tireless efforts of one single person could make a global difference, please rent this DVD or go to the shared website below and meet him. It may put your skeptical self in check like it did for me. It may also open you up to the possibilities for a peaceful world (if not one day), while fostering you to take stock of the great peace we have in our own community.
Enjoy the day on Sept. 21st in hopes that innocent others in war zones will be able to do the same.
Peace One Day:
International Day of Peace Organization:
Official UN Day of Peace September 2010: