International Day of Peace, also known as Peace Day, is commemorated every year on September 21. It is a United Nations holiday for the end of war and violence, and the promotion of world peace. It is also a day dedicated to those who promote peace in conflict zones by providing humanitarian aid. On the International Day of Peace, UN countries declare a ceasefire for the day, personally and politically.
In 1981 the United Kingdom and Costa Rica presented a joint resolution proposing a day for the commemoration and strengthening of the ideals of peace. The United Nations General Assembly declared this day to be known as International Day of Peace, and to be observed on the third Tuesday of September. In 2001, Secretary-General Kofi Annan changed the date of commemoration to September 21. It was also this year that the International Day of Peace was declared as a day of non-violence and international ceasefire.
The United Nations created this day to improve relationships between countries and encourage cooperation, world peace, and an end to war and conflicts. The countries that observe this day declare an official 24-hour ceasefire so on this day there is no conflict, and world leaders put their differences aside as an example to all citizens.
To mark the International Day of Peace, the Peace Bell is rung at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The bell was a gift from Japan and is made with coins donated by children from most continents, as a reminder of the human cost of war. The bell is inscribed with "Long live absolute world peace".
As is common with United Nations observances, the International Day of Peace has a different theme every year. The theme for 2020 is "Shaping Peace Together", and focuses on the world coming together against the common threat that is COVID-19.
International symbols of peace
Throughout the world, various objects and images have been used to symbolize the ideals of peace, here is a list of some of the most common:
The Peace Dove
An ancient symbol of peace and pacifism that has been around for thousands of years, used by Early Christians and Jews to show symbolize God's peace. The Dove carries an olive branch in its beak.
A white poppy
In the 20th century, the white poppy has become a symbol of pacifism and peace. In Great Britain, people have worn red poppies to remember those who fought in the world wars.
In recent years however white poppies have become a popular symbol to emphasize the value of peace over war.
The Rainbow Flag and Peace Sign
The rainbow has been a symbol of peace for a long time. In the bible, it symbolizes peace after the storm/flood. The rainbow icon has also been used in the Rainbow flag which represents peace
On the flag is the Peace Sign, used in the UK by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and for that reason often used as a sign for peace.
The 'V' sign
Holding your two fingers up, palm facing outwards has been a sign of victory since being popularized by Winston Churchill after the Second World War. During the Vietnam War however it took on a new meaning as people started to use the symbol to represent peace.
The paper crane
In Japan, the paper crane became a symbol of peace after the bombing of Hiroshima. One victim of Leukemia from exposure to the atomic bomb named Sadako Sasaki started folding 1000 paper cranes, believing if she did she would get a wish granted by the Gods. After Sadako Sasaki died paper cranes became a symbol of world peace and The Children's Peace Monument was erected in Hiroshima.
What to do on International Day of Peace
There are many International Day of Peace activities and events organized around the world every year. The UN provides a searchable map of events on their website so you can check if there are any near you.
These events can be public or private, such as concerts, dinners, festivals, or prayers, but all of them have the intention of promoting peace between everyone.
Since 1984, through the initiative of the NGO Pathways to Peace, countries around the world observe a Minute of Silence, at noon in each time zone.