Established by a United Nations resolution in 1981, the International Day of Peace is marked every year on September 21. While a day created for nations to highlight efforts to end conflict and promote peace, it can also be a day for individuals, households, and faith communities to mark the occasion. It can be as simple as lighting a candle at noon, sitting in silent meditation, or planting a peace pole on your property. You can also make the day an opportunity to make peace with your own relationships as well as impact the larger conflicts of our time. It can be a day we learn how to be more patient, turn the other cheek, living in community with our neighbors more wholly.
Peace building is different from “peacemaking” and “peacekeeping” because it focuses on creating a long-term culture of peace, rather than solving existing conflicts or preventing old ones from reoccurring. Peace building activities aim at developing understanding and tolerance between individuals, communities, and societies and establishing new structures of cooperation. Peace building activities range in scale from personal acts of kindness toward others to global inter-governmental programs.
As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.Ephesians 6:15
Plant a Peace Pole
The Peace Pole Project is the official project of The World Peace Prayer Society. Begun in Japan in 1955, it was dedicated to spread the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in response to the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today Peace Poles can be found all over the world as symbols of peace in front of government buildings as well as in home gardens. A peace pole is a handmade monument that displays a message of peace on each of its four or six sides. Many peace poles have the same message on each side but in different languages.
Materials needed: four-sided wooden post, such as a fence post (easily purchased from a home supply store); shovel or post-hole digger, exterior paint in a dark color, exterior white paint, 1-inch flat artist’s style pain brushes, sketch paper, and pencils.
- Decide on the message you will paint on your pole. It could be a phrase from a prayer (such as the Prayer Attributed to St. Francis), a piece of scripture (“Blessed are the peacemakers” from Matthew 5:9), or from a hymn (“I’ve Got Peace Like a River” from Lift Every Voice and Sing II, #201). A popular line “May peace prevail on earth” written in a variety of languages.
- Sketch out your design and lettering onto paper.
- Paint all sides of the pole with white paint and let dry for several days.
- Dig a hole outside 3 ft deep for a 6 ft pole to appear above the surface.
- Plant the pole when dry. Use darker colors to paint your wording on the pole. (It is much easier to paint these on the pole when it is standing securely in the ground.)
Peace rocks are a wonderful way for all ages to think about their understanding and hopes for peace. Creating symbols and images helps individuals conceptualize peace in their minds. Rocks can serve as a foundation, as opposed to being thrown at another as an act of violence. Painted rocks can then be placed in public places for others to discover or placed in a home garden (or around your peace pole).
Materials: medium-sized smooth rocks (unpolished river rocks work well if you need to purchase some), thin point black Sharpie permanent markers, plain paper, pencils, paints in squeezable tubes (such as glitter paints) or thin point Sharpies in various colors
- Wash and dry rocks in advance.
- On paper, sketch a design with our without words that symbolize peace (olive branches, flowers, hearts, rainbows, peace signs, etc.).
- Copy the design onto a rock, sketching it lightly with a pencil.
- Outline the design with the black marker and decorate it with colored markers.
- Set aside to dry, then place outside for others to see.
O Great Spirit of our Ancestors, I raise my pipe to you. To your messengers the four winds, and to Mother Earth who provides for your children. Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love, to respect, and to be kind to each other so that they may grow with peace of mind. Let us learn to share all good things that you provide for us on this Earth. Amen.A Native American Prayer for Peace
More ideas and activities for International Day of Peace can be found in Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God in Autumn, of which these ideas come from.