September 21 -
the UN International Day of Peace
Everyone understands the need for peace. In 1981, the United Nations established the International Day of Peace.
The original UN resolution reads in part, "to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as of the whole of mankind [sic], to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways." The resolution continues "the International Day of Peace should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples."
Through the years the day has been commemorated with summits, demonstrations and major governmental actions promoting global peace. In addition to the local activities, this year's events will include the International Peace Day Concert occurring simultaneously in Switzerland, the United States, Jerusalem, China, India, Canada and other nations. Some of the other events include Peace Day Parades, Peace Vigils and Peace prize awards (www.InternationalDayOfPeace.org).
The only major change in the resolution came in 2001, when September 21 was set as a firm date. The new resolution also calls for all countries to observe a ceasefire for the day. On top of the ceasefire, there is a call for a minute of silence at 12 noon around the world. Through the efforts of grassroots activists, these symbolic events can be turned into meaningful steps toward peace.
Paths to Peacemaking: Indigenous Values, Global Crisis
The Onondaga people have tenaciously held onto ancestral teachings and language that make us who we are today. Our lives were then, and still are today, regulated by the seasonal changes of the earth's cycles. We have looked to the plant life and the stars to tell us the time for ceremonies. Then the ancient teachings are carried out, as they always were. In this way our connection with the universe is reaffirmed. At the same time we validate our heritage and ensure the survival of the teachings for the future generations.
Our way of life is not complicated. We trace our foundation to the Great Law of Peace. There was a time, a thousand years ago, when our people were in need of a message to take care of one another. The Peacemaker's words, creating a leadership system of Chiefs, Clanmothers and Faithkeepers, and a clan system divided into two houses to complement one another, was accepted by the Onondagas. Weapons of war were buried under a Tree of Peace.
Onondagas have survived conflicts, wars and internal strife by using the laws established during the formation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Our affinity with Onondaga Lake extends from our beginnings. It is a welcoming home when we gather on the shores today. However, a lot has happened since the time our Great Law began. Onondaga Lake was transformed by careless and greedy actions. Today, we are in involved in discussions of "clean-up ." Our leaders insist on total restoration, not a partially cleaned lake.
An important part of our teachings is the belief that all the parts of our environment are equal partners in sustaining all life. Humans are not a superior being, but must maintain a balance and live as equals to all the other parts. A Thanksgiving to all elements for the gifts we freely use everyday shows our respect. It is in this way that peace is achieved.
We look forward to visiting Onondaga Lake with friends who accomplish tasks in this same spirit (see box).
- Wendy Gonyea