Imagine a day when there is no violence, no killing or maiming, and when the world of conflict is transformed to a day of peace. That is the dream behind International Day of Peace, or World Peace Day.
It was designated by the United Nations as September 21st by a unanimous vote of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1981. It is meant to strengthen the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. While our daily news is dominated by war and violence, the International Day of Peace is meant to be an inspiration for the ideal of peace that we can build together.
The United Nations Charter enjoins all member countries to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”. Article 2.4 of the Charter makes an exception: self-defense if an armed attack occurs before the Security Council takes necessary measures to authorize the use of armed force.
What does peace have to do with faith? While religions have been mostly portrayed as driving forces for conflict, they have also been animating forces for peace. In fact, we can intentionally and deliberately use faith to empower peacemaking and peace building by venerating or using as examples peace workers and societal healers.
Faith traditions do not only understand peace as tranquility and absence of conflict. Peace also means health and wholeness. Shalom is a Hebrew word that means “peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.” “Shalom tikkun olam” means that we as the people of God have a role in repairing and healing the world through kindness and concern for all of creation.
One of the traditions not often heard or considered regarding peace, are the American Indian or native American spiritual teachings. This body of knowledge is vast. In Arizona alone there are 22 tribes. One is the Dine or Navajo tradition that focuses on peace as beauty and balance. In my World Religions course, we are blessed to become aware and recall the blessing of peace and beauty:
Walking in Beauty: Closing Prayer from the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony
In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again
Today I will walk out, today everything negative will leave me.
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful…
In the Dine tradition the purposes of life are joy, happiness, confidence, and peace. May you have joy, happiness, confidence, and peace. May your world and all your dwelling places be beautiful.