The International Day of Peace is observed globally on 21 September each year, as declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The day was originally a time to pause conflict in a war zone.
But this year’s message from the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, invited further pause for another threat to peace, climate change.
“Peace is much more than a world free of war,” Guterres declared. “It means resilient, stable societies where everyone can enjoy fundamental freedoms and thrive rather than struggle to meet basic needs.”
Guterres warned that our current climate emergency is a “global crisis” and asked that “we take concrete climate action”.
For peace to prevail, Gutteres insisted that it is “only by working together can we make our only home peaceful, prosperous and safe for us and future generations”.
Living in Australia means many of us enjoy the fundamental freedoms that Guterres asserts for a thriving society. But it is “only by working together” that we can make a real difference in alleviating further threats to peace and freedom.
Prescient to this message of togetherness is that we see through our differences to our common humanity and the interconnection that we share with each other and our home, planet Earth.
On this day, Saturday 21 September 2019, in one small corner of the globe, namely the Uniting Church’s Fellowship Centre in the headquarters of Parramatta Mission, more than 350 people from 15 different faiths and spiritualities gathered together to offer prayers for peace and celebrate our cultural and religious diversity through music, song and dance.
During his keynote address, Professor Peter Shergold AC, Chancellor of Western Sydney University, spoke of the contributions refugees have made to Australia.
The gathering was an outright expression of togetherness and peace.
Minister of Parramatta Mission’s Leigh Memorial Church and MC of the event, Rev Dr Manas Ghosh, said,
“On this day, we gather people of religions from A-Z, with representatives spanning Aboriginal spirituality to the Zoroastrian Communities. Those in between include people from the Baha’i, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jain, Jewish, Mandaean, Sikh and Sufi traditions.”
For 16 years, Rev Dr Manas Ghosh has hosted this Interfaith Peace Service on the UN International Peace Day, first in Lindfield, then for the last 8 years in Parramatta.
This local event might seem small on a global scale, but its interpretation of our interconnection, through lauding our religious and cultural differences, and the peace that this emanates, looms large.
The prayers and performances this year were expressed in 10 different languages, in costumes, music and movement foreign to many of us in the audience, but they were nonetheless an expression of the values central to our humanity and what binds us together – humility, love, kindness, truth, light, compassion, respect, creation, community, joy and in a word, peace.
Particular to this year’s Interfaith Peace Service was that all the prayers and many of the performances were conducted by children, from pre-school age to adolescence.
Only the day before, children in more than 200 nations skipped school to participate in strikes demanding urgent action on climate change. Their message is that grown-ups listen up and take action for a safe and prosperous future.
Their message is for peace. It is up to all of us to model this, together, no matter how small.