September 18th, 2013
The World Peace Prayer Society (WPPS) has worked in partnership with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) on the UN observance of the International Day of Peace (IDP) since 1997. On Wednesday, September 18th, 500 high school and college students arrived at the United Nations early in the morning – international students from Rutgers University, refugee students living in Vermont, an overnight busload of students from Montreal, Roots & Shoots volunteers from along the East Coast, and many more representing diverse peace efforts in their schools and communities.
194 of these students had the privilege of carrying the flags of all the UN Member States into the Rose Garden to take part in the ringing of the Peace Bell by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Secretary-General gave a moving speech that included a plea for peace in Syria, as well as a strong call to get every child into school. He asked for a Minute of Silence and rang the Peace Bell, as the students raised the flags high.
The Secretary-General then joined the students in the recently renovated Conference Room 1 of the UN, warmly encouraging them to feel compassion in their hearts and to work for a better world for all. The students also heard inspiring remarks by Dr. Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace, and UN Foundation “Girl Up” Champion Monique Coleman.
The program included a live feed from the UN Peacekeeping site in Haiti, songs by Ta’Kaiya Blaney and by Technicolor Lenses, and talks by numerous dignitaries. But the most exciting parts were the presentations by students of 14 of their own peace projects, from a high school Peace Pledge to the Diversity Rocks International Youth Project to Theatre for Social Change. Two of the young people closed their presentations with “May Peace Prevail on Earth.”
This message of peace was present in the room with a Peace Pole, a display of the winning entries to the Peace Pals Art Exhibition, and the WPPS Peace Bell, for the traditional Minute of Silence conducted by Mrs. Ban. Everyone in the room had a paper flag of one of the UN Member States at their seat.
At 11:50, Monica Willard of the United Religions Initiative invited Mrs. Ban to come forward to ring the bell. Deborah Moldow of the World Peace Prayer Society invited everyone to rise and hold up their paper flags. After the Minute of Silence at the stroke of noon, all 500 students, chaperones, dignitaries and UN staff said together, “May Peace Prevail in (the country of the flag).” and then three times, “May Peace Prevail on Earth!” Everyone was moved by the profound feeling of peace that filled the room through this simple ceremony.