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Should the U.S. Declare a One-Day Cease-Fire in Afghanistan?

By Maria Rogers · September 5th, 2002 · Burning Questions
Can world peace really be achieved for an entire day?

Jeremy Gilley, founder of Peace One Day, hopes so. The 33-year-old London filmmaker and the organization he started have convinced the United Nations to declare a day of global cease-fire and nonviolence.

The U.N. has recognized a yearly International Day of Peace since 1981, but this year it will have additional meaning. Sept. 21 is the first-ever cease-fire and nonviolence day, according to Gilley.

In a letter sent to world leaders -- including President George W. Bush and Pope John Paul II -- the Dalai Lama expressed his support for Peace One Day and asked them to support the International Day of Peace as well.

In a meeting with Gilley at U.N. headquarters in February 2001, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said, "You have proved that individuals can make a difference and, if each of us does our bit collectively, we will make a major contribution."

The U.N. resolution declares, "The International Day of Peace shall henceforth be observed as a day of global cease-fire and nonviolence, an invitation to all nations and people to honor a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the day."

Oscar Arias Sanchez, 1987 Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of Costa Rica, wrote, "It is my hope that the newly adopted global cease-fire day of Sept. 21 will be heeded by parties in conflict, so that those affected by war may experience a reprieve -- even if brief -- and have the opportunity to glimpse hope for a peaceful future.

May this hope, in turn, strengthen them in their struggle to establish peace instead of war, tolerance instead of fanaticism and calm instead of chaos."

Although the resolution was passed a few days before last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attack, Gilley believes the day of peace can have special meaning for those still trying to work through what happened last year.

Gilley, who traveled the world collecting people's stories for his film, was in Manhattan Sept. 11, filming for the project. People who feel helpless because of what happened can feel empowered to do something for peace, he says.

"It's a moment of hope 10 days after that moment of real darkness," Gilley says. "If you build a house, you start with one brick. If you want to build peace, you start with one day."

Gilley wants to see people around the world make their own commitments to peace. He considers the day a symbol of hope for the world.

"This is a day for individuals, not governments," he says. "Individuals have the opportunity to step into the peace process, to be peacemakers themselves. If we as individuals act, governments will follow. They do what we ask them to do. That's democracy."

Wild Faith, a media and arts organization focusing on reconciliation and nonviolence, has created a Web site to collect commitments for peace.

"I was inspired to get involved in this day to some degree because of the magic of the timing," says Alice Klein, executive director of Wild Faith.

Peace One Day is an incredible opportunity for those who are sickened by militaristic solutions, according to Klein.

"It doesn't matter if you've turned somebody's homeland into rubble," she says. "You still have to go back and reconcile eventually. It's civilians that are paying the price now -- largely innocent people like the innocent people who died Sept. 11."

Sister Alice Gerdeman, coordinator of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Over-the-Rhine, sees the International Day of Peace as an opportunity for the world to imagine a different way of life.

"It's a time when people from all different perspectives all over the world can hold something in common," she says. "We may not all come from the same definition of what peace is, but we all want it. We can stop hating each other and we don't have to be violent."

To log your commitment for peace, visit www.peaceoneday.org or www.wildfaith.org.
BURNING QUESTIONS is our weekly attempt to afflict the comfortable.


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