What I learned at the United Nations' International Day of Peace: "What does peace feel like?"
What do an animal welfare and conservation activist, a Hollywood actor, and an internationally renowned cellist have in common? The same yearning that the majority of humankind has, I'll venture to say: a yearning for global peace.Jane Goodall, Michael Douglas and Yo-Yo Ma also share the distinguished title of United Nations Messenger of Peace. And, this past Monday, on a warm, breezy, pre-fall September 21st, each partook of a robust panel discussion on behalf of the International Day of Peace at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.This year marked the 70th anniversary of the United Nations as well as a transition to their new global sustainable development agenda. The theme of this year’s IDP commemoration was “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All” which aimed to highlight the importance of all segments of society to work together to strive for peace.Alongside UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue, Herbie Hancock, and the Secreatary-General's Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, these messengers shared their powerful voices, urging the need to address climate change, water security, nuclear disarmament, and emphasizing the necessity of and the power within today's youth to make change and create peace.This year also happened to be the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, adding to the poignancy and the vital importance of this day's message.I relished each moment in a standing-room-only conference room with students and members of over 30 schools, NGOs and other organizations, sharing wide-eyed "Ahhhhs" over an amazing demonstration by the World Taekwondo Federation (which, in 2012, was nominated for International Sports Federation of the Year at the Peace and Sport International Forum). We shared laughs as one of the UN security guards brought his enthusiastic canine companion to the floor for a visit with Jane Goodall, applause for the United Nations International School Chamber Ensemble who sang Michael Jackson's Let There be Peace on Earth, tears for a moving cello performance by Yo-Yo Ma, and awe for six students who presented their peace projects, including Euphrates Visionary of the Year Zuhal Sultan, who also mediated the entire second half of the program with tremendous poise and eloquence.The event concluded with a moment of silence, followed by the ringing of the Peace Bell. I learned later that this Peace Bell is crafted from former weapons of war - perhaps a moment of poetic justice.A particularly cherished aspect that brought deep hope and inspiration was sharing this event, via video conference, with students from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) which included a Q&A session, a Taekwondo demonstration performed by peacekeepers from the Korean battalion, and a particularly impactful theater performance by Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian students from the “Tyros for the Arts” association. Their message pierced the heart: I'm a child and I just want to play.In addition to the gift of bearing witness to this entire program, including a beautiful post-program, United Religions Initiative-sponsored ceremony sending a message of peace to each of the 193 UN member states, it was Herbie Hancock’s message that stirred me the most. He asked the audience fervently and poignantly, "While we all would like to think we’re part of the solution, it’s imperative we stop and ask ourselves, how am I part of the problem?"I love a question that Euphrates has recently been asking: "What does peace look like?" And Mr. Hancock’s statement humbled me into asking myself another question: "What does peace feel like?"Does it feel like the grudge I’m still holding onto from childhood or the impatience I sometimes felt navigating the congestion of New York City, despite my claims of loving the bustling crowd?We each must feel genuine peace, deep within, on a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment basis, before we can be truly genuine in our practice and cultivation of it. Then, only, are we fully part of the solution.To share the mantra embraced in unison during Monday’s ceremony: “May Peace Prevail on Earth!!”And may peace prevail in the depth of our hearts.Videos of Zuhal's panel and other remarks can be found via these links:Full video of the UN Student conference, at which Zuhal Sultan moderated and presented. See 1:24 and 2:25 for Zuhal's portions.Remarks by Michael Douglas, UN Messenger of Peace, at the 2015 Global Student Observance for the International Day of Peace 2015Remarks by Dr. Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace, at the 2015 Global Student Observance for the International Day of Peace 2015.Remarks by Herbie Hancock, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador at the 2015 Global Student Observance for the International Day of Peace 2015.Remarks by Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth at the 2015 Global Student Observance for the International Day of Peace 2015.