In Afghanistan, Herat University is holding a peace rally just weeks after the deadly attack on the American University in Kabul killed 14 students and faculty. In Chicago, a moment of silence and a peace flag procession will cap three weeks of events calling for an end to violence in a city rocked by more than 500 homicides this year. In Washington, D.C., youth leaders from Nigeria, Morocco, and Uganda will share their personal stories that led them to create organizations dedicated to preventing and reducing violence, in a discussion with students from Roosevelt High School.
These actions and more in at least 36 states, in war zones and in other countries worldwide are part of a U.S. Institute of Peace initiative to elevate the International Day of Peace with concrete action. The #PeaceDayChallenge, now in its second year, urges everyone to take steps that affirm peace as a real alternative to the violence chronicled every day in the news.
Established by the United Nations in 1981, the International Day of Peace is observed each year on September 21. This year marks the 35th anniversary.
“Peace is possible, but it doesn’t manifest of its own accord,” said USIP President Nancy Lindborg. “It requires hard work by people in their own communities and across their nations.”
Last year, the #PeaceDayChallenge reached 23 million people on social media, engaging communities, organizations and students of all ages, as well as leaders from U.S. Members of Congress to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In a June event this year at USIP, the Dalai Lama urged tangible work to advance peace, saying “the real effect comes through … serious action.”
USIP will kick off its Peace Day activities at its Washington D.C. headquarters at 10:00 a.m., with the exchange between Roosevelt High School students and the young civic leaders from the three African countries who are part of the institute’s Generation Change Fellows Program. The fellows will lead workshops that emphasize the power of sharing stories to form human connections and build community in areas affected by conflict.
No matter where action is taking place under the banner of the Peace Day Challenge, learning and further activities will continue with the help of guides such as USIP’s Peacebuilding Toolkit for Educators.