The annual United Nations International Day of Peace and Ceasefire will be marked today with thousands of events around the world. From a moment of silence at noon in every time zone, to “Stand-Up for Peace” comedy events at 55 different venues, to decorative “Pinwheels for Peace” created and displayed by millions of young people around the globe, the day offers an opportunity for peacebuilders to engage and educate others on the various meanings of, and paths to, a more just and peaceful world.
As Valerie Elverton Dixon notes in a post on God’s Politics:
In both the Hebrew and the Greek concepts of peace, the idea goes far beyond the absence of war or violent conflict. Shalom includes the ideas of health, friendship, safety, prosperity and rest. The holiness of Shalom is wholeness. Similarly, the Greek word eirene includes the ideas of quietness, rest, prosperity, happiness, harmony, and to set at one again. Eirene is also the Greek goddess of peace whose sisters are Eunomia (order) and Dikē (justice.)
As the Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote in “Peace in the Post-Christian Era,” his 1962 book about nuclear weapons, which was published widely for the first time in 2004:
The whole world faces a momentous choice. Either our frenzy of desperation will lead to destruction, or our loyalty to truth, to God and to our fellow man will enable us to perform the patient, heroic task of building a world that will eventually thrive in unity, order and peace.
Forty-nine years later, we still face that choice. The International Day of Peace is a useful and increasingly popular opportunity for the general public to reflect, individually and collectively, on how to make sure we choose wisely.