Shaping peace together: UN International Day of Peace 2020
by Constance VICTOR
21 September 2020
The 21st of September represents the official UN International Day of Peace, and every year on this day the Belfast City Council organises its annual observance of peace with a conference that aims to celebrate and reflect on shaping peace together. This year, the online event stressed the importance of spreading compassion, kindness and hope.
The observance of peace conference held in Belfast annually is originally a part of the Peace IV Programme, an EU funded cross-border initiative designed to support peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border region.
This year, the event shared inspirational and motivational poems, prayers and music from the Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum and the 4 Corners Festival, as well as giving the floor to representatives of diverse faiths and communities across Belfast.
The Rt Hon. Lord Mayor Frank McCoubrey started off by thanking the community of Belfast for the efforts that were put into managing the current Coronavirus crisis, and consequently encouraging everyone to learn from the common fighting of the virus in order to gain increasing confidence in the continuation of reconciliation efforts in Northern Irish communities.
A poem by the chaplain of Ulster University, Cheryl Meban, stressed the importance of giving peace a chance, and Dr Norman Richardson sang a song entitled “Rainbow Song”, which was written for children that were first engaging with cross-community contact.
“Together we can make a rainbow; let the bright colours show; we need each other like the different colours; that make the rainbow glow” Dr Richardson chants happily on a day of hope and faith.
The Reverend David Kale, representing the Jewish community of Belfast, then spoke of the importance of the word “shalom”, to embrace the ideas of prosperity and peace. He called for a partnership of all individuals and nations in order to attain peace and comfort in ourselves.
Peter Osborne took the floor in an attempt to summarise this year’s efforts and successes in Northern Irish peacebuilding. He believed that Northern Ireland was achieving great progress towards normality, but it has to be acknowledged that shaping peace is a long and challenging process.
Indeed, achieving lasting peace means there are many complicated issues to deal with, as there still are persistent issues around expression of culture and identity which consequently create polarisation. This year has been particularly challenging, given the additional threats posed by COVID-19 as well as the consequences following Brexit.
The event’s main goal was to bring together Northern Ireland’s diverse communities by fostering dialogue and collecting ideas on a day dedicated to the importance of shaping peace. As the conference was coming to an end, a minute of silence was held in honour of all lives lost in times when there was absence of peace, and Peter Osborne emphasised the need for Northern Ireland to continue to fight for peace as well as ensure that good relations and activities between communities persist in the near future.