Peace Day - September 21, 2008 - 47
uring our time here, we would constantly reinforce an important fact that we had seen validated again and again, that there are two sides to every story, and that people are beautiful on both sides of the issues. It is unfortunate that so many people (perhaps mostly in America) see Israeli and Palestinian Arabs as committed to a culture of war or as suicide bombers. From what we have seen, this could not be further from the truth. Both the Arab and Jewish people we have met have been very dedicated, and actively working for peace. •••••••••••••••• You would really like George. He’s one of the warmest people I’ve ever met, with a heart big enough to embrace the entire world. When you meet Jack, his trusty sidekick, you’ll start to believe in things you didn’t before – these guys have a glow, a radiance that has changed the world, and may very well bring us around to the peace we’re looking for. Their story begins in 2001, though it probably started a long time before that. George D’Angelo was working at the UN at the Department of Public Affairs, working on the International Day of Peace. Peace Day was almost 20 years old and still there were no ceasefires. Each year George heard the Secretary General announce the intention for a global ceasefire, and each year he thought to himself that religion was behind a lot of the conflict, and that no ceasefire was going to happen until the religious leaders got on board. At his job at the UN, George was also teaching conflict resolution and he noticed that the religious factor was not being addressed. On the one hand it’s an influence in conflict, and on the other it’s an influence in peace – the spiritual factor of knowing that we are all one family and that we must love one another and find ways to be compassionate. All these things were brewing in George’s mind when he put together a proposal and enticed his pal Jack Gannon to join him on a tour of the world. It was a simple idea, inter-religious peace vigils for 24 hours during the International Day of Peace. Where there was conflict, they would encourage a ceasefire. The religious leaders and their communities would pray together and talk about reconciliation, and begin to look for new ways to resolve their conflicts. So George and Jack went on a three month whirlwind world tour, visiting nations in conflict and meeting with religious leaders that were already working toward peace. They enrolled dozens and dozens of groups to hold Inter-religious Vigils on Peace Day, and within a couple of years there were 350 events in 70 countries registered on their IDP Vigil website. Today there are 600-700 events in over 80 countries on the Vigil registry, and George feels strongly that there may be as many as 10 times that, that haven’t logged in. George notes, “The whole idea of Peace Day is, if you can get fighting to stop for one day, then you’ve proven that psychologically it’s possible and why not two or more? Whereas most people will say “you’ll never have a day of peace”. Well, what happens when you do? Then you can never say, “you’ll never have a week of peace or a D International Day of Peace Vigil Jack Gannon (left) & George D’Angelo month of peace”. “To my knowledge, there has not been a formal ceasefire that said: This is the International Day of Peace and we’re going to have a ceasefire. When it does, it will open doors. But while I was at the U.N, the Indian and Pakistani generals in Kashmir held a one-day truce. At least two years in a row they did. In Kenya there was fighting up north and they used the IDP Vigil to observe the day and they started a dialogue. That was a little victory.” •••••••••••••••• Journal Entry – Israel, april 2006 There weren’t any journal entries from the original trip available, but I felt that this entry from a second IDPV trip in 2006 would give you insight into the depth of George and Jack’s quest, and the tremendous amount of hope that is quietly steeping in conflict areas. It’s a little long, but well worth it. ~S.L. Here we are (at 3:30 AM) at the beautiful new Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. We are met by our host, Hagit Ra’anan, country representative for the World Peace Prayer Society and founder of Bridges for Peace. Meeting us at 3:30 AM should tell you something about the www.worldpeaceemerging.com 47
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