A catalyst for peace, one day
The man who acted as the catalyst for an organisation dedicated to promoting the United Nations' International Day of Peace has visited Bermuda and spoken about the remarkable success of the initiative.
Little more than a decade ago Peace One Day did not exist, but today more than 600 million people globally are aware of it. By 2016 that number is estimated to be three billion.
Jeremy Gilley, the founder of the Peace One Day organisation, spoke at the TEDx Bermuda conference at Fairmont Southampton on Saturday and recognised the role the Island is playing in spreading the peace message.
An act of serendipity saw the original 2012 Lennon Bermuda tribute concert in the Botanical Gardens moved from its intended date of June 21 to September 21.
After the decision was made was it noted the date coincided with the UN's International Day of Peace, which the UN gave a fixed calendar date to in 2001.
This year's Lennon Bermuda Peace Day concert featured a recorded message from Mr Gilley about Peace One Day's global mission.
While having a day of peace on the international calendar is commendable, making a measurable difference in people's lives is the aim, said Mr Gilley.
Speaking to The Royal Gazette after TEDx, the British filmmaker and actor said he “stumbled into peace” when making the 1998 'Peace One Day' documentary.
“I found out there was no starting point for peace. There was no intercultural cooperation,” he said.
He had previously enjoyed success as an actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company and on TV, but while recognising art and entertainment's contribution to enriching people's lives, he was searching for something with greater “meaning” and embarked on the peace documentary.
That evolved into a mission to promote an international day when all countries vowed not to wage war; a day of non-violence and ceasefire. The UN's International Day of Peace, which has existed since 1982, got its fixed calendar date in 2001. Peace One Day is credited with playing a role in securing that UN resolution after campaigning and contacting heads of states, non-governmental organisations, and leaders such as Kofi Annan, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela.
Since then the non-profit Peace One Day organisation has focused on making the International Day of Peace more than merely symbolic.
Life-saving activities have included food deliveries to Sudan and peace day ceasefires in Afghanistan which, since 2007, have allowed more than 4.5 million children to be given medical treatment and polio immunisation.
Mr Gilley and Peace One Day ambassador and film star Jude Law, personally took part in the Afghanistan peace day ceasefire initiatives. The organisation is working towards achieving a similar humanitarian breakthrough in the Democratic Republic of Conga.
Thousands of schools in the UK have received Peace One Day resource packs, and Mr Gilley told the TEDx audience that schools have reported a marked decrease in violence and bullying when the peace day message has been promoted.
Analysts McKinsey & Company estimates this year four percent of the 600 million people who are aware of One Peace Day will behave more peacefully in their own lives as a result of the initiative — that's up from the two percent of the 280 million aware of the day last year.
Citing those tangible results, Mr Gilley said: “That's what is more important. It's not just about laying down guns and arms, and places like Afghanistan and Syria. The real war is here, in our homes, in our cities. It's fists. It's domestic violence.”
He said the day of peace was about non-violence in all aspects of life, and was about families coming together as well as warring parties observing a ceasefire.
“It's a behavioural change — educating the world. We have to teach young people to be peacemakers.”
Thanking Lennon Bermuda Peace Day concert organisers Tony Brannon and Michael Freisenbruch, Mr Gilley gestured towards nearby Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and likened the concert to being another beacon sending out the global peace message to the world.
Mr Gilley has been staying at Cambridge Beaches for a week, and said: “I've had a wonderful time. The Island is beautiful; the water, the food — everything is incredible. Bermuda has recharged me.”
And he said he had personally changed since embarking on the Peace One Day mission. “I was always angry in the beginning and I did not think it would work.
“We are working for a day when we can unite for peace. I believe it is coming. It is going to be inevitable.”