Asheville celebration rallies for global cease-fire

by: Sheldon Schenck – Staff Writer – sschenck@unca.edu

Crowds joined together last Friday for Asheville’s festival in celebration of the International Day of Peace. The event put an emphasis on youth involvement and lessening the need for military funding.

The Peace Day was established by the United Nations in 1981. In 2002, Sept. 21 was declared the official International Day of Peace. Celebrations take place around the world, and there is an official moment of silence at noon in every time zone, along with hope for a global cease-fire.

Luis Miguelez, displays his protest sign at the International Day of Peace celebration, on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.

Debralee Williams, left, Laura Sorensen, center, and Cathy Holt, right, protest for peace at the International Peace Day celebration last Friday.

Jonah Bolt, the event coordinator for International Day of Peace in Asheville. “It’s definitely important now because of the wars that are going on, and to remind people that peace is possible.”

Various speakers and performers served as entertainment for the peace day. Speakers included Steve Norris, a peace and justice studies professor at Warren Wilson College, Amy Cantrell of Beloved House and Jim Barton of the Western North Carolina UN Association.

The event featured many musical performances, including St. Margaret Mary’s Youth Hispanic Folk Choir, adding to the importance the event coordinators placed on youth awareness.

“We hope to get the youth more involved,” Bolt said. “We hope that some of the youth comes out and sees what the rally is about and get involved and help us out to spread awareness.”

Those involved in the event urged the youth to get more involved now, so change can come more quickly in the future.

“You can maybe achieve change much more quickly than we were able to,” said Rachael Bliss, an assisting event coordinator for Asheville’s International Day of Peace.

Bliss said youth are now much more able now to promote peace throughout the world with the use of social media and networking. Many instances throughout the Middle East in recent years serve as examples of this sort of social networking activism.

“The youth around the world are more connected now than ever before, giving us a greater opportunity to affect change,” said Catherine Kanwisher, a junior environmental studies and economics student. “Our generation in particular is living in a more globalized world and it’s important to celebrate those connections. We are the future leaders of the world and will be making decisions that influence the global community.”

Various organizations sponsored Friday’s worldwide event to help ensure global peace for the future. Asheville Peacetown and Veterans for Peace, Physicians for Social Responsibility in Western North Carolina, The Green Party, NC Peace Action Network, Asheville Friends Meeting and the Mountain Area Interfaith Forum were among Asheville event sponsors.

In addition to youth awareness, the sponsors and coordinators of Asheville’s International Day of Peace celebration said they wanted to ensure peace for progressive economic reasons as well.

“So much money goes to our defense department and it leaves very little for other important things like education and health care,” Bliss said. “All these things have to fight for the rest of the budget.”

Bliss emphasized how much more we would be able to accomplish as a nation if our defense department was not consuming such a large portion of our federal budget.

“We feel that if there was peace in the world we would save so much money,” Bliss said. “We could wipe out hunger, and we could have a great health care program.”

Event participants also said if the world were more peaceful, the resources being placed in defense could be used in other important areas.

“Our vision is that these (weapons) factories could be turned into solar panel factories, wind turban factories or could be used for research on fighting cancer,” Bliss said. “I think it starts with our country. Our budget is the biggest in the whole world.”

Those who attended the International Day of Peace in downtown Asheville said they were pleased with the turnout and the awareness they were able to spread.

“It’s important to celebrate how far we’ve come while reminding us that there is still work needed to be done to maintain and promote peace,” Kanwisher said.

The day also served as a cease-fire around the world. The goal is for every warring nation to observe and respect at least one day for shots not to be fired.

“The main goal on that particular day is to have a complete cease fire around the globe,” Bliss said. “You might say we’re starting out small, but there should be no guns fired on that day. This helps a lot of war torn countries, because if people observed this, then they could do the things they are afraid to get out of their homes to do on any other given day.”

Celebrations happened all throughout the world. In Asheville in particular, the event served to promote peace within individuals, in the community and then hopefully globally.

“Locally, we just want to bring the community together,” Bolt said. “(Our goal is to) basically remind everybody that there are wars going on, to remember the troops and the veterans and to take a stand for peace and come together.”

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