EuroPEACEana: What does peace mean to you?
Today, 21 September, is the International Day of Peace. Established by a United Nations resolution, the first event of its kind took place in 1982.
‘Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.’
- Albert Einstein
Peace is a word that means different things to different people. To some it means a cup of tea and five minutes of quiet when the children aren’t screaming. To others, it’s a sense of inner calm achieved through meditation or reflection. But for too many people, those who live their lives under threat or in war zones, it can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. Sadly, it is often seen as something that is only possible in death – think of the phrases, ‘rest in peace’ or ‘to be at peace’.
‘There is no way to peace, peace is the way.’
- AJ Muste
The desire for peace – a lack of conflict and an absence of hostility – is universal and as old as the hills. A quick search of Europeana’s collections showed up images and documentation of peace negotiations ranging from the Romans and Carthaginians in the 13th century, to Malaysian Kayan tribes in the late 1800s, and the Treaty of Tartu establishing peace between Estonia and Russia in 1920. More recently, there’s a video of Dutch soldiers preparing to be part of UN peace-keeping forces in the Lebanon in 1979, and a photo of a UN vehicle being towed out of difficulties in Ethiopia in 2006. Note the symbol on the car’s back window - a rifle crossed through, representing peace.
‘For peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from the force of character.’
- Baruch Spinoza
So, what might peace as a ‘force of character’ look like? Perhaps it’d be a lady in a chariot pulled by tigers as P&P Gally pictured it in an etching from the Wellcome Library. Can you see a force for peace reflected in the portrait of Louise Wright, one of the founding members of the Danish Women’s Peace Movement, which later became the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom? Or how about in the personalities of winners of the Nobel Peace Prize – Ralph Bunche (1950), Dag Hammerskjold (1961) and Al Gore (2007)?
Whatever you think of when you think of peace, think of it today on the 20th International Day of Peace, in the hope that in future, every day can be a day of peace.