Coming Together to Celebrate World Peace Day.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other" - Mother Teresa.
The ringing of bells, the beat of a drum and the resounding voice of teachers and students sing: Ekata. Guru Dr. Chintamani Yogi tells those gathered in Shant Sewa Ashram that "songs are the best tools for peace" as they help us "to achieve unity". Today, on the day of International Peace, unity is one word which echoes throughout this special programme, both from the lips of the young and their elders. During the week of the 19th to 23rd September 2011 events have been held in Shant Sewa Ashram to honor and celebrate this important day, as well as to raise awareness and to educate in the name of world peace.
To anticipate the day students from HVP, Kathmandu, Children Study Center, Koteshwor, and Children's Peace Home, Dang expressed their ideas about peace by creating pictures, poems and essays. Abbie Miss, Kate Miss and Josh Sir, volunteers from Durham University in the UK, expressed the high standard of all entries and the difficulty of choosing the winners of the competition. For the essay on Peace the winner was Riya Subedi (Class 7), followed by Elesh Aryal (Class 8) in second place and Sashank Poudel (Class 8) in third place. For poetry the winner was Manjay Maharjan (Class 10), with Elina Shrestha (Class 10) in second place and Faiz Azam Saba (Class 10) and Umanga Dahal (Class 9) in joint third place. Finally, the prizes for best artwork went to Sonisha Awale (Class 9) in first place, Gopal Rana Magar (Class 7) in second place, and Rosna Maharjan (Class 10) in third place.
Schools from Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur districts, including HVP, Sunrise Orphanage, SOS, Aarkriti English Boarding School, Jana Bikash School, Jyotidaya Co-operative secondary School, Kathmandu University High School, Pathshala Nepal Foundation, and Guinness International School attended the second day of the week's festivities. In an atmosphere striking for its warmth, the students aged 14 to 20 discussed what peace meant to them, freely and openly. Each group were given a single word to reflect upon and discuss its significance. With much passion they then proceeded to present their ideas to their peers. While group A wrote and performed a poem entitled "Respect", group B considered what "Empathy" might be deciphered as, with one student declaring that the message was clear: we have two ears and only one mouth, we must "hear more, learn more, talk less". Indeed the students exemplified respect and empathy, showing these qualities in their enthused reaction to their friends' suggestions. Such appreciation for one another's creativity could particularly seen in reaction to group C's drama on "Reconciliation" which was almost unanimously held to be the best presentation. Finally, group D discussed what "Responsibility" meant, creating an ambitious five year plan which stressed that in order "to change the world we must start with ourselves". Following on from this, students and teachers meditated together, practiced yoga and then participated in friendship games. As Bibek Yogi, Class 9, HVP, told me: "We may have missed class today, but this is the most important type of class. There is more than academic education…"
The arrival of some international friends ended the second day of the Peace programme. With representatives from four continents, including the Americas, Australias, Europe and, of course, Asia, the theme of the day - unity and peace - came to be illustrated as friends from the four corners of the world sung and danced together. Despite the diversity of the group's backgrounds, cultures and religious beliefs, regardless of the vast spectrum of ages, the core message of the day was universal and defied such boundaries. As Will from America noted, "There is one thing that is universal and that is a smile." Indeed, smiles, laughter and an optimistic hope for world peace filled the room.
This tone continued throughout the week, with people from around Kathmandu lighting Peace Lamps in sacred places on September 21st, promoting a culture of belonging and harmony. Talks by Guru Dr. Chintamani Yogi on topics such as ethical education, environment and spirituality also took place on 22nd September at a youth wing of the Peace Service Center. On the final day of this programme, people of different faiths - Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists - gathered for a day of interfaith prayers, spiritual speeches and the lighting of peace lamps. Together, in one voice, opening their hearts and minds to one another: a prayer for World peace was said.
By Freya Imogen Perry
British Volunteer for Hindu Vidyapeeth-Nepal