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September 21 - Peace One Day

Salman Shaheen


The month of September certainly has its fair share of memorable historical events attached to it. Its eleventh day will forever be indelibly etched into our minds as the tragic day the twin towers fell to the culmination of the bitter enmities between two reactionary ideologies, if not for the fall of Allende to the CIA backed coup in Chile and the beginning of Pinochet’s terror. Fast forward ten days, to the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, and some may ask what’s so special about the 21st September. Will this day go unmarked in history? Or will future generations come to remember this as the day that helped bring about the stuff of seemingly naïve hopes, dreams and prayers: peace on Earth!

September 21st is the official UN ceasefire day, a day of global peace and non-violence. Such a concept may seem wishful thinking in today’s climate of war, terrorism and persecution. It is my hope with this article, however, to help, in whatever small way I can, to ensure that the thinking behind September 21st can be realised to be far more than naïve passions.

The declaration of an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence in 2001 was the culmination of the work of Peace One Day, a campaign launched by British filmmaker Jeremy Gilley in 1999. I first became aware of Peace One Day this time last year, when Gilley’s film was shown on television, documenting his journey of tears, celebrations, peaks and pitfalls; talking to politicians, Nobel peace laureates, artists, musicians and religious leaders the world over. The idea, no matter how far fetched it seemed, instantly caught my imagination.

Tragically just days after the UN General Assembly declared the establishment of a global ceasefire day, the twin towers fell. And the rest, as they say, is history, as each and every one of us who has marched against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq well knows. But we also know that simply because the promise of peace eluded us as Bush and Blair took us twice to war, it did not mean that we should give up and resign ourselves to another century caked in blood. Two million optimists on the streets of London were testament to that. Thankfully Jeremy Gilley did not give up either.

With celebrity backing from the likes of Jimmy Cliff, Dave Stewart and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Peace One Day set about its most monumental task of all; letting the world know! If world leaders could not be relied upon to honour a day of ceasefire, then it had to be down to the people to put pressure on them. And if one day of peace can finally be honoured, why not more?

As I write this, September 21st approaches, and the world over millions of people prepare to celebrate a day of peace, to mark it in their own special ways, to spread the word in the hope that one day, every person and every nation will know what September 21st represents, and what they must do. It saddens me, however, that few people I have spoken to about Peace One Day has heard of it. It is for that reason that I wrote a poem to mark the day, and with the help of my friend Reuben on guitar, have performed it to several hundred people who will hopefully not forget.

By the time you read this article, September 21st 2005 will be behind us, but I hope a few more people will know the significance of September 21st 2006. So I would urge all of you to tell as many people as you can about Peace One Day, visit the website and make a commitment to mark the next global day of non-violence. Help spread the word, and help us all to realise a common legacy that we can be proud to leave to successive generations, that of peace, one day.


September 2005

Peace One Day poem

For Socialist Unity ~ For Internationalism ~ For Peace ~ For Justice ~ For Unity ~ For Socialism