The World Peace Prayer Society (WPPS) has been working with the UN Department of Public Information for 19 years on the International Day of Peace outreach, theme, and annual video conference for 500-800 students at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The regional headquarters of this non-governmental organization (NGO) is in Wassaic, New York.
In 2016 on September 16, the 20th student observance of the International Day of Peace at the United Nations took peace to a whole new level—literally. After raising the flags provided by WPPS at the UN Peace Bell, students from numerous countries and children refugees without a country proceeded to their event, which was held in the prestigious General Assembly Hall. This was exciting for the students involved because this was first time students were admitted into the General Assembly for their annual event.
Students enjoyed a rousing hip-hop presentation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's address encouraged students to become heroic champions for the U.N.'s Global Goals: as being Building Blocks for Peace.
Cinema star Michael Douglas acted as M.C., introducing fellow UN Messengers of Peace: Dr. Jane Goodall on the need to preserve the natural world; Stevie Wonder on overcoming his disability to reach millions with music; Leonardo DiCaprio on the urgency of climate change; and Midori, who played a stunning piece on violin, then explained the importance of giving children the experience of having the experience of art as an important element in their lives. Six students offered brief presentations of their own peace projects.
The Rainbow Choir of children from the Republic of Korea sang in unison with good voice. Three Nobel Peace Prize laureates spoke to youth, encouraging a passion for peace. Mrs. Ban rang the World Peace Prayer Society's peace bell inscribed with “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” This evoked a minute of contemplative silence, which was particularly poignant since her husband’s term concludes this year.
Deborah Moldow, UN Representative for the World Peace Prayer Society, and Monica Willard, UN Representative for the United Religions Initiative, later presented Mrs. Ban with a Peace Pole in recognition of her years of dedicated service inspiring young people on the path to peace.
The peaceful mood and commitment generated at this event made a deep impression on the youth who attended. We can only hope that this inspirational event with its deep symbolism and synergy will act like a stone plunged into a pond; that its ringing reverberations will resound throughout the lives of these students, whom we hope, will make a significant difference in the world when they come of age.