“ETSU; we’re for peace,” was the chant heard around the campus of East Tennessee State University Wednesday afternoon as the campus recognized the International Day of Peace.
Known as ETSU 4 Peace and organized by students Mwamba Bowa and Shae Keane, the campus celebration of the United Nations holiday included proclamations from Jonesborough, Johnson City and Teterow, Germany, musical performances and a moment of silence followed by a rally for peace.
The chant was part of the rally, where participants marched around campus advocating peace among people.
The International Day of Peace was established to foster peace between neighbors and nations. More than 200 countries observe the day.
“We are cultivating awareness,” Keane said. “We’re trying to make a feeling of solidarity with something that’s bigger than just our campus, bigger than our community. We’re tying the students into a global community so that we can be mindful of the people that are suffering in other places.”
Keane said people in this area are fortunate to go to work and school each day with reasonable assurance no violence will occur, so it was appropriate to recognize that fact and also realize that is not the case in other areas.
The International Day of Peace was established by the United Nations in 1981, but an official date had not been set aside, Bowa said. She said a British filmmaker asked why a day had not officially been declared. The filmmaker, with the backing of the British and Costa Rican governments, submitted a resolution before the U.N. declaring Sept. 21 as the official International Day of Peace. The resolution was passed by each member nation.
An announcement was planned to tell people about the International Day of Peace on Sept. 11, 2001. The terror attacks that day trumped news of the peace event.
“And so it was celebrated the following year but nobody knew much about it and for a couple of years it just went by and nobody celebrated it,” Bowa said.
In 2008, the International Day of Peace was widely celebrated with the help of some Hollywood celebrities to give it more recognition and observances have been growing since then. In fact, this was the first year ETSU celebrated the day.
Many student groups on campus as well as faculty supported the ETSU 4 Peace event. Many activities were held this week leading up to the official day Wednesday.
Keane and Bowa said they were happy at the support their effort has been given.”
It’s a demonstration of the strength of the human spirit,” Keane said.
Bowa, from Zambia, said it was important to celebrate the International Day of Peace because it can unite people.
“To just rise up as the human race and not depreciate whether someone’s white, black or a different tribe, just come together as the human race to unite for peace and support this non-violence cease-fire campaign going on around the world,” Bowa said.