Zach Landau | A&E Editor
North Korean nuclear threats. Genocide in Myanmar. Civil wars in Syria and Yemen. War and struggle seem to dominate the headlines which sets a fitting stage for an annual international celebration of peace, including events on Duquesne’s campus.
The International Day of Peace, sometimes called World Peace Day, is observed every Sept. 21 as part of a 1981 United Nations resolution. In the original resolution, the stated purpose of the holiday is the “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”
Campus Minister Linda Donovan echoed this sentiment by calling the event a chance to “bring to attention” efforts towards peace.
In preparation for the date, Duquesne’s Spiritan Campus Ministry is holding the 11 Days of Peace. This event, which the center calls “A Campus and Community Observation,” began as a response to the terror attacks of 9/11.
“We used to celebrate the International Day of Peace alone,” Donovan said, “But after 9/11 happened, it made sense to encompass the whole 11 days, beginning on 9/11 with the remembrance of the New York event and ending with the 21st.”
The 11 Days of Peace are meant for reflection, Donovan explained, and offer an opportunity for individuals to begin to make a difference in their lives.
“Those 11 days are a call to awareness, a call to observation,” Donovan said. “Because peace begins with us. It begins with each individual person, and if each individual person observes their behavior and the behaviors around them, then they can affect change.”
The meditative aspects of the event are not lost on Matt Broeren. The Spiritan Seminarian and healthcare supply chain management and philosophy senior welcomes the opportunity to refocus on peace.
“As a student, you can get very focused on what’s going campus, what you have due, when is this,” Broeren said. “But these 11 Days give the opportunity for all students, myself included, to sit back and think about the broader context that we exist in.”
The Candle Lighting Ceremony last Monday in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit kicked off the 11 Days. It was followed later by the Mass for Peace that evening.
On Thursday, Sept. 14, the Spiritan Campus Ministry is hosting a conversation with international students at noon in Gumberg’s Popular Reading Room. The purpose of this forum reflects the overall theme of this year’s Day of Peace: “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”
“We invite international students … and then invite American students to have a conversation,” Donovan said. “Understanding is really important. When we don’t understand another culture, we tend to have issues with it, or we’re afraid to have conversations. And this way, it opens up a safe place where people can just talk about their culture and just share a little bit and just become more personal with each other.”
Besides the talk, students can also get involved by helping to contributing to a popsicle-stick-bridge-building project. Students are welcomed to stop by the Commuters’ Lounge, Gumberg and Campus Ministry to write what peace means to them on the sticks. The sticks will then be made into a bridge in the Union on the Day of Peace.
Students are also welcomed to join Campus Ministry to St. Mary on the Mount, Mt. Washington, for a prayer session on Sept. 21. Students should contact Linda Donovan or the ministry if interested.
Donovan explained that International Day of Peace has a special interest to Duquesne.
“Catholic social teaching calls us to respect the dignity of every human person, and as Catholics, that’s what we’re called to do,” Donovan said. “So as a Catholic university, each human person has dignity, we have to treat people with dignity and respect. And that includes the stranger among us, the people on the margins, and those who we wouldn’t normally be friends with. So I think it’s important for us to lead the way as a Catholic university and be very visible with our efforts towards peace and to be welcoming to the other.”