As in many places around the world, Belfast commemorated the International Day of Peace on 21 September, with a goal shared by many countries and nations: to encourage society to get involved in promoting a culture of peace. Under this year’s theme, “Make your voice heard”, the date was framed on its 30th anniversary, still with the same objectives and strong ethos.
To mark the United Nations International Day of Peace, Belfast City Hall hosted an official event. Following the observance of a minute’s silence, the second annual Inspiration Awards ceremony took place, to recognise the work of positive role models and their inspirational influence on others.
The novelty this year was the Special Inspiration Award, which acknowledged the Norwegian people and their efforts to deal with the most tragic and violence circumstances of the terrorist attacks of 22 July. This award was presented to Royal Norwegian Honorary Consul, Michael Ewings, who expressed thanks on behalf of the people of Norway for the kind condolences and sympathies given by the people of Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland:
Other awards included the Community Inspiration Award, given to Lesley Coe, founder and coach of the Sandy Row Falcons Cheerleading Squad. Tracey McAuley was presented with the Youth Inspiration Award, and Tony McCoy received the Celebrity Inspiration Award.
All award recipients were nominated by Springboard, which launched this initiative in 2010. This ceremony was one of a series of events that the local charity organised, to raise awareness of UN Peace Day.
When launching this international day of observation in 1981, the UN suggested that “Peace Day should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and people … This day will serve as a reminder to all peoples that our organisation, with all its limitations, is a living instrument in the service of peace, and should serve all of us here within the organisation as a constantly pealing bell, reminding us that our permanent commitment, above all interests of differences of any kind, is to peace.”
This date takes on a special significance in areas such as Northern Ireland, which experienced convoluted conflicts for over 30 years. The fact that only two months ago Belfast demonstrated some on-street tensions emphasises all the more need to maintain best efforts to build and promote a culture of peace and a shared future. After all, Belfast still has markers of a divided society, such as interface barriers — so-called “peace walls”.
Thirty years after the establishment of the International Day of Peace, and with well over 30 armed conflicts underway worldwide, it is vital to promote an ongoing commitment to a culture of peace, by everyone everywhere.