What if all parties entrenched in the various conflicts across the world agreed to temporarily lay their weapons to rest and mark a worldwide day of peace? “We won’t know if it can work as long as we haven’t tried,” Nigerian funk singer Keziah Jones told FRANCE 24. “It may sound like a utopia, but utopias are necessary. They’re what creates hope,” added French singer Olivia Ruiz.
Other renowned musicians who performed at the Grand Rex concert hall in Paris in support of this unusual project included Lenny Kravitz, Charlie Winston, Ayo, and Saul Williams. The audience, who'd already sprung to their feet when Ayo asked “What’s a day of peace without dancing?”, literally made the walls shake when rock icon Lenny Kravitz stepped onto the stage.
The creator of the project known as “Peace One Day” is British director Jeremy Gilley. The concept, according to singer Charlie Winston, is to “follow through on several individual peace projects,” which in the long run may help "change the world”.
Peace One Day: September 21
Onstage at the Grand Rex, Elsa Zylberstein, a French actress and ambassador of the Peace One Day association, explained the origins of the project. In 1999, Gilley decided to campaign for the creation of a worldwide day of truce in all global armed conflicts. His documentary about those efforts, “The Day After Peace,” received prizes at Paris’s Cinéma Vérité festival in 2008 and Berlin’s Cinema for Peace festival in 2009. The film’s message is clear: if other people share his dream, Peace One Day could save millions of lives.
Gilley’s first success came in 2001, when the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution declaring
September 21 World Peace Day – an initiative supported by personalities such as the Dalai Lama and the then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
YouTube and Hollywood
To get his message out there, Gilley has relied on media attention garnered by stars who support the project. But he also took advantage of new communication tools to spread word of his cause. “The project’s visibility exploded thanks to the airing of excerpts of the film on YouTube and on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter,” he explained. Peace One Day and YouTube have launched a video contest calling for people to post films about peace initiatives they’re involved in.
When asked about all the stars who have supported the project, the director smiled. “Their participation is fundamental. Without them, none of this would exist!” he confided, nodding toward the flashing cameras and sea of microphones that materialised every time a celebrity entered the Grand Rex’s press room.
Gilley says his efforts over the past year have yielded some results. An agreement signed between the Taliban and the Afghan army in Afghanistan has allowed NGOs to launch widespread vaccination campaigns in zones that were previously inaccessible. “On September 21 of last year, the UN reported an approximate 70 percent decrease in violence in Afghanistan. Medical teams have consequently been able to reach dangerous areas without fear of being kidnapped or targeted. In total, more than three million children have been vaccinated,” the British film director explains.
Buoyed by these figures, Gilley is hammering home his message: “This day works. The cynics who say it’s an unattainable utopia forget that one vaccine can save a life". This year, however, World Peace Day has been hampered by difficult conditions in the wart-torn country. The World Peace Day ambassador to Afghanistan has conceded that disquiet following the recent disputed election will prevent many initiatives from being carried out.
Yet, Gilley is undeterred. His hope is that “World Peace Day becomes well known for future generations, that it can exist without all the media coverage.”
The association’s objective is that by September 2012 some three billion people around the world know about the event.