On Friday, Montreal commemorated the International Day of Peace on the Place des Arts Esplanade. Around two hundred people and a number of organizations attended the Pacifest, which was organized by the Circle of Peace of Montreal.
The organizations present were varied, but they all had one goal in common: peace and co-existence.
One of the organizations that had a stall on the esplanade was the World Conference of Religions for Peace-an international, inter-faith coalition promoting religious harmony.
“By ourselves, we cannot do very much. But we have a gathering of different peace groups in Montreal… [And by participating in] an event like this that is public, we are getting to be more known,” said Marguerite Zeitouni, member and former president of the WRCP, explaining why her organization attended the event.
Describing the role the WRCP plays towards establishing world peace, she said that it has members from many religions. “So we gather together, we eat together, we speak together.” She then added, “When we know each other better, it’s a little step towards more understanding.”
Several organizations specifically targeted the younger generations. These included the Pacific Path Institute and Leave Out ViolencE (LOVE).
“We train [the youth] to be leaders in the movement of non-violence,” said Olivier, director of special projects of LOVE. “We work with victims, witnesses, and perpetrators of violence. We bring them together and [get them to use] photojournalism as a means to express themselves and express issues around violence.”
“I don’t think we should ever just stand by and accept violence around us,” he added. “I think we should all make a conscious effort… I think there is hope, and I do believe that conflict resolution and violence prevention is something that we all can do.”
Remarking on the popular belief that youth are too idealistic, he said, “I don’t think it’s idealistic to think that we can live in a world with a lot less violence.”
Benoit Tremblay, CEO of the Pacific Path Institute, also said that the belief that war is inevitable “is a social mindset. And what we’re trying to do is… start earlier with kids to help them help us imagine another world.”
An eccentric presence was also made by a man whose sign read, “Free hugs: The way of the peaceful warrior.”
Martin Neufeld claimed that he has “been offering hugs full-time since 2004!”
After asking him if he believes that hugs would someday stop violence, he said, “World peace begins with inner peace-of each individual… If you find peace within yourself, then you will be more peaceful to those around you.” He added, “You cannot change the whole world; you can only change your world… You bring peace to your world, and I bring peace to mine, and we’ve got that little piece of the puzzle that’s a little more peaceful.”
Later during the day, in the Berri-UQAM metro station, the STM unveiled its Wall of Peace, an artwork with the word “peace” written in 34 languages spoken by residents of Montreal.
The International Day of Peace was created by the United Nations in 1981 with the aim of celebrating and teaching about peace. It is also meant to be a day of worldwide cease-fire.