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World Peace Day Calls Us Into Commiseration, Contemplation, and Commitment

Many human rights issues demand our urgent attention on this United Nations day of reflection.

By Rev. Mary Katherine Morn on September 21, 2020

later that night

i held an atlas in my lap

ran my fingers across the whole world

and whispered

where does it hurt?

it answered





September 21 is World Peace Day, a United Nations holiday that calls us into 24 hours of non-conflict to promote the idea of peace. I’ve committed myself to taking this day to reflect, to take the metaphorical pulse of the world and wrestle with the feelings that surface and what small part I have in making things better.

In the United States alone, there’s much to contemplate:

  • A pandemic that has changed how we relate to one another and challenged us to see ever more clearly the many inequities that exist for people already living under the enormity of oppression and injustice.
  • Racial injustice in the United States brought to the front and center in the wake of the hideous murder of George Floyd in Minnesota.
  • The Atlantic Hurricane season is causing incalculable damage across the U.S. gulf coast.
  • Indigenous human rights defenders, in the United States and abroad, are criminalized for defending their communities.
  • The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and heightened anxieties about the impact on human rights in the United states.
  • Nurse Dawn Wooten’s horrifying allegations against Immigration and Customs Enforcement involving forced sterilizations of immigrant women.
  • One of the most heated U.S. presidential elections in recent memory, one that has truly delineated a stark divide between the major political parties.

Whether human-made or natural, disasters have brought political, social, cultural, generational, national, and intellectual division and conflict. We are living through a time of dangerous discontent and distrust.

Reflecting on the conflict in our nation and beyond, the idea of peace appears as a touchstone and a beacon for this day, and every day. It has many meanings, here are some to consider:

Purpose. As people of faith and people of conscience, we are called to work together to build a world where all people may thrive and are free from the tyrannous hands of oppression. Our purpose in pursuing justice is fueled by our belief in inherent…

Equity. Human rights and the peace that is born in justice are only possible when our beliefs and practices reflect the belief in the value, beauty, and inherent worth of every person. Our belief in inherent equity leads us to…

Action. We are called most importantly to act. We have a moral obligation to show up for those whose equity is denied, to enthusiastically follow their leadership as they disrupt and transform the systems and institutions that profit off of their subjugation. As our purpose and our belief in equity leads to action, we must follow that action through with…

Commitment. The most important victories are won when we commit ourselves to the long haul. Radical commitment requires weathering setbacks and disappointments and remaining steadfast. Radical commitment also inevitably reminds us how much we have to learn, reminds us of the importance of…

Examination. We owe it to ourselves and those we serve to consistently assess our actions and effectiveness. If and when we determine that we are making mistakes, not fully living into our values, or even creating harm, we must be brave enough to make course corrections in the name of building and sustaining movements for justice and peace.

Warsan Shire’s poem, “What They Did Yesterday Afternoon,” is a stunning piece that calls us to hold the difficult truth of violence, harm, and unrest. From genocide to famine, civil war to drought, civil unrest to deadly storms, none of us are truly free from oppression, free for peace, until all of us are free. On this World Peace Day, let us recommit ourselves to taking on the collective struggle for justice and  peace.


About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!

Photo Credit: iStock – ThitareeSarmkasat

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