Bluefield College took part in its first ever International Day of Peace with a series of student-led observance activities, Thursday, September 21.
Members of the community, students, faculty and staff were invited to attend the Peace Day events at the college, which included a Spoken Word for Peace at noon, Prayer for Peace at 3 p.m., and the showing of a documentary at 6 p.m.
Established in 1981 by a unanimous United Nations resolution, the International Day of Peace is observed around the world each year on the 21st day of September. Peace Day provides a globally-shared date for all humanity to commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace.
“I was very happy with the outcome,” said Dr. Maria Zalduondo, director of BC’s Global Education Program who helped organize the school’s Peace Day activities. “The participation of the students was just really amazing. We had some really talented students read original thoughts on peace or poems on peace, and then we had students reading other people’s reflections on peace.”
Multiple students, faculty, staff and community members took part in the Spoken Word for Peace portion of the day on the front steps of Lansdell Hall, reading both famous compositions and original works of poetry on peace. For example, community member Tina Russell read Mia Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” and BC student Carrington Jade Shelton read one of her own poems.
“I didn’t want to write a poem about glorifying peace, because of the state of our world,” said Shelton. “So instead, I decided I was gonna write about praying for peace, because I think that that’s what we need to do. We need to pray for peace.”
At 3 o’clock, a group of faculty, students and community members did just that when they prayed for peace at the newly designated Peace Tree on campus. The Prayer for Peace was open to people of all faiths. Diane and Edward Grych of the Bahai faith attended the session and offered a small reading and prayer to those attending. The interfaith component, Dr. Zalduondo said, promotes a sense of peace between people who may not believe the same ideas, and provides an opportunity for listening and the achievement of common ground.
“I was talking to my dad last night about peace, and he said something about this book he reads, saying that our natural state was peaceful, but our emotions make us not peaceful, and I kind of disagreed with that,” said Mary Jones, a BC freshman who participated in the Prayer for Peace. “So, I kind of wanted to respond to that. Peace is not something easy. You have to work toward it.”
The Peace Tree, the site of the Prayer for Peace, is located on the BC campus between Lansdell Hall and Harman Chapel and will serve as a place for prayer and for Peace Day or maybe even Peace Week for years to come, said Dr. Zalduondo.
“I think going forward, hopefully next year, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll call it Peace and Justice Week and have a program around that and more participation from students, because this is really about the students,” said Dr. Zalduondo. “We hope to expand it, to show more films and to have more activities, for example, Yoga for Peace.”
This year’s Peace Day at Bluefield College was developed by Dr. Zalduondo and the Global Education Committee, including Rev. Henry Clary, Dr. Paul Bennett, Dr. Joe Saunders, Eric Mason, Bryan Frazier and Sherelle Morgan. The event, Dr. Zalduondo said, was based on the school’s yearlong spiritual formation theme, “the peace of Christ.”
“I think it was a really great turnout, and I was really just impressed with our students,” she said. “It’s a beginning, and next year we hope it will grow.”
BC’s International Day of Peace Day concluded with the showing of a documentary titled “The Uncondemned: Rwandan Women Who Changed History.” The documentary, also open and free to the community, told the 1997 story of an underdog group of lawyers and activists who prosecuted rape as a crime against humanity and of the women who braved witness assassinations to testify. A discussion followed the film.
“I’m not so sure we see enough passion in this country nowadays,” said Victoria Weisiger, a retired health counselor who led the discussion after the film. “I think our whole culture is more fear-based, and I think what you all saw in this film was love-based. I think it takes more courage to be love-based than to be fear-based.”
The documentary, an example of what life for the world would be like without peace, was very interesting to Bluefield College senior Alexis Austin, who attended the film and discussion.
“I’d definitely recommend it (the movie),” she said. “It was very eye-opening. It was different from what I expected, but I enjoyed it still. To me, peace means for everyone to just be coherent, and I think it’s kind of a synonym for love.”
BC’s International Day of peace was coordinated by the college’s Global Education Program in conjunction with its Honors Program, English Department, Art Department and Art Club. Bluefield College joined 527 groups worldwide celebrating this event.
Photos provided by BC student marketing associate Nathalia Lima.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE 09-17
Bluefield College students took part in a Spoken Word ceremony, a Prayer for Peace, and the hanging of peace ribbons to acknowledge the International Day of Peace, September 21.