By Quinn Welsch
“There is a universal desire for people to seek peace in their families, communities, countries and in their own heart. If you see injustice in the world, act upon it in the community.”
You don’t have to look farther than your social media feed to know that news is bleak today: domestic violence in the NFL, frequent mass shootings, Islamic State terrorism, and war in Ukraine dominate the heartrending headlines.
But for some, change can be simple, and it starts at home. Youth, religious leaders and residents from across the state came together to celebrate Louisiana World Peace Day on Sunday, Sept. 28 in Memorial Hall. The event’s message was simple: end violence around the world, starting locally.
The celebration kicked off with a thunderous performance by Taiko drummers from Soka Gakkai International in New Orleans, a Buddhist denomination. As drums once led us to war, “Today it is the drums that call us to peace,” said Reverend Robin McCullough-Bade, director of the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge.
After several performances, members of different religious faiths and cultures took part in a candle lighting ceremony to symbolize unity. The event showcased multicultural representations of peace with music, poetry and visual art, primarily from youth across the state. Student Artists for Peace, an exhibit of peaceful expressions from Louisiana students, will be on display at Memorial Hall until Oct. 31.
“Sometimes we need to hear it from the next generation and also invite them to think about what it means to work for peace,” said McCullough-Bade. “I was really touched with some of the young people who didn’t know what to do for the assignment who just let the creative process work. I think that’s how peace comes.”
Americans, and especially youth, should strive to make the world a better place, starting in our hometowns, said Wallace Myers, 17, president of the Louisiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council. Myers is a student at Bethel Christian High School in Jennings. “We’re working toward making a better future for us, and we’re not just thinking about the here and now.”
Myers’ words may be noteworthy in state with a crime rate higher than the national average. In 2012 there were 496.9 violent crimes per every 100,000 people in Louisiana, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Uniform Crime Report. The national average is 386.9 per every 100,000.
Curbing those numbers starts with individual behavior, said Nancy Bourg, co-chair of the World Peace Day Committee.
“There is a universal desire for people to seek peace in their families, communities, countries and in their own hearts,” Bourg said. “If you see injustice in the world, act upon it in the community.”
Since its inception in 1998, the event has grown, Bourg said. She has seen the event go from a dozen people to hundreds since her involvement with World Peace Day began in 2001.
World Peace Day was recognized by state legislature in 2001 by resolution, and by proclamation by former Governor Kathleen Blanco in 2005. Each year the Louisiana Senate drafts a new resolution to observe Peace Day every October. This year the observance is on Oct. 1.
While government endorsement is helpful, World Peace Day is an all-volunteer event that relies on the public’s involvement, Bourg said.
“Peace is not going to be legislated. This is everyone’s business,” Bourg said.
Louisiana World Peace Day is observed on Oct. 1.