The International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution 36/37, the General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”
West Chester Borough has a long tradition, stretching back to late former Mayor Dick Yoder, of observing this occasion. This year, an hour-long event was organized by the Chester County Peace Movement on the steps of the Historic Courthouse. Along with several speakers and musical interludes, Mayor Carolyn Comitta’s 2016 proclamation was read (download here: 2016-west-chester-borough-mayors-proclamation; also see Tom Buglio’s talk “Fear vs. Hope: What Kind of a Country Do We Choose?” here).
I’m going to focus on the first speaker, PA Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19), whom as always I found eloquent and uplifting. Since he always speaks without a script, I can’t ask him what he said, but here are his approximate words from my notes:
There is no denying that we live in a world that has always been full of strife and now terrorism. But peace needs to start within each of us. Chester County, with its long Quaker tradition, is comfortable with differences and recognizes diversity not as a source of conflict but as part of the wonder of life.
Quakers know how to sit down in a group and work toward consensus. When I was a Chester County Commissioner, at one point we tried Quaker-style mediation to resolve some issues.
We need to learn from the past and from our faith traditions, which tell us the importance of silence. This reminds me of a story from the founding of the Pennsylvania colony. When Willliam Penn was here, a non-Quaker friend came to meeting with him and, after 45 minutes of silence, said: “Billy, when does the service begin?” And Billy answered: “The service begins when we leave the meeting.”
People need to acquire respect for each other, at this moment and as we leave this meeting today. Around us, finally, we are seeing the beginnings of a transformative politics in Harrisburg. People are starting to join with others.
Discussion should end in a moment of silence, when we can remember the victims of the lack of peace and find peace in our own souls.