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April 2020
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Day of Peace in Argentina: Announcing the Winners of the International Poetry Contest

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Buenos Aires, Argentina - "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed" (UNESCO Constitution, 1945). This was the sense of the artistic-cultural and interfaith celebration on the theme of "Reconciliation, dialogue, cooperation and peace," held on September 21 in Buenos Aires, in commemoration of the United Nations International Day of Peace. The program at the Juan Jesus Blasnik Auditorium had three parts: invocations from different spiritual traditions, handing out awards to winners of the Anthem to Reconciliation poetry contest, and artistic numbers. It closed with a "gong bath" by an ancestral instrument which harmonizes vibration. There were no high-sounding speeches or mere claims of peace but rather a variety of expressions in line with the preamble of the above-mentioned United Nations body.

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"Peace prevails if there is a will."

"When I recognize myself as a being of peace, I see more similarities than differences in others. When we focus on what makes us equal, the differences fall away by themselves,” said Prof. Victoria Martino of the Brahma Kumaris World Association as part of the invocation. As the gong sounded in the background, Apostle Ruben Contreras (Christian Apostolic and Prophetic Ministry), Monsignor Jorge Rivas Ottone (Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem II), Pablo Gobbi (Nichiren Shu) and Pastor Eduardo Corales (Argentina Clergy Leadership Conference), offered prayers in succession. The Master of Ceremonies, Luis D'Angelo, added greeting representing Jews and Muslims, who could not attend the meeting because they were participating in their sacred festivals. The classical Christian prayer "Ave Maria" by Franz Schubert, performed brilliantly by Rev. Nelida Sotomayor, marked the zenith and epilogue of this part of the lrogram.

Previously, Horacio Daboul — President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Tourism and Services of Parque Patricios — shared the message of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the the International Day of Peace (UN General Assembly Resolution 36/67), whose theme this year is "We must disarm." “Diplomacy and negotiation are an increasingly common choice. Even where states are torn by internal conflict, history shows that peace can prevail if there is sufficient will," says one part of the brief speech. Earlier, Alejandro D'Alessandro, President of the Center for Strategic Planning for Social Security, had read the many expressions of good wishes received from political leaders, spiritual entities, NGOs, and individuals.

A dream and a commitment

A much-anticipated moment during the celebration was the announcement of the winner of the "Anthem to Reconciliation" poetry contest in honor of the International Year of Reconciliation established by the United Nations (Resolution: A/RES/61/17). In less than a month of preparation, this initiative assembled 74 writings by 61 authors, coming not only from Buenos Aires and other Argentine provinces (Cordoba, Santa Fe, Mendoza, Tucuman, Salta and Entre Rios), but also from Europe (England and Italy) and America (Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru). The competition was close, and the jury, headed by Prof. Bertha Bilbao Richter, who has wide experience in this field, had to justify their selection.

Concepción Rodríguez Garaventa was the winner of the contest with her poem "Cada Cual" (Everyone), a simple writing that calls for individual and collective commitment to maintain "the fire of life, fire of love, and fire of peace." The form and content of the poem worked together well to convey the sentiment and simplicity of the meaning. "This poem is the expression of a wish that each and every one may own the spiritual and material goods essential to their development," said the author, a professor of literature and retired teacher who has led the Voice Literary Workshop for ten years in Alberti, a town about 190 kilometers west of Buenos Aires. Rodriguez Garaventa dedicated her poem to her six children, one of whom accompanied her to the award ceremony, her 11 grandchildren, and nephews. "Hopefully they can see this dream come true," she said.

The jury praised highly two other poems and gave honorable mentions to their authors, José Javier de la Cuesta Avila and Susana Valle. Also mentioned were the works of Patricia Dell 'Acqua, Lucía Giaquinto, Lorena Kaminski, Carlos Pereda, and Silvia Gabriela Vázquez. Certificates were presented by Roswitha Giuliano, President of the Women's Federation for World Peace in Argentina, on behalf of her husband, Gustavo Giuliano, Director of the Unification Movement in Argentina, who was in Panama giving lectures.

The honorees also received books donated by the American Association of Poetry, the Hispanic Cultural and Literary Institute of California, the Georges Zanun Publishers, and writers Liria Amelia Napoli and Luis Guedes. These were presented by members of the jury: Bertha Richter Bilbao, a literary critic; Liria Guedes, recipient of the Gaza Honor of the Argentina Society of Writers; and Donato Perrone, an Athenian Poet of Argentina whose idea it was to hold a competition on the theme of Anthem to Reconciliation. Certificates were also awarded to some authors who presented their poems to the jury and the public on September 10: Mabel Fontau, Silverio Fortunato Moreyra, Daniel Uriza, and Emanuela Speranza Turchet.

"'Gong bath" and harmonization

Prior to the awards, UPF's Peace Declaration was read. "Laws alone cannot change the culture of violence, but must be supported by significant educational programs promoting character education, conflict resolution, and a culture of peace and service," according to the fourth and last point of the message shared by Carlos Varga, vice president of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification of Argentina. A copy of the declaration was presented to each person in the overflow crowd, as well as origami bearing statements about world peace by Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others.

The third and final part of the program was the artistic presentations by Victor Rolando Quispe Orós, who sang "Cholo soy" and "Ethnic Latin," representing the native cultures that populated the American soil, and the Family Federation Youth Choir conducted by Carlos Varga, another expression of intercultural and interreligious integration, since the group consists of youths who come from parents of different nationalities. The songs were entitled "Starting Again," "Friends," and "World Peace."

Before the international refreshments were served, there was a "gong bath," using an instrument adopted by ancient Hindu and Buddhist meditators and interpreted with great sensitivity by Ricardo Toriano, a sound therapist and instructor, and his wife Amanda Hall. It turned out to be a novelty and a delight for the participants, with whom he interacted as he sought to achieve the highest vibrations of harmonization and healing. It represented a true "spiritual disarmament," renewing people's commitment to carry out concrete daily actions for peace. Because art, culture, spirituality, and education are in line with the Preamble of UNESCO, such expressions help dissipate violent intents and actions.

To read UPF's Declaration on the International Day of Peace 2009, click here.

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