Women's Day in Washington, DC, Promotes a Culture of Peace

USA-2009-03-12-Women's Day in Washington, DC, Promotes a Culture of Peace

Washington, DC, USA - "Women as Peacemakers - Building a Culture of Peace" was the vision of the 5th Annual International Women's Day commemoration on Capitol Hill, March 12th sponsored by the Women for Peace initiative of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and Women's Federation for World Peace (WFWP, USA). Peace X Peace, a woman-led NGO, joined as co-sponsor supporting this year’s theme of "Creating Partnerships for Peace." The banquet room at the Rayburn House Office Building was overflowing with a diverse assembly of women and men, many colorfully garbed in their country's traditional dress, all with the hope of learning about and contributing to the work of global peace building.

Over 40 countries and 23 embassies were represented, making it a truly international celebration of the day set aside each year to acknowledge the accomplishments of women worldwide. The United Nations officially recognized International Women’s Day in 1975, stating: “When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.”

Alexa Fish Ward, President of WFWP, USA, Dr. Patricia Morris, Executive Director of Peace X Peace, and Gail Paine, UPF-USA, Secretary General for the DC Metro area, each offered welcoming greetings and described their organizations’ goals and accomplishments. Tomiko Duggan, UPF Director of Public Affairs, was attending the International Women's Day Colloquium in Liberia and could not be in attendance. Two beautiful operatic pieces offered by Yoshimi Kadota, “Cherry Blossom Lane” (in Japanese) and “Eternal Life” (from the words of Saint Francis of Assisi) inspired the audience.

Patricia Smith Melton, founder of Peace X Peace, and author and photographer of 60 Years, 60 Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women began the main part of the program by engaging the audience through sharing her insights from having traveled extensively meeting women who voiced a common concern about the challenges of raising their children, often in war torn areas. She emphasized that “peace is not just a cessation of violence”, but the building of a culture where the unleashing of the human potential and genius is the first priority.

H.E. Houda Ezra Nonoo, Ambassador of Bahrain to the United States, the second keynote speaker, introduced the audience to the uniquely peaceful gulf nation of Bahrain, where Christians, Jews and Muslims have lived side by side for generations respecting one another’s traditions. The ambassador described the open culture and the emerging status of women who share many of the same freedoms as men.

Pat Morris, also known as the calypso singer ‘Pepper Pat’, set the stage for the more interactive part of the program by offering a heartfelt rendition of “From A Distance”. Her voice wove a thread of warmth and hope amongst the guests moving the participants toward realizing that we are all one human family

The Water of Peace ceremony brought eight women brilliantly dressed in their native attire, each representing the cultures and continents of the world. One by one they poured a glass of water into a common vessel signifying the unity of life and the common desire of women to work together for peace. The blowing of the conch shell in the Hindu tradition by Minister Gupta of India, who stood with his wife, recognized the female deity as the source of life. Other nations represented were Pakistan, Qatar, Haiti, Ethiopia, Israel, USA, and Japan.

The Bridge of Peace Ceremony, a tool for reconciling former enemies and divided parties, began creating new “partners for peace.” This process started with Ingrid Guzman, representing the Dominican Republic, which had fought with Haiti, and the daughter of the Ambassador of Haiti, Ndeye Ndiaye.

The two enthusiastic women crossed the bridge leaving behind any possible resentment or fear, exchanging smiles, hugs and giving each other flowers. Partnerships for peace were then created between women from the USA, Egypt, Afghanistan, Laos, Iceland, Philippines, Swaziland, Equatorial Guinea, and Namibia. All the guests were invited to create their own partnership for peace.

Over twenty new pairs were spontaneously created as they sought to overcome obstacles they might have toward each other, thus creating reconciliation, unity and peace. A festive expression of networking and socializing completed the reconciliation program.

One participant noted, “This program is like none other than I have ever attended. The expressions of love and concern are so substantial I can feel it in my bones.” The theme song of “Let there be peace on earth” faded softly as the evening ended with a truly successful event honoring International Women’s Day 2009.

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