September 21 is “International Day of Peace”, a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. This year I made it a point to be at the “Rose Garden Peace Bell Ceremony” at the UN Headquarters in New York.  It was a beautiful, sunny day – picture perfect to celebrate what mankind and nations have struggled to fight for, achieve and secure everyday — PEACE.

This is a day on which the United Nations calls for a complete cessation of hostilities around the world.  We also ask people everywhere to observe a minute of silence to honor the victims of conflict — those who have lost their lives, those who survived, but must now cope with trauma and pain, and those who, at this very moment, are under fire or being subjected to brutal abuses of their human rights.”   These were the remarks of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as we all gathered in circle and observed a moment of silence.  After this, he performed the ceremonial ringing of the Peace Bell.  I was very moved as we all watched, and I tried very hard to hold back the tears as my heart wept for all the lives lost and victims around the world who are still suffering because of hostilities created by mankind itself.

I was able to meet and congratulate the President of the Sixty Seventh Session of the General Assembly, H.E. Vuk Jeremić.  In his speech he called for a shared responsibility of seeking peace and preventing conflict. “Peace is one of the most powerful aspirations that unites us not only as Member States, but as human beings in the full understanding of our common destiny”.  

Also present during the ceremony were Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, Messengers of Peace Jane Goodall whom I was fortunate to have a brief conversation with, Michael Douglas, Elie Wiesel, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation Forest Whitaker, Keiko Nishida, wife of the Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN; UN Foundation Girl Up Champion Monique Coleman, Yoo Soon-taek, wife of the Secretary-General, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, celebrity advocate and former Miss World.

As I’m writing this article I am humming to myself – “Let there be peace on earth… and let it begin with me.”  

Janet C. Salazar is FSUN's Permanent UN Representative and Permanent Observer to ECOSOC.  She currently serves as the Treasurer of the Executive Committee of NGO's Associated with the  Department of Public Information (DPI) of the United Nations.  Ms. Salazar is the first Filipino to be elected to the organization since its creation in 1962,  whose mandate is to represent the interests of over 1,400 DPI-associated NGOs to the United Nations. Ms. Salazar is the CEO of Maverick Vision International Advisors.  Find out more at janetcsalazar.com