Brian Kennedy Headlines Peace Day

UN International Day of Peace marked in Belfast's Ulster Hall

‘Give peace a chance’, John Lennon sang from his hotel bed as the naplam rained down on Vietnam. Forty years, and countless wars, later, Brian Kennedy will be putting his personal message of global harmony and goodwill in the box as part of a series of events to mark International Day of Peace.

On September 21, west Belfast’s favourite son will be joined in the Ulster Hall by Jena Toro for a celebration of United Nations International Day of Peace, an annual initiative that aims to promote tolerance and respect across the globe.

Local charity Springboard established a Peace Day Campaign last year to raise awareness of ‘Peace Day’ throughout Northern Ireland. As well as Brian Kennedy at the Ulster Hall, this year sees a cross-community youth sports day and a minute’s silence at the Farset International on Springfield Road led by Naomi Long, Lord Mayor of Belfast.

Angila Chada, executive director of Springboard, spoke of the importance of commemorating this global day in Northern Ireland: ‘As a society we know better than most that a day of non-violence has unlimited possibilities and, given that experience, we should take a lead in strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations, communities and peoples by commemoration of Peace Day.

‘It’s about reflecting on our own journey in this society but also about us as a society appreciating what other people in the world who are experiencing conflict are going through. Even if it is just one minute in the day it is important to remember people in conflict,’ she continued.

The International Day of Peace was inaugurated on September 7 2001, just two days before the tragic events of 9/11, when all 191 members of the United Nations unanimously agreed on the date of September 21. Since then it has been observed by nations, political groups – it is also global ceasefire day - and peoples across the world.

Last year Springboard hosted a day-long peace concert in Belfast’s Black Box. Angila Chada hopes to build on that success this time around – and reckons Brian Kennedy is just the man for the job:

‘Brian was very keen to get involved and to help spread the word,’ she commented. ‘It is really great to have someone who comes from Belfast to do this because it makes it that bit more special.’

Kennedy grew up on the Falls Road in Belfast and has spoken publicly about his experience of living in a divided city throughout its heightened period of unrest.

Supporting the initiative Kennedy said, 'The International Day of Peace is an important day for the world to come together and show solidarity for one another. I’m supporting the campaign and everyone can do the same by supporting various events and signing up on'

Springboard have been involved in developing communities and their capacity for over 17 years. Chada believes that Peace Day is about conflict in the widest sense of the word and that ordinary people should be given the opportunity to empathise with victims of violence within our own society.

‘It is not just about conflict in society, it is about conflict in the neighbourhoods too. If you look at the recent racist attacks in south Belfast, they were horrendous and many people were asking what can we do to show that we don’t agree with this?

‘Peace day could be a chance to do that. It could be a private thing – like attending a concert – or a private thing – like lighting a candle – but it is the gesture that matters.’

Click here to learn more about Peace Day in your area.

Peter Geoghegan