Celebrating the U.N. International Day of Peace 2018 at Tillman Chapel

December 27, 2018

Contributed by Qalvy Grainzvolt

The 21st of September is a bustling time at the United Nations. There are various observances and ceremonies that commemorate the International Day of Peace (IDP) which was established in 1981 as a day of non-violence and cease-fire by the U.N. General Assembly. From that grand scale of vision and hope has come many and various iterations of the heart and spirit of a day of peace. It has been my great pleasure and privilege to take part in the International Day of Peace in a diverse array of observances. Over the years I have participated in Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace ceremonies in New York City. The past two years I have been invited by the International Day of Yoga Committee at the U.N. to join in a special observance at the U.N. Tillman Chapel. This year, the focus was placed on exploring peace as a human right. The offerings of prayer and presence that were aimed to embody and explore peace were multi-faceted and were spoken, sung, viewed as art, and shared in that multi-sensory context. The welcome remarks were offered by Denise Scotto, an attorney and former legal counsel for the United Nations and chairperson of the International Day of Yoga Committee. Reverend Heather Shay spoke on the legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt, Reverend Diane Boissiere offered a call to action, Paul Luftenegger sang a heartfelt song touched upon the theme of peace and, lastly, I had the opportunity to close the ceremony with a brief window of space and time in the form of meditation to process what we experienced over the hour and reflections on what we might draw inspiration from in deciding what steps to take next, each in our own unique ways.

My biggest take-away from this year’s observance is that we, as human beings, need constant reminders of what peace looks like. If we lose sight of what it looks like, it makes it that much harder to remain inspired to create it and cultivate in the daily moments of our lives. Coming together to observe an international day of peace once a year may seem like a small drop in a larger proverbial bucket. However, there is a ripple effect and the energy level in the chapel was amplified by the end of the ceremony. All in attendance practiced the creative art of embodying peace during the hour duration of our shared ceremony. Our shared presence stoked the inner engines of creativity, compassion, love, and action to step forward. We co-created the ceremony just by being witness to one another’s unique ways of giving form to peace. How that ripples out will come to fruition in the minutes, hours, and days after the ceremony. That was how I concluded the meditation and reflection segment of this program and observance of IDP 2018. That is how we, collectively, also opened the doors not only of the physical chapel, but I believe, also the doors of the heart, to step forward and light peace within ourselves and within our exchanges with others and ultimately the world.

Participants, organizers and some attendees of the International Day of Peace 2018 ceremony at the U.N. Chapel

Qalvy Grainzvolt is a Shinnyo-en Buddhist minister based in New York and serving as a meditation guide at The Shinnyo Center for Meditation and Well-being. He is an active participant in various U.N. programs and remains engaged with community service and faith-related initiatives. In addition, Qalvy serves as a New York Police Department Clergy Liaison representing the Buddhist tradition, a meditation instructor at New York University, and engaged in clinical therapeutic work at one of New York-Presbyterian hospital’s psychiatric units. As a native New Yorker, Qalvy is particularly interested in exploring ways that human beings can connect and collaborate toward a more peaceful and compassionate future.