“Pacifest” Celebrates International Day of Peace

  • Local organizations with a mandate for peace marched to Place de la Paix on Saturday. Photo Salima Punjani

  • Approximately 100 peace advocates gathered at Place d’Armes to commemorate the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21. Photo Salima Punjani

  • Origamilitantisme, an organization that uses origami to promote peace, was also present at the festival. Photo Salima Punjani

Approximately 100 peace advocates gathered at Place d’Armes to celebrate Pacifest, a festival commemorating the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21.

The day started off with a public yoga session in the morning, followed by a minute of silence at noon. A colourful checkerboard of yoga mats stretched across the large square, with people’s movements adding synchronicity to the normally chaotic historical site.

As tourists looked on in awe at the sporadic yoga session, local organizations with a mandate for peace began preparations for a march to Place de la Paix.

United Humanity was among the organizers, a new non-profit organization with a mission to strengthen and spread the sense of belonging to humanity. Members wore white circles pinned to their shirts, a symbol to invite people to say hello.

“We are here because peace is one of the pillars of United Humanity,” said Alexandre Warnet, founder of the organization.

“If we start to strengthen our perspective of common responsibility for our humanity, it can only be done in the spirit of peace.”

The festivities were lively but humble in numbers, providing more of an opportunity for community organizations to learn more about each other.

“Our main objective is to ease isolation, ease poverty, introduce groups [to each other] and form networks,” said Vaughan Roche from CCS Community Services Montreal, one of the organizations that played an active role in the event’s planning.

“It causes networks to come together for something that is inherently necessary in today’s society. Peace is a great project to rally behind, that’s why we’re doing it,” he said.

The mid-day rally was quiet and tranquil, with passers-by offering messages in support of peace. The march ended in Place de la Paix, where booths from participating organizations and a stage were set up. A common theme running through the event was the potential of creative, peaceful forms of protest to promote peace.

“Knitting brings many benefits. It relaxes, it pacifies,” said Claudia Leger, founder of Tricot pour la Paix, an organization that promotes knitting for social justice.

“It’s mostly about bringing spontaneity and fun and also not always asking permission to do something good for the world,” she said while covering a tree in a colourful knitted blanket.

Origamilitantisme, an organization that uses origami to promote peace, was also present at the festival.

“I’m making a spider web where we’re going to suspend origami with messages of peace,” said Judith Brisson, a member of the organization.

No matter what approach participating organizations take to create peace, one message was repeated in some form by each of them. Marcel Allaire from Words of Peace Global summarized the core belief demonstrated by Pacifest.

“Conflicts really start with us, inside,” he said. “Peace starts with everyone taking responsibility for the peace inside of us independently of what happens outside of us.”

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