UTI Call for Peace
U THANT INSTITUTE SOUNDS THE CALL FOR PEACE Organization’s founder rings peace bell during Earth Day celebration
U THANT INSTITUTE SOUNDS THE CALL FOR PEACE
Organization’s founder rings peace bell during Earth Day celebration
U Thant Institute founder and president, Daw Aye Aye Thant (center) with Shauna Hinduja, a member of the founding family of the Hinduja Group, and sons, Pushan and Mayin Hinduja during the ceremonial ringing of the International Peace Bell at UN headquarters in New York. Aye Aye Thant had the honor of sounding the bell in observance of the custom established thirty-six years ago by her late father, U Thant, the third Secretary-General of the United Nations.
NEW YORK, March 20, 2007: As the world celebrated the arrival of the vernal equinox, a crowd gathered at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan to usher in the event with the ringing of the International Peace Bell.
Aye Aye Thant, president of the U Thant Institute, sounded the bell, a gift to the United Nations from Japan, at 8:07 p.m. She was following in the tradition of her late father, U Thant, the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, who first rang the bell in 1971.
The United Nations Singers, with Guillermo Vaisman as conductor and music director, performed at the start of the event, after which Master of Ceremonies Kevin Sanders talked about the historical importance of the vernal equinox.
For Aye Aye Thant, the day signified beginnings and provided a reminder that every day offers citizens of the world a chance to foster peace.
“Today is the beginning of spring here in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the beginning of new life. As we observe this year’s Earth Day at this building that symbolizes peace, justice and cooperation, let us renew our commitment to fostering an awareness that there is only One World and one human family, and join hands in preserving our Earth and striving for a more harmonious existence on it,” she said.
Helene Gosselin, co-sponsor of the event and the director of the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Office (UNESCO), announced that from 2007-09 UNESCO would be celebrating the International Year of Planet Earth. Helen Garland of the Earth Society Foundation also welcomed the crowd to the event.
H.E. Ahmed Al Haddad, ambassador and chef de cabinet of the Office of the President of the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly, talked about the future of the planet and its many diverse inhabitants. U.N. Under Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing Countries, Anwarul K. Chowdhury, brought the program, “Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010),” to the attention of guests.
The audience enjoyed a performance by the Lithuanian Children’s Choir, which sang two selections in Lithuanian. Thomas Dowd, president of the Earth Society Foundation, later presented a message from John McConnell, the founder of Earth Day on the Equinox, to attendees. McConnell created the celebration in 1969, according to Ann Charles, who was a speaker at the event. Bells ring around the world on this day.
During the event, Slater Jewell Kempker, activist, artist and filmmaker, discussed the Art Miles Mural Project. The 13-year-old presented a mural sewn by Pakistani children as part of this project.
The Tarumi Violinists provided the music for the crowd to join together and sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” after which the young musicians played “Ode to Joy” and “It’s a Small World.”
Other speakers included Alexandra Cousteau, of Earth Echo International and granddaughter of the late Jacques Cousteau, who spoke on the importance of the next generation in protecting the earth. She emphasized the need for all citizens to make responsible choices in daily life to help sustain our environment.
After the speakers, Latvian folk songs were performed leading up to Aye Aye Thant’s remarks, which focused on her father’s vision to preserve the “perishable planet,” on which all people must peacefully coexist.
For this year’s 37th anniversary of the celebration, Thant recounted her participation during the 2005 event, at which all participants “could feel a sense of belonging, belonging to this global community and with a deep sense of appreciation to our planet earth.” She added: “As all of us have equal rights and privileges to benefit from the Earth’s life, it is the responsibility of every one of us to take care of it for our own survival and for our future generations. We have come to realize that our planet earth is in crisis.”
She said at the second anniversary of the Earth Day on the Equinox in 1971, her father urged others to have the vision and courage to work together to save the Earth. She said he noted that the challenges facing the planet included poverty, food shortages, urbanization, the squandering of natural resources and pollution, among others. In quoting her father, she noted, “ ‘These are problems we have hardly begun to face, and yet the hour is already very late . . . . we must ask ourselves seriously whether we really wish some future historian on another planet say (about us); with all their genius and with all their skill they ran out of foresight and air and water and ideas. They went on playing politics until their world collapsed around them.”
She said with his early work in trying to establish the United Nations as the coordinating body for international standards and guidelines for controlling the contamination of the environment and its resources, her father would have been gratified with the establishment of and the work of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
After her comments, Thant moved outdoors to ring the International Peace Bell, 36 years after her father first commemorated Earth Day on the Equinox at U.N. headquarters. Thant rang the bell three times while surrounded by the many children at the event. The ringing was followed by a moment of silence for reflection and meditation.
-- Christina Hennessy, Director of Communications --