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Events uplift compassion, sustainable development goals as ways to peace

The international theme for the World Peace Day event on Sept. 21 at Gonzaga University celebrated “The Sustainable Development Goals: The Path to Peace,” said Sally Duffy of Pax Christi Spokane, one of the organizers along with the Institute for Hate Studies at Gonzaga and One Peace Many Paths.

Participants gather around flags of the world they set out in World Peace Day ceremony.

It was also the culmination of the Compassion Games, 10 days of service projects and random acts of kindness from Sept. 11 to 21, said Joan Broeckling of One Peace Many Paths, which coordinated those events.

As part of World Peace Day, the 50 people who attended participated in a World Flag Prayer Ceremony.  They walked around chairs in a circle, took flags of the five area tribes and 194 countries and placed the flags in a circle in the center.  As they placed the flags, the name of the country was read with a prayer, “May peace prevail in” and the country was named.

International Day of Peace, or World Peace Day, was established in 1981 when the United Nations General Assembly declared a day “devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.”

Participants in World Flag Peace Ceremony

Theresa McCann of Pax Christi, the international Catholic peace movement that was founded more than 100 years ago, said that Pax Christi helps people learn nonviolence as a skill to practice.  She read the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations in 2016.

The 17 goals are: to end poverty and hunger, ensure healthy lives, ensure inclusive education, achieve gender equality, ensure access to water and energy, promote economic growth, build resilient infrastructure, reduce inequality, make cities inclusive and safe, ensure sustainable consumption and production, combat climate change, conserve oceans and seas, protect ecosystems, promote peaceful societies, and strengthen global partnership for sustainable development.

At the opening of the Compassion Games, NAACP Spokane president Phil Tyler said that speaking on what compassion means to him on the anniversary of one of the worst tragedies, 9/11, carries the challenge that every day “we can come together as compassionate people.”

It should not require a tragic event to stir sympathy and pity for unfortunate people, he said.

“Compassion should increase our world view so we become more tolerant,” Phil said.  “Like individual snowflakes, we can have power together to bring an avalanche of change.”

He pointed out that money cannot buy happiness, but acts of kindness can.

“One person can make a difference.  Every person should try,” he said.

Phil hopes Spokane can bridge divisions through compassionate acts to “exponentially increase our power.”

City Councilwoman Karen Stratton said she had sponsored an ordinance to declare Spokane a compassionate city.

“How can the city measure how compassionate it is?” she asked.

A compassionate city is uncomfortable with anyone being homeless, children not thriving and growing, anyone being marginalized, and anyone not treated with respect, she said.

Karen gave examples of people rallying to support each other, such as in the windstorm and when the synagogue was defaced.

“One phone call and churches leap into action to provide shelter for homeless people,” she said. 

People pitched in to donate to provide an elevator for elderly people at Corbin Senior Center.

The City Council recently changed Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, said Karen, who voted for it because of her own Native American background.

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