“May peace prevail on earth” is the theme of the first International Day of Peace celebration on Bo Diddley Community Plaza.
The celebration will take place on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in downtown Gainesville. The free event will include a peace march, a peace pole flag ceremony and a group dance.
The day will begin with a march from the corner of West University Avenue and 13th Street to the plaza from 11 a.m. until noon. Marchers will carry the flags of more than 30 countries.
Mary Bahr, a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville board member and one of the event’s main organizers, said the goal of the event is to help residents imagine a society with harmony.
“I hope people take time to think about what a peaceful world would be like,” Bahr said.
At noon, the peace pole flag ceremony will begin with a moment of silence. Next, the flags will be displayed around a temporary peace pole erected on the plaza from noon to 2 p.m. During the ceremony, participants will speak the phrase “may peace prevail on earth” in several languages.
A Vietnam veteran herself, Bahr was inspired to join the campaign for peace because of her experiences in the military and viewing wartime conditions in Saigon.
“We’ve been at war for at least 10 years now,” she said. “Children born in 2003, for example, have never known a time when there wasn’t war.”
The event is sponsored by the Gainesville Chapter of the United Nations Association, the Veterans for Peace Gainesville Chapter 14, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville and the River Phoenix International Institute for Peacemaking.
Bahr said several aspects of the event, including the peace pole flag ceremony, will mimic celebrations held all over the world.
“When you live in another country or another culture, you realize that people are basically the same around the world,” said Larry Schwandes, another organizer of the event.
To conclude the event, Dances of Universal Peace International will lead a group dance.
Diana Kanoy, vice president of the organization, will lead the crowd in chanting, “Peace be with you, and with you be peace” in Arabic and Hebrew.
“It’s important for us to think beyond ourselves and think of the world in a positive way,” Kanoy said.