Mother's Day is peace day

A thoughtful reminder about the origins of Mother’s Day from our friends at the Halifax Peace Coalition, printed this weekend in the Chronicle Herald.

Mother’s Day is peace day

By TAMARA LORINCZ and THERESA DUNN
Sat. May 9 – 5:42 AM

Did you know that Mother’s Day originated as a peace day? In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, an American social activist and poet, wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation that was a passionate plea for peace. She published it after witnessing the devastation of the American Civil War and to protest the Franco-Prussian War. During the Civil War, Howe cared for soldiers’ grieving widows and orphaned children.

Her proclamation begins, “Arise, then, women of this day!” Howe hoped to mobilize women to renounce war and work together for non-violent conflict resolution. She appealed for disarmament and wrote:

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.

It says: Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.

Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,

Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel …

To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,

The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.

Howe’s Mother’s Day proclamation still resonates.

Today, the Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace and the Halifax Peace Coalition are calling for an end to Canada’s war in Afghanistan. The Canadian government should instead support the implementation of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s Peace, Reconciliation and Justice Plan and listen to the women of Afghanistan. In March, over 11,000 courageous Afghan women participated in a nationwide sit-in led by the recently assassinated women’s right activist and mother of two, Sitara Achakzai, and publicly prayed for peace and an end to the war in their country.

The United Nations declared 2001-2010 to be the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World under General Assembly resolution 53 / 25. In the preamble, the UN stated “that to save future generations from the scourge of war requires a transformation towards a culture of peace, which consists of values, attitudes and behaviours that reflect and inspire social interaction and sharing based on the principles of freedom, justice and democracy, all human rights, tolerance and solidarity, that reject violence and endeavour to prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes.”

To create a culture of peace, the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI) is advocating for the establishment of a federal Department of Peace. The CDPI was launched in 2004 and is supported by many prominent Canadians, including Senator Douglas Roche, former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy, and the founder of the Canadian Voice of Women, Muriel Duckworth. Such a department would be consistent with Canada’s signing of the Declaration and Programme of Action for the UN International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence.

A Department of Peace would help refocus our defence and security policies on peacekeeping and peace-building and not on war-fighting. In 1991, Canada had more than 1,000 military personnel on UN peacekeeping missions, according to the Rideau Institute report “Marching Orders: How Canada abandoned peacekeeping and why the UN needs us now more than ever.” Currently, there are fewer than 200 Canadian peacekeepers on 10 UN missions, but there are over 1,100 soldiers involved in the combat mission in Afghanistan.

A Department of Peace would also promote, on an international level, the abolition of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and the reduction of conventional weapons arsenals. Last month in the Czech Republic, U.S. President Barack Obama affirmed his “commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” A Canadian Department of Peace would work closely with the Middle Powers Initiative to ensure that the nuclear states abolish their weapons as required under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that our country is not supplying the uranium.

Mothers have an important role to play in creating a culture of peace in our homes and in our world. We work hard to teach our children to be kind, to share and not to fight. These values should apply equally to our defence policies and foreign affairs. Mothers must call on the government to: bring the troops, our sons and daughters, home from Afghanistan; establish a Department of Peace; show greater leadership on disarmament; and take more action for this Decade of Peace for our children.

To commemorate Julia Ward Howe’s Proclamation, we are holding our first Mother’s Day peace picnic today from noon to 1 p.m. at the Halifax Public Library on Spring Garden Road. There will be a reading of the proclamation, a signing of the Uranium-Free Nova Scotia petition, and a craft for kids. The picnic will be followed by a free public presentation by the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Dalhousie Multi-Faith Centre, 1321 Edward St. in Halifax. For more information on these events, visit www.hfxpeace.chebucto.org and on the CDPI, go to www.departmentofpeace.ca.

Tamara Lorincz is a member of the Halifax Peace Coalition and Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace. Theresa Dunn is co-chair, Canadian Department of Peace Initiative.

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