September 21, 2017 marked the 36th observance of International Day of Peace. Observed annually, International Day of Peace’s initial aims were to promote dedication to world peace, particularly eliminating the use of war and violence. Historically, the day has called for nations, political groups, and military groups to instate ceasefires in areas of combat in order for citizens to access humanitarian aid. In the past decade, however, the UN has made the spread of peace education a priority in order to promote sustainability and extend peace to more than one day a year. This year’s theme, based on the TOGETHER international campaign, aimed to acknowledge the need of respect, safety, and dignity for those individuals who are fleeing their homes.
The recognition of this day comes during a week where citizens in Saint Louis, Missouri are currently struggling for peace. Following the not-guilty verdict of Jason Stockley, an officer accused and tried for the grisly 2011 murder of African-American male Anthony Lamar Smith, members of the community took to the streets of the city to demonstrate and protest. Accused of destruction rather than disruption, protestors were met with a militarized police force at nearly all demonstration locations. It needs to be remembered that peace includes the absence of war and violence, but it does not include the absence of passion, emotion, or noise. With this definition in mind, police forces who are looking to create true peace rather than maintain the complacency of the city of St. Louis need to lower the weapons and allow for the outcry of citizens in need to obligate policymakers to advance their agendas towards a particular pillar of peace: racial equity. It is only with the establishment of this pillar that true peace may be sustained consistently rather than periodically.