By Sheikh Moussa Drammeh 12/1/2012
Bronx, New York- The city welcomes 2012 Peace December in a jubilantly diverse ceremony.
Hosting its third Peace December Celebration and its second ‘Countdown to Peace December’ event, New York Peace Coalition again demonstrated last night how peace and nonviolence can be realized in the city and around the world.
For the first time in New York City, elected officials, clergy, law enforcement, activists, educators and the public in general, converge in their counties’ borough halls to celebrate the switching on of citywide ‘Peace December Lights’. These Peace December Lights shall remain on through out December to remind all New Yorkers of the importance of societal peace and nonviolence.
In addition to borough halls ceremonies, New York Peace Coalition in collaboration with the mayor’s office, through its Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs, put on the 7 feet tall Citywide Peace December Light that has five light bulbs representing each borough.
Among the leaders in attendance for the citywide lighting ceremony at Al Iman Community Center are: Hon. Fatima Shama, NYC commissioner, Hon. Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr., NYS Senator, Hon. Marcus Crespo, NYS Assemblyman, Hon. Luis Spulveda, NYS Assemblyman, Hon. Gustavo Rivera, NYS Senator, Hon. Annabel Palma, NYC Councilmember and representatives from the Bronx District Attorney and Community Board 9.
All speakers emphasized the importance of programs such as Peace December. Some shared their personal violence experience, while others spoke about what happened to their loved ones and communities, and yet elected officials talked about policies in place to help combat violence.
Among the violence victim speakers, was a young 17 year old girl whose father was murdered during robbery leaving her mom as a 24 year old widower with four children and not a single word of English or a penny to her name to fend for herself. The eldest of the children was only 6 years and the youngest 11 moths old.
Of course the spice of the ceremony was the variety of ethnic dishes and diverse cultural performances, in addition to students’ eloquent peace messages.
At Al Iman Community Center, Peace December proclamations were presented by elected officials, a new International Peace December Chapter opening in Pakistan was announced and an agreement was made to host a December 31 farewell event reflecting progresses made during the month. All Peace December event organizers and guests are invited to talk about their events and plans for next year.
The Pakistani Peace December Chapter is headed by Ms Hina Iqbal, a highly educated activist with impressive global peace building expertise.
The ceremony concluded with a unified call to action-promoting Peace December’s 12 action points attached here.
December is the month of the winter solstice. Nights are long and, between the increased darkness and the changing social patterns that ensue from the December holidays, many communities experience increased incidents of violence, larceny, and hate crime. Many communities have traditions of bringing light to this darker time of year: candles are lit for Kwanzaa and Hannukah, trees are decorated with lights for Christmas, and fireplaces and decorative lights are enjoyed by all. Peace December is our way of shining a more proverbial light into the darkness of winter by creating programming aimed directly at combatting the darkness within our society. Instead of the darkness of violence, hatred and intolerance, we hope to promote the light of peace, respect, and diversity.
Declaring December a Peace Month will not only reduce violence but create a communal sense of responsibility to focus our minds on programs that lead to peace. It is an excellent way to enter a new year.
Proposed Programs during Peace December.
(i) General Programmatic Landscape in Reflecting on Peace– All activities taking place in the five borough of the city in December must be commensurate with an awareness of peace. This may take different forms be it in the churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, community centers, schools, for-profit companies or law enforcement activities. This concept will not offer any guided prescription on how this will be done. It will be at the prerogative of the individual, the organizing party or any undertaking that will be doing any activity in the five boroughs of the city.
(ii) Community Joint Collaborative Programs with the District Attorneys Offices and the law enforcement community. – Both the community and law enforcement agencies, the District Attorneys, the NYPD, families and community leaders will choose a day within December on which the residents will surrender their illegal guns and other weapons without questions asked. The modalities and implications that may come with this exercise may be discussed with the concerned parties ahead of December.
(iii) Peaceful Roses- Renewal of vows by couples, families and committed individuals during Peace December shall strengthen bonds, rejuvenate relationships, protect family values and prevent juvenile delinquencies. It is highly recommended for families to have Peace December dinners, whereby members ask forgiveness from each other, couples exchange roses and employers celebrate harmony day.
(iv) Peace Patrol- Mentors, leaders, educators, politicians, Law enforcement, volunteers, others…, set a day (s) to spend mentoring time with the youth and those susceptible to committing crimes.
(v) Peace Shopping- We encourage all consumers to avoid buying tools of violence, including bomb making materials, nuclear/ biological weapons, illegal firearms, hate-promoting materials, violent toys and gadgets, advertisements in violent media, etc…
(vi) Media, Entertainment & Sports Peace-Media programming, Hollywood movies, Broadway shows, Entertainments and sports activities must all recognize Peace December.
(vii) Diplomatic Diaspora Peace- Since New York is home to not only the United Nations, but also to people from all nations, UN permanent representatives holding forums and events during December dedicated to promoting peaceful coexistence among their nationals in the city would pave ways for national peaceful dialogues in their home countries.
(viii) Story-sharing for peace– Sharing stories of survival, pain, abuse, injustice, actions, feelings, forgiveness and forward-planning on the side of crime victims, as well remorse, repent, repair and asking genuine forgiveness on the side of perpetrators, bring healing and closure to a crime.
(ix) Preservation of Nature and Animal Life- For example the Special Prevention for the Cruelty of Animals (SPCA) in conjunction with Advocates for animals and organizations such as the Bronx Zoo may host a series of activities to raise awareness on easing human cruelty towards animals.
(x) Disaster Relief and Community Development– Different groups can also focus on global disasters such as the Tsunami, Haiti Earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and other disasters that have called for peaceful coalitions to solve environmental problems.
(xi) Peace Advocacy– During December, we encourage citizens to engage their elected officials in sponsoring sensible bills, despite special interest group lobbying to the contrary. Legislators must work with and allocate funds for peace and nonviolence programs in their localities.
(xii) Peace December Chapters– Individuals and organizations are encouraged to open Peace December chapters in big cities worldwide.