On the 21st of September of every year, since 1982, the world celebrates the International Day of Peace. The day provides a global call for all humanity to put aside all differences and commit to peace above all else.
This year’s theme “Climate Action for Peace” drew attention to the importance of combatting climate change as a way to protect and promote peace throughout the world.
In Rwanda, the day was celebrated on 27th September under the theme: “Carry the light- TWARA URUMURI” and focused on the engagement of the youth in peacebuilding initiatives as a key strategy for achieving sustainable peace. Rwanda chose the theme because this year the country is commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and, as such, saw an opportunity to engage the youth in building strong foundations for peace and sustainable development.
The honorable speaker, Ms. Mukabalisa Donatile occompanied by a young participant watering the "peace tree" planted during previous International Peace Day
The celebrations kicked off with the watering of the Peace Tree at the garden at Rwanda's Parliament. The rest of the ceremony was attended by members of the Rwandan Parliament and Government, along with representatives of civil society, religious groups, the United Nations, development partners and youth organisations. Hundreds of young boys and girls joined the ceremony which was held in the Chamber of Parliament and presided over by the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Hon. Donatille Mukabalisa.
The event brought together both the young and the old to share and discuss experiences in terms of healing and reconciliation. Many of the youth invited to participate in the event said they were happy and proud to be involved in such a nationally important dialogue.
“We are pleased to see that youth have been included in the celebration of this international day so that we can learn, gain advice, and exchange ideas on how we can participate in the development of our country. This is a very good thing because the country must be built by the youth who constitute the strength and pillar of the country's development for today and tomorrow,“ said Emmanuel Mateso from Musanze in the Northern Province of Rwanda.
Jeanine Muhoza from Kirehe, Eastern Rwanda, also added that she didn’t see the message of "Carry the light, the light of peace" as either an assignment or a responsibility for a single Rwandan. For her, it’s a message for everyone. “Our gathering today emphasises our willingness to invest our efforts in peacebuilding and reconciliation. We are now the apostles of peace, we will extend this peace throughout the country so that what happened in the past such as the genocide against the Tutsi never happens again in Rwanda. We are proud of the step taken by the Government of Rwanda and it is now for us the youth to demonstrate our part in building a lasting peace for our country,” she stated.
One UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Fodé Ndiaye delivering his remarks during the event
During the event a panel discussion also took place, with different members of the panel sharing testimonies related to the wounds left after the genocide against the Tutsi, and their own journey of healing. Mr. Fodé Ndiaye, United Nations Resident Coordinator, was moved by the testimonies he heard, and the commitment of Rwandans to build the country they want. In his remarks he commented, “I can only say congratulations to the people of Rwanda, for the unparalleled courage that survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi have demonstrated in forgiveness and in determining their future as individuals and as a country. I applaud the courage of the “Protectors of Friendship Pact” ABARINZI B’IGIHANGO as well, for showing extreme courage and humanity in times of need.” (Selected from across the country, the Abarinzi B’Igihango are people who performed outstanding acts of humanity in helping thousands of Rwandans survive the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi). The RC further added, “I rarely ever have doubts about whether we can make the world a better place to live, whether we can “Heal the World”. But as we strive to do so, it is essential to remember that together we are stronger. It is only together that we can build a better world.”
The speaker of the parliement, hon. Mukabalisa Donatile speaking at the event
The Honourable Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies in Parliament focused her remarks on the importance of nationality and also on the will of Rwandan leaders to make reconciliation and peace a reality. She underscored the point that everyone must feel ‘Rwandan’ first. Based on a report that noted Rwanda's enormous progress in building a collective identity, she said, “If research has shown that we have already taken a big step in terms of unity and reconciliation and that it is a reality that unity has taken root, we need to take another step because in the 7-year government programme, the goal is to reach the 96% threshold by 2024. Looking at where we came from, it's probable that we are going to get there; what is asked is to redouble efforts in the program “I'm Rwandan” (NdiUmunyarwanda).”
She said that the unity of Rwandans is the strength of the country, and that peace and security are pillars on which the other programmes are built. She stressed that it is in the interest of all Rwandans to fight against the ideology of genocide and division, while specifying that this is easy because there are good models that we can follow.
The event was also attanded by different young people who shared their testimony and will to preserve peace.
The International Peace Day celebrations was organised by the Government of Rwanda working in partnership with Never Again Rwanda, Prison Fellowship Rwanda, and the One UN through the United Nations Development programme (UNDP).