This week in history: September 21 is World Peace Day
Children in Zataari Camp in Jordan | Sahem Rababah / UN

In 1982, the United Nations General Assembly declared, in a resolution sponsored by the United Kingdom and Costa Rica, the International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day, to be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace. The date initially chosen was the regular opening day of the annual sessions of the General Assembly, the third Tuesday of September. This was changed in 2001 to the current annual celebration—September 21.

To inaugurate the day, the United Nations Peace Bell is rung at UN Headquarters in New York City. The bell was cast from coins donated by children around the world, and was a gift from the United Nations Association of Japan, as “a reminder of the human cost of war”; the inscription on its side reads, “Long live absolute world peace.”

In 2017, the theme is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”

The theme honors the spirit of TOGETHER, a global initiative that promotes respect, safety, and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life. TOGETHER unites the organizations of the United Nations System, the 193 Member States of the United Nations, the private sector, civil society, academic institutions, and individual citizens in a global partnership in support of diversity, non-discrimination, and acceptance of refugees and migrants. It was initiated during the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants on September 19, 2016.

“In times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres when it was launched. “We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbors as ‘the other.’ Discrimination diminishes us all. It prevents people—and societies—from achieving their full potential.” He added, “Together, let us stand up against bigotry and for human rights. Together, let us build bridges. Together, let us transform fear into hope.”

In honor of World Peace Day, we offer Curtis Zahn’s “Antiwarwoman” from Poets of Today: A New American Anthology, edited by Walter Lowenfels (New York: International Publishers, 1964). Poet and playwright Curtis Zahn (1912-1990) was raised in Southern California and briefly attended the University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco State College (now University), and the Williams Institute and School of Authorship in Berkeley.

He served as a seaman on an oceanography expedition in 1938 and parlayed that experience into writing a fish and game column for the San Diego Tribune-Sun. He served at that paper throughout World War II, except for one year during which he was incarcerated in a federal penitentiary for declaring himself a conscientious objector to the war. He wrote short stories and experimental theatre and established the Pacificus Foundation to assist new writers.



She made the skies with eyes like

Two or three wounded doves

And in a delicate mourn for peace

Forgave them their wars

While the Generals, late for their Martinis & Olives

And, I suppose, destiny

Clicked shut their minds, their brief

Cases, and called

For Cadillacs;


Their famed, buttonpushing fingers

Concealed at all times

From the wistful soil of public gaze

By immaculate gloves.


And she counted the stars

Lately to be subdivided by Nucleotheorists

With their perplexed mathematics of some

Simply smashing plan

For the abolition of hunger, poverty, and world itself

While nibbling an O’Henry bar

Meant for some oriental child.


And now also unsure of her warmth & clothing

In that muscular affluence of cost-plus unity

She put her placard aside

And went into the restroom where unsegregated women

Sat alongside

The bewildered constituents of Democracy.

Article adapted from Wikipedia and the United Nations. An earlier version of this article was published in PW on September 21, 2015.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.