The legacy of decades of civil war will not disappear in one day.
But for nearly two thousand Cambodians who gathered to celebrate the International Day of Peace, this one day is an important reminder to never stop working for peace.
Letting loose peace balloons and joining in peace marches in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and in seven other provinces, attendees heard speeches about peace from different religious perspectives and participated in meditation.
The gatherings brought together peace activists, youth, Buddhist nuns and monks, Christians, and Muslims around a theme of “Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future.”
Chhit Muny, AFSC’s Peace Partnerships Program Officer, explains the importance of meditation for peace building in a Buddhist country: “Right here and now, we talk and act to promote peace as we breathe. Whenever we stop breathing we die, but whenever we forget and stop working for peace we also suffer and die too. So gathering people, especially youth, to learn and act for peace is very important.”
Following decades of civil war, Cambodian society still feels the effects of the conflict in the many forms of violence, such as domestic violence, forced evictions, and the recent armed clashes with its neighbor, Thailand. The two countries dispute the position of their common border in the vicinity of some ancient temples.
The organizing group, an AFSC partner and local volunteer network for peace building, says this one-day event is not intended to immediately bring peace, but it is important in influencing people’s minds and attitudes towards peace.
Sek Sarom, an organizer from Battambang province, says the event is intended to encourage and inspire people to end violence and better manage conflicts.
“It serves as a platform for participants to organize peace-related activities and to encourage peaceful co-existence in a pluralist society,” she says.
A youth who participated in the event in Kampong Chhnang province said, “I wish to see such peace events every year in my community. I have learned a lot about how to talk about peace building and will share it to the rest of my community.”