If you heard the bells chime 21 times in a row on Tuesday, September 2 at 2 p.m., you’re not the only one; dozens of students gathered on Parrish Beach to mark the International Day of Peace through an event organized by the Peace and Conflict Studies Program and the Lang Center. The International Day of Peace, which takes place on the Vernal Equinox each year and was established in 1981, is a global date for people worldwide to commit to peace.
At Swarthmore’s observation of this historic day, the pealing of the bells was followed by a moment of silence, a reading of the Swarthmore Office of Sustainability’s land acknowledgement, and words from the Lang Visiting Professor for Issues of Social Change Professor James Fenelon.
Professor Fenelon told the crowd about his own experiences with war, violence, and healing, presenting four lessons in actively pursuing peace: to reject self-violence, to not participate in war, to cleanse and heal yourself and others, and to oppose violence against the Earth.
In an interview with The Phoenix, Rozella Apel ’22, a Peace and Conflict Studies major, expressed that she enjoyed Professor Fenelon’s speech, particularly when he spoke about everyone’s obligation to reject violence against the Earth.
“I was grateful he centered the land we were on as a part of the peace ceremony,” Apel stated.
Destiny Rosulme ’24 identified with two other lessons. In an interview with The Phoenix, she spoke about Professor Fenelon’s first lesson that to practice peace means to not practice self-violence, as well as his third, in which he noted that healing is an important part of the process of peace.
“I liked his statement about peace unto ourselves … that it’s not just about peace between global institutions. We can choose peace interpersonally,” Rosulme said.
Lucas Meyer-Lee ’23 worked with Professor Lee Smithey and several other students to organize the event. In an interview with The Phoenix, Meyer-Lee explained that one of their goals was to create wider engagement with the topics of peace and conflict studies and show the relevance of the studies to everyday life.
“I also think [the event] connects to Swat’s history as a college founded on the ideals of peace,” Meyer-Lee said, referencing Swarthmore’s history as a Quaker institution.
Meyer-Lee was happy with the event.
“[Professor Fenelon] did an amazing job,” he said, “I think [the event] did a good job of combining the serious issues of peace and justice in our world with a more celebratory, hippie type of peace.”
After Professor Fenelon spoke, the event concluded with attendees forming a giant peace sign under Clothier tower. As students scattered away from Parrish Beach and to their next classes, conversations about peace, justice, and conflict continued.
This year’s observation of the International Day of Peace served as a reminder of Swarthmore’s commitment to the pursuit of peace, on both the individual and institutional levels.