We often thing that the hard part of reconciliation is saying sorry, but in my experience with both children and adults the really difficulty is in forgiving, in letting go of the real and perceived harms done to us. That’s the reason that yesterday we spent the morning with our Year 1 and 2 children (our new Reception children are still settling in) engaged in activities to do with World Peace Day.
World Peace Day started as an initiative of the United Nations and has been taken up by communities and schools around the world as a way of building towards a more peaceful world. At the initiative of the Peace One Day movement, the date of World Peace day has become September 21st and we used the opportunity yesterday to think about peace and, in the words of Torah, to pursue peace.
We started the day by talking abut the ways in which we create peace and the importance of being able to forgive those who have done wrong in order to create peace. Our children have created a wonderful poster for peace using the words for peace from different languages and read poems about peace as well as writing their own. In addition to developing their own understanding, we wanted the children to do something practical to encourage peace in the world. It may sound daunting for 5, 6 and 7 year olds to help make peace but in our discussion with them, our children were clear that they could play a part to help make the work more peaceful. To do so they illustrated stories of peace, including the middle-Eastern tale of the two brothers, so send as gifts to refugee children who are coming to the UK to escape war and persecution.
During our World Peace Day discussions, one of the ideas we shared with the children was from the violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin, who said that ‘peace may sound simple, one beautiful word, but it requires everything we have, every quality, every strength, every dream, every high ideal.’ It is a humbling notion that to achieve even simple things requires great effort, but one that is also uplifting idea which can give us strength to make a difference through the things we do.
Tonight Jews all over the world begin Yom Kippur, the culmination of a period of 10 days of reflecting and sifting through the past year, in which we are able to stand with our communities, our families and our friends and to ask forgiveness not just for the mistakes we have made in our interactions with others, but to also seek forgiveness for our failures to live up to the ideals we espouse, to do the right think, to be the best we can be. It is often easier to say sorry to others than to offer forgiveness, but forgiving is an essential part of Yom Kippur and a central part of the peace process.
Gmar Hatima Tova