Give peace a chance.
It’s a simple message that Surrey’s Global Peace Alliance (GPA) hopes locals take to heart at their inaugural festival.
GPA’s CEO R.B. Herath said the event, set for Saturday (Sept. 24), is intended to “create a dialogue of peace and understanding across the cultural divides. We want to begin that with this annual ‘Give Peace a Chance’ Surrey festival.
“Our vision it to empower people to build and sustain lasting peace. It’s a bottom up approach,” added Herath, an author, poet and peace activist who established a political party in Sri Lanka when the country was threatened with a separatist war in the 1970s. “This is the first time ever such a peace-themed event of global significance is held in Surrey,” he said.
Herath formed the alliance in 2013 to spread his vision, which he outlines in his latest book, “A New Beginning for Humankind: A Recipe for Lasting Peace on Earth.” It looks at the globe gearing up for the next world war and proposes a simple approach to global peace, empowering ordinary people to take centre stage.
Saturday’s event will be a chance to spread that message, said Herath, as well as celebrate diversity.
“The groups will cover practically all the major cultural groups you can see in the world,” said Herath. “Aboriginal, Latinos, Europeans, Middle East, Africa, South Asia, South Eastern Asia and far east Asia, even China.
“Even a Syrian group from Syria, they want to join this dialogue of cultural diversity,” he added. “So it’s encouraging. When the opportunity is there, people as people, they want to get together.”
Comfort Adesuwa Ero, founder of African Stages Association of B.C. and co-founder of GPA, is busy preparing her students to perform.
She will be sharing a piece of her peace festival back home in Africa.
People would bring “peace leaves” to one another, she explained.
“They come to your house and chip the leaf and say, ‘My peace, I give you,’ in my language. And the person who takes it says, ‘I take your peace.’ Then, usually children, dance around and receive gifts.”
The African performance at the festival will be based around that story.
“I really want to showcase how far storytelling can go,” said Ero. “Storytelling is what prompted my dad to send me to school because he said I was always telling stories when I was young. He said there’s a new school her in the village and I should go. I became the first girl in the school – the whole school.
“When we were all talking about where to start, I kept saying start with little kids,” she remarked. “If you want peace, start it and grow it from the beginning. Tell them stories. All kids love stories.”
Event organizer Ana Emery said they’ve focused on multiculturalism because “that’s the colour and the life and the energy” of an event.
But there will be a lot more than dancing going on.
They’ve invited Fazineh Keita to speak, a former Sierra Leone child soldier founder of Innocence Lost Foundation. Other nationally and internationally recognized speakers will be leading talks as well, organizers promise.
There will also be a tea table set up featuring teas from around the world, face painting, an acrostic peace-day poetry competition, as well as crafts for people of all ages, including origami peace doves.
“It’s all about learning and sharing and the community connecting,” Emery told the Now.
“It’s not just a show. We’re celebrating International Peace Day, which is a UN designated day. But how is that relevant to us in Surrey? Let’s work on peace together,” she added. “What does peace look like in your life? What are you doing, personally, to make that happen? That’s really important to all of us.”
The GPA is also holding a “peace themed” poetry, story and art contest for children aged five to 16. Prizes will be given for the winners chosen.
Submissions can be emailed to email@example.com or dropped off at the festival. For more details and to learn other ways to submit visit peacealways.org/give-peace-a-chance-surrey-festival.
The festival is step one in a much larger vision of the GPA. They also hope to create a dictionary of peace, to be created and added to annually by Surrey children.
Longer term, they hope to establish a centre to help refugees and immigrants build new lives in Surrey.
The inaugural Give Peace a Chance Festival is set to run from 2 to 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 24 at Fleetwood Community Centre (15996 84th Ave).