What you can do for peace – on World Peace Day 2015

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Miriam Halahmy

To celebrate today’s International Day of Peace, Miriam Halahmy shares her practical suggestions on what you can actually do to work towards peace and tolerance in our world, from holding a Malala-read-a-thon, to writing poetry to posting your own videos on YouTube – plus great ideas on what to read

Most people want world peace and tolerance towards the “other” in our society. But how can one person get involved? If you don’t know where to start here’s my toolbox of suggestions on how to work towards peace and tolerance and make a difference to the world.

#1 : Read a good book.

Books can change lives. Fiction inspires and a good book could be your route map to peace. In her famous diary Anne Frank said on reading: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

So let’s here are a few reading recommendations:

After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross: The total breakdown of UK society forces everyone to head for France but the French are overwhelmed by British refugees and close the Channel Tunnel. Flipping the Calais migrant problem on its head, Gillian Cross forces us to think, If we Brits had to flee, who would tolerate us and let us in?

Red Leaves by Sita Brahmachari: Brings together a Somali refugee, a boy whose mum is a journalist in Syria, a homeless girl and an ancient elder. The book explores the struggles young people face to negotiate peace in a troubled world.

Hidden by Miriam Halahmy (yes that’s me): My novel focuses on human rights and tolerance. What would you do if your friend begged you to hide an asylum seeker to save them from being deported? Alix has never thought about immigration before but faced with a huge dilemma, she learns how to stand up for what she believes in and how to influence those around her.

There are many examples of great books to read, so I’m just listed a few more:

Saving Rafael by Leslie Wilson: a Christian family saves Jewish boy in Nazi Berlin.

Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman : a hilarious book on football, asylum seekers, war and survival.

Infinite Sky by CJ Flood: what if travellers camped at the end of your garden?

Looking at the Stars by Jo Cotterill: brother and sister made refugees from their country by ‘peace-keeping’ troops.

#2 : Make a video

YouTube is the second biggest search engine on the planet. If you want to stand up for peace you could get together with friends and make a video.

 This video was made when two students in Paris translated one of my peace poems into French and Arabic. We are the peace process…

#3 : Do nothing!

Bit weird I know. but sometimes we see intolerance in school or on the streets and don’t know how to react. In Hidden Alix sees the “foreign boy” Samir suffering racist bullying on the street. She speaks out for him and the gang turn on her. She could have been badly hurt. The safest thing to do in that situation is to stand back but don’t snigger or the victim will feel worse. Do nothing – but don’t just walk away. Go up to the victim afterwards and support them, make sure they don’t feel alone anymore.

Miriam
 Miriam Halahmy: sometimes we see intolerance in school or on the streets and don’t know how to react. Photograph: PR

#4 : Write a poem

We know how inspiring the written word can be. So why not write something yourself about peace and tolerance? You could read it out to your friends and family, enter a poetry competition, publish in the school magazine or post it on Facebook or if you’re a children’s books site member (and here’s how to join if you aren’t) send it to our Your Stories section and you might see it published on the site! John Lennon wrote, “If everyone demanded peace instead of another TV set, then there’d be peace.” Make your words count.

#5 : Rap for peace

Music and lyrics have always been tools for change. In one of my poems, Light a Candle, I write, “Light a candle/ light another one/ light seven billion candles for peace.” If everyone worked for peace, there would be no more war.

 Check out this rap made by some young people from Kenya.

#6 : Join a Peace group

I have led workshops with young people from all over Europe on peace and tolerance. Studying together, reading books and poems and discussing challenging subjects inspired many teenagers to continue with the work. As Gulsah, a Turkish girl wrote, “I’m going to raise my voice for peace from now on.” You can read more of the students work on my blogpost

Here are some links to peace organisations which you could become involved with

www.peacejam.org.uk/involvedyoung.html

unoy.org/

#7 : Books not Bullets

This is a message to world leaders from Nobel Prize winner MalalaYousafzai on her 18th birthday. Read her inspiring memoir, I am Malala : The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and was Shot by the Taliban. You can read the first chapter here. “Books not bullets,” says Malala, “will pave the path towards peace and prosperity.” Why not hold a Malala-read-a-thon in your school and raise money for a peace organisation?

Hidden

#8 : Last thoughts

It is easy to sit at home and moan about war, intolerance and conflict in the playground and on our streets but you can make your mind that you are going to stand up for peace from now on. Dip into my toolbox to get started and good luck.Shalom/Salaam/Peace

  • Miriam Halahmy’s latest book is Hidden

http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/sep/21/world-peace-day-2015

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