The International Day of Peace is on 21 September
by Revd Catherine Williams (revised, originally published in 2007)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider various symbols of peace and their meanings.
Preparation and materials
Have available the following images of peace symbols and the means to display them during the assembly:
- a dove, available at: https://tinyurl.com/oenx6h2
- a dove with an olive branch in its beak, available at: https://tinyurl.com/yc6oo42n
- a rainbow, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y9jsmptr
- a peace sign, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ksp5zvx
- origami cranes, available at: https://tinyurl.com/yc7nszof
- an ankh, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y83ty7kr
- a V-sign (make sure that the palm of the hand is facing outwards!), available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8q4q9mx
- a handshake, available at: https://tinyurl.com/jylmb7k
Optional: you may wish to have available the YouTube video, ‘Deep Peace a Gaelic Blessing Libera (John Rutter)’, in which case you will also need the means to show it during the assembly. It is 3.27 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eve2y-P-Zjk
Optional: pieces of paper and pens for the ‘Assembly’, Step 2.
Optional: a large cut-out of a dove, Post-it notes and pens for the ‘Assembly’, Step 3.
Further information about the International Day of Peace is available at: http://internationaldayofpeace.org/
Ask the children if they know any symbols or signs that people use to mean ‘peace’. Pick up on suggestions from the children that match with the images of symbols that you have prepared and explain the origin and meaning of each.
Show the image of a dove.
The dove has been a symbol of peace since ancient times; it was used by the Greeks and in ancient Japan. Christianity adopted the dove as a symbol of God, the Holy Spirit, who brings the gift of peace.
Show the image of a dove with an olive branch in its beak.
The olive branch is also an ancient symbol of peace from Greece. Winners at the Olympic Games used to be given wreaths made of olive leaves and branches. In the Bible, in the story of Noah and the flood, a dove was sent out to find land. Eventually, the dove returned with an olive branch in its beak, indicating new life and a fresh start. Some flags in the world have an olive branch on them that represents peace.
Show the image of a rainbow.
Again, in the story of Noah and the flood, God put a rainbow in the sky to indicate his promise that he would never again destroy the world. Rainbows are like bridges that bring people together.
Show the image of a peace sign.
This symbol was designed in 1958 as part of a campaign to ban nuclear weapons. People have used it since to indicate peace.
Show the image of origami cranes.
This symbol originates in Japan. A little girl called Sadako Sasaki was dying of leukaemia following the Second World War. She tried to make 1,000 origami cranes before she died. Each year, thousands of these symbols of peace are made and placed on the peace memorial at Hiroshima.
Show the image of an ankh.
This symbol is called an ankh and it comes from ancient Egypt. It represents life and immortality. People used to place ankhs beside rivers to encourage the water to flow. Today, it is used as a symbol for peace and harmony.
Show the image of a V-sign.
This sign, where two fingers are raised and the palm of the hand faces outwards, means victory and an end to war. It was used during the Second World War, most famously by Winston Churchill.
Show the image of a handshake.
Shaking hands is an ancient symbol for peace. It shows that the people shaking hands are not holding weapons.
If the children know any other symbols for peace, you may wish to invite them to draw them on pieces of paper at the front.
Ask the children which places and situations in the world really need God’s gift of peace today. Encourage the children to think of local and international situations, being sensitive to the age of the children present. Invite the children to write their ideas on Post-it notes and stick them onto the cut-out dove.
Time for reflection
Invite the children to look at the cut-out dove during the week and add more Post-it notes as they think of situations that need peace. Invite them to draw symbols of peace to add to the display.
Explain that it is the International Day of Peace on 21 September. This day was established in 1981 by the United Nations and has been observed around the world every year since then. The day encourages people to commit to peace above all other differences.
Lead the following prayer or play the John Rutter version of it, which is available as a YouTube video called ‘Deep Peace a Gaelic Blessing Libera (John Rutter)’.
Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
Deep peace of the gentle night to you,
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you,
Deep peace of Christ, the light of the world to you.
‘The prayer of St Francis (Make me a channel of your peace)’ (Come and Praise, 147)
‘Peace is flowing’ (Come and Praise, 144)