The Dove of Peace
Of all the world's varied flora and fauna, the dove is one of the most widely used as a pictorial symbol. Sometimes it signifies innocence and purity. In Christianity a descending dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16). In Judaism, Christianity and Islam a white dove is a sign of peace or of the hope for peace. The dove flying with an olive branch in its beak reminds us of the good news brought by Noah's dove (Genesis 8:11) and so represents hope for peace or a peace offering. When the dove is pictured as still in flight it reminds people of its role as messenger and also that peace may be a goal not yet attained.
So when a symbol was sought for the International Day of Peace established by the United Nations in 1981 the dove was an obvious choice and we see the dove flying over the world. When Christian churches keep a Day of Prayer for Peace on the Sunday closest to September 21st, the International Day of Peace, sometimes the dove is depicted with a cross instead of the olive leaf.
When the United Nations established the International Day to encourage nations and people to work together for peace, the member nations were invited to observe it as a day of global ceasefire and nonviolence. The day now may be remembered by millions of people worldwide and many positive events will be organised, but can we hope for a peaceful day? The original hope was for "a global 24-hour spiritual observation for peace" which "is meant to demonstrate the power of prayer and other spiritual practices in promoting peace and preventing violent conflict".
In today's violent world we can encourage and assist all who strive for peace in large and small situations and pray that God's Spirit of peace may move in the hearts and lives of all who are captured in the net of violence as perpetrators or as victims. And believe that God is with us in our confusion, God is present and God is love.
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