London Interfaith Peace Vigil Affirms UN Peace Day Message

London interfaith peace prayer vigil

This year the UN International Day of Peace started ahead of schedule in London. In a heartwarming show of solidarity with the people of Iraq, an important interfaith prayer vigil for peace occurred on September 3rd. Held at the Innocent Victims Memorial in Westminster Abbey, the prayer vigil for peace was attended by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Imam Ibrahim Mogra, Ayatollah Dr. Sayed Fazel Milani, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, and other senior religious leaders from across the country.

UK religious leaders came together to affirm the message of the Twitter peacebuilding campaign called #WeAreAllHuman. The London prayer vigil for peace displayed a united front pushing back against the terrible violations of human rights in Iraq. In spite of the many attempts to divide and target people along religious lines in Iraq, whether Christian, Yazidi, Shia, or Sunni, interfaith communities stood together in support of all those in need, regardless of race or religion.

The Archbishop of Canterbury added that faith communities must also “stand against” the recent spike in attacks against Jews and Muslims in the UK. “This must stop. We are all human,” he said.

The vigil in London was jointly organized by Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, and World Jewish Relief in partnership with the Church of England, the Muslim Council of Britain, and the Movement for Reform Judaism. The Archbishop of Canterbury is primate of the Church of England, a founding member church of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

A Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace

On a “pilgrimage of justice and peace,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has visited 31 Anglican provinces around the world since becoming archbishop in March 2013. Among his visits, the Archbishop has had opportunities to dialogue with Pope Francis and many other top leaders of Christian denominations. The following are musings of the Archbishop, regarding his pilgrimage of peace and justice:

“In this pilgrimage, there are encouragements in the life of the church. Yes, there are divisions, but we see that the Spirit of God is at work in moving people into a deep commitment to justice and peace. Let me give you some examples. The church leaders in South Sudan, rather than taking sides in the war, are calling for reconciliation at great personal risk. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the African Great Lakes Initiative, led by church leaders particularly from Catholic, Anglican, Protestant and Pentecostal traditions, is generating the first signs of hope amidst the conflict, not just in the Congo, but also in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

“Another aspect of conflict is the conflict over the environment. While I was in the Solomon Islands, I observed that the problem is not simple. This nation has experienced a war recently and is struggling with reconciliation. The overwhelming issue there is rising sea levels. Whether we let countries submerge in water or bomb them, both actions count as injustice. Injustice and lack of peace go together. Therefore peace includes justice.”


Sunday, September 21st Is the UN International Day of Peace

From a simple gathering in a London street, these exact sentiments are echoing this weekend in New York City. The theme of this year’s International Day of Peace, to be observed on Sunday, Sept. 21st, is the “Right of Peoples to Peace.” The first Peace Day was observed in 1982, established to coincide annually with the UN opening session on the third Tuesday of September. This weekend in New York marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace, which recognizes that “the promotion of peace is vital for the full enjoyment of all human rights.”


The events of this weekend in New York promise to be historical on multiple levels. The UN opening session on Tuesday will see the convening of the Emergency Climate Summit, called for by General Ban Ki-moon. Ahead of this summit, a massive international campaign will converge on Sunday for the People’s Climate March. Expected to be the largest, most diverse march for climate action in history, the entire weekend is filled with scheduled events for participants.

All over the country, more than 1,000 organizations have endorsed this historical event. The People’s Climate March in New York City is bringing together the world’s leading environmental groups, interfaith and faith-based organizations, more than 300 colleges and universities, and over 50 labor unions.

The People’s Right to Peacefully March for Climate Action

The timing of the historic People’s Climate March with the UN International Day of Peace is more than just a happy coincidence. First, the diverse multitudes marching in the street give strong proof of the constructive power of peace. It is also proof that the people’s right to peace goes hand in hand with environmental rights. Our right to a peaceful existence on this planet is ultimately dependent upon a sustainable natural environment. What better way can there be to express the “People’s Right To Peace,” than with a massive “People’s Climate March?”


John Knox, the United Nations Independent Expert on human rights and the environment, agrees. “Human rights and the environment are not only interrelated, they are also interdependent,” he says. “A healthy environment is fundamentally important to the enjoyment of human rights, and the exercise of human rights is necessary for a healthy environment.”

“Human rights to freedom of expression and association, to information, to participation in decision-making, and to remedies, must be protected, at both the national and the international level,” Mr. Knox noted. “Human rights law must be taken into account in developing environmental governance.”

Archbishop Welby: “Peace Includes Justice”

From a small gathering in London, to a massive march in New York, human rights to freedom of expression and association are clearly on display. The message of a simple prayer vigil rings as loudly in our hearts as an assembly of millions marching in the street. Both express the same request for justice. Archbishop Welby’s words sum up the message accurately:

“Whether we let countries submerge in water or bomb them, both actions count as injustice. Injustice and lack of peace go together. Therefore peace includes justice.”


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About the Author

Aisha Abdelhamid (Birth-name Kathleen Vail) is a freelance lifestyle and environmental science writer currently living in Vancouver, BC. Her interests include environmental conservation, climate science, renewable energy, faith-based environmental activism, sustainable economics, corporate social responsibility, creative lifestyles, and healthy living.