What better ways are there to unite people peacefully than through prayer and meal-sharing? None, as the folks at Ithaca’s Immaculate Conception School demonstrated through their recent observance of International Day of Peace.
Held annually on Sept. 21, the peace day was begun worldwide in 1982, a year after being established by a United Nations resolution. This celebration, according to the Web site www.internationaldayofpeace.org, “provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date.”
Immaculate Conception did its part by filling its Thursday school day with prayer, then staging an ethnic dinner that evening in the school gymnasium.
“Pretty much, we had a continuous prayer vigil from 8 o’clock to 4 o’clock,” said Diana Oravec, principal.
Prayers were offered by a rotation of classes in the school chapel. At times there was a blending of classrooms, noted Katelyn O’Connor, a third-grader.
“We went in the morning to pray with our pre-K buddies,” she said.
Andrew Bezirganian, a fourth-grader, said the faculty implored students to show mutual respect throughout the day.
“They said, like, since it was a day of peace we should all be peaceful to each other,” he said.
The dinner brought together approximately 70 people made up of students, parents and people from the community that also had been invited to join in. Attendees even included a couple who had just moved here from California, observed Dorothy Schuette, organizer.
Schuette said another Day of Peace activity was asking parents how to teach children peace, and having them write responses.
“Most of the answers were about modeling peace in their families. Another was teaching children about their culture, to be tolerant of differences,” she said.
Schuette remarked that students remained more low-key than usual during the meal, which was capped by serving a cake with the word “peace” written on it.
“I think everyone had very lively conversation, sometimes talking about peace and other times enjoying each other’s company,” she said. “Everybody seemed to be very happy. Children are usually running around, they’re so excited, but there was very much a peaceful environment.”
Katelyn said she had fun dining with fellow students. Echoing that thought was Abigail Campbell, a second-grader.
“I like that my friends were there,” Abigail said.
She added that despite missing the main dinner due to soccer practice, she managed to swing by in time for a slice of peace cake.
Schuette, a third-grade teacher at Immaculate Conception, introduced the peace-day initiative last year after coming across the idea on the Internet while brainstorming new school activities. She acknowledged that Ithaca is a great spot for a worldwide peace initiative, based on the extensive cultural diversity fueled by Cornell University and Ithaca College.
Food-wise, there was certainly a diverse ethnic blend at the Sept. 21 dinner, and that suited Katelyn fine.
“I liked all the different kinds of food,” she said.
“Children were trying new food; adults were amazed,” Schuette said, observing that the main dishes included a spicy peanut Chinese dish, Greek cheeses, German garlic potatoes and spicy bean dishes. “It was quite a variety of foods, yummy foods.”
Andrew added that he enjoyed a “really good type of spaghetti, with all these different peppers,” and that “these Chinese or Japanese noodles that had vegetables in them were really good.”
Andrew’s mother provided the Greek cheese.
“It tastes really good,” he exuded.
Questioned about the cheese’s odor, Andrew hesitated and — perhaps in a strained effort to remain upbeat — said with a laugh, “It smells all right.”