The Words of the Hyun Jin Moon
40,000 students and teachers walk for peace in Kathmandu to
kick off GPF South Asia 2010
Early risers in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, were amazed at the throngs of students and young people converging on the city's Dasharath stadium Tuesday as early as 6 a.m. An estimated 40,000 gathered for a peace walkathon to officially launch the Global Peace Festival South Asia 2010 and to mark the United Nations' International Day of Peace.
At 7.30 a.m. the crowd moved in a long procession through the city streets toward the historic Darbar Square, a World Heritage site. They carried banners representing their schools and colleges and placards calling for peace and reconciliation in the country.
"I came to make our country peaceful. We are expecting peace from this event," said Anuja Thapa, a ninth-grader at Magus English School. "My message to the elders is not to do violence, to make our country beautiful and not destroy its beauty." Senior citizens and women's groups also marched with the students.
The theme of the walk was "A Day for Peace and the Constitution." Nepal is going through a difficult transition from a monarchy to a democracy while also dealing with the effects of a long and violent Maoist insurgency. The Maoists have given up their arms and joined the parliamentary process but deep distrust remains.
That has made the process of drafting a new constitution very difficult. A draft was meant to be completed by the end of May but differences on some fundamental issues prevented that provoking a political crisis in the summer. It was finally agreed to prolong the constitutional process for another year. Many of the young people in the walkathon see their own futures at stake in the outcome of this process.
In Darbar Square, Umesha Shrestha, president of the Higher Secondary School Association-Nepal, told the gathering that peace must be the concern not only of government ministers, but of people from every school and home if the country is to develop. Saroj Khanal, vice president of the Global Peace Association Nepal (GPAN), urged everyone to take action for peace and not just talk about it. This was echoed by human rights activist Daman Nath Dhungana who said, "Peace is everyone's responsibility." He urged students and young people to take initiative for peace.
Many of the young people made clear that they were enthusiastic and committed participants in the walk. "I'm very proud to be able to participate in this event and to serve people through Global Peace Festival programs like cleaning the Bagmati river. Young people should join," said Sujata Mainali of CCRC College, and a Global Peace Volunteer. A female student from Asia International College said, "It was not compulsory for us to come. Actually our school is closed for the day but we came just for this cause."
The Walkathon for Peace was well covered by the media in Nepal. Six dailies, including the English language, Himalayan, Kathmandu Post, and Republica reported on it with prominent photo coverage.
GPAN was the lead organizer of the event but its success hinged on the strong support of key partners in Nepali society. These include the Federation of Nepal Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Nepal Chamber of Commerce, the Private and Boarding Schools Organization of Nepal, the Higher Secondary Schools Association-Nepal, the UN Youth Association-Nepal, and the Nepal Police.
The Nepal Chamber of Commerce held a press conference on September 19 announcing their role in the upcoming Global Peace Festival South Asia 2010 as a partner with the Global Peace Festival Foundation. Seventy business leaders and seventy members of the media attended.
The walkathon officially launched GPF South Asia 2010 which will culminate in a Global Peace Festival event at Dashrath stadium on October 2, with Nepal's president officiating at the opening ceremony. There will also be a Global Peace Leadership Conference from September 30 to October 2 on the theme of "One Family under God: Reconciliation, Peace and Development." The conference will be attended by faith leaders, government and community leaders, business and NGO representatives, educators, and social entrepreneurs.