The United Nations is charged with global peacekeeping and peace building efforts, and the artwork on the grounds and within the complex reflects the spirit of that immense undertaking.
In our third joint peace blog in honor of the International Day of Peace, Loretto at the UN and the Loretto Peace Committee examine a few pieces that symbolize the ideals of nonviolence and disarmament in a world in which killing and destruction are too often the go-to solutions for governments and individuals dealing with political, cultural or personal conflict.
Pope John Paul II presented “The Dove of Peace” to the United Nations during his visit to New York in October 1979. The mosaic is a copy of one that was created in the Constantinian Basilica during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216). The enamels were made in 1727, and the gilt bronze frame was made in 1796. (United Nations Photo/Lois Conner)
The bronze statue, “Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares” was a 1959 gift from the then Soviet Union. Made by Evgeniy Vuchetich, the image represents the figure of a man holding a hammer in one hand. In the other he wields a sword that he is making into a plowshare, symbolizing humanity’s desire to put an end to war and convert weapons into peaceful tools that benefit all people. The title of the piece echoes a phrase from Isaiah 2:3: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (United Nations Photo)
Sculptor Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd created the famous bronze sculpture “Non-Violence,” also known at The Knotted Gun (pictured at top of page), to honor singer-songwriter John Lennon and his vision of a more peaceful world. Initially placed at the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park across from the singer’s former home, the piece was relocated to the plaza at the entrance to the UN in 1988, a gift from the government of Luxembourg. The Knotted Gun has become a global icon of non-violence, with replicas located in the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, at the waterfront in Cape Town and in the Peace Park in Beijing, China. (Photo by abac77/flickr)
The United Nations Association of Japan donated the Japanese Peace Bell to the UN in 1954. The bell was cast from coins collected from 60 different countries and resides in a structure made from cypress wood, reminiscent of a Japanese Shinto shrine. The bell is rung twice a year—on the first day of spring and on the International Day of Peace on September 21. These words are inscribed on the bell in Japanese: “Long Live Absolute World Peace.” (United Nations Photo)
The International Day of Peace is this Saturday, September 21. You might choose to gather around a Peace Pole or under a colorful cascade of origami Peace Cranes. Or maybe you’ll light a candle or meditate in contemplative silence.
But whether you find yourself in solitude or in community, please set aside the time to pray for peaceful resolutions to unrest, between nations and within each of us.