For World Peace Day (September 21) the UN marked the annual event with calls for all warring parties to put down their weapons. Elsewhere, thousands gathered at 1,300 events around the planet to sit in silence and meditate for the cause. And Burger King, Wendy’s and Denny’s? Well, they combined ingredients from five different competing fast food chains in one giant burger for peace and gave away 1,500 of them in Atlanta. I know what you’re thinking. There is hope for the world when rival burger chains can unite to form one mega burger for peace. Or not. Somehow ordering a burger with not one but two layers of greenhouse gas-heavy beef patties, cheese and pork from factory farms plagued by cruelty charges seems like a funny way to celebrate peace day when refugees with empty bellies are fleeing war-torn regions in record numbers. McDonald’s, Burger King and others kind of realized that and decided to throw their weight behind funding ads for the UN’s World Food Programme, which is running short on cash to help feed the tsunami of refugees. It’s nice to see big brands using their cash for good, but I have to confess it’s still hard to swallow after spending a week watching hidden camera exposes of fast food supply farms, as I did for my article on Mercy for Animals’ McDonaldsCruelty.com campaign). All those images of beaten and confined chickens and pigs are hard on the soul and don’t really scream peace. The good news is McDonald’s has since vowed to offer only cage-free eggs (and crate-free pork) as have several other chains thanks to the persistent campaigns of animal welfare groups, though that doesn’t kick in ’til 2022/2025. So suffice it to say I’ve been feeling particularly guilty about eating an Egg McMuffin – minus the Canadian bacon – on a road trip to Quebec last month, gulp.
The whole scrambled mix of guilt, fast food and #PeaceBurgerDay, got me thinking about what peace really means. Can it be rival companies putting aside decades of competition and coming together – even if it’s for some good PR? Is it forgiving a company for abuses in their supply chain? Or forgiving yourself for not making perfect choices every day (ahem, see Egg McMuffin)? Forgiveness is certainly at the core of the UN’s new #ForgiveForPeace campaign. And Peace One’s viral social media campaign similarly asked, “Who will you make peace with today?” Justin Bieber even tweeted about it. So did Ellen Degeners.
As part of a wave of peace events, the film Inner Peace to World Peace, released this weekend, connects the dots between personal shifts and big picture changes. “Perhaps our first steps towards lasting change and peace outside ourselves is to begin by looking within even when it’s not easy to do so. When peace is found here our thoughts and actions naturally begin to ripple out to our family, our community and beyond.” In truth, if we can’t release and free ourselves from our buried resentments against our “competitors,” our bosses, our spouses, our politicians, our families, our neighbours, ourselves, then what hope is there for, say, Israel and Palestine? It can be hard work, but like the Dalai Lama said, “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
What’s amazing is that the UN is drilling down into the human psyche and promoting forgiving for peace as the foundation for meeting its next global sustainable development goals. Those goals include ending poverty, hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change and protecting the oceans and forests, but we can’t get there if we’re in conflict. “We must address the underlying causes of conflict to attain these goals. Peace is essential. Forgiveness is the first step towards peace, and without peace, the Goals will elude us.” Amen.
So go ahead, give peace a chance and try a little forgiveness. Practice on yourself then fan out to those around you. Besides, it feels so much better than anger and resentment. And it’s good for the planet.