By Jo Siedlecka
Faith leaders and community groups in London are promoting “One Hundred Days of Peace” — an initiative to develop a “peace legacy” for the London Olympic Games in 2012.
Churches, schools and colleges, together with a coalition called London Citizens that includes more than 300 faith and community groups are organizing ecumenical programs of prayer and a range of activities linked to the Olympics to promote peace. These include a campaign called City Safe, which aims to build a network between shops and businesses across London to fight crime. Other activities involve street vigils, talks, discussions and the creation of several peace gardens.
Organizer noted that London has experienced violence and trauma in recent years. “The Olympic bid was won in July 2005 amidst great rejoicing across London. The following day the [terrorist] London bombings took place. Last summer, London experienced dramatic outbreaks of rioting and looting. The need for peace in our city has never been greater,” said Barbara Kentish, Justice and Peace fieldworker with the Catholic Diocese of Westminster. In the 2005 bombings on the London Underground and buses, 52 people were killed and 700 injured.
In the Athletes’ Village at Olympics Park, a six-room multi-faith space has been created to serve Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Bahá’í , Jain, Buddhist and Zoroastrian athletes and their supporters. During the Games more than 200 volunteer chaplains will be on duty. Volunteers from all faiths will also be assisting as guides and first aiders, supplying refreshments and counselling.
The tradition of an Olympics truce was established in 9th century BC to enable competitors and spectators to travel safely to and from the games through ancient Greece’s warring city-states. The International Olympic Committee decided to revive the ancient concept of the Olympic truce with the view to protecting the interests of the athletes and sport in general, and to encourage the search for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to conflicts around the world.