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Sharing Peace Worldwide Through Symbols

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Pacific Buddhist Academy is dedicated to peace, and that dedication can be found in the school’s green olive branch logo.

Both the color and the olive branch itself are symbols of peace -- the olive branch has been known to represent peace since ancient times, when the Greeks worshipped Irene, the goddess of peace, who was fond of olives.

Early Christians, similarly, used the dove and olive branch as peace symbols. According to the story of Noah and the flood, a dove with an olive branch returned to the arc which meant that the flood was over. Also, in the New Testament, God’s spirit that descended upon Jesus during his baptism was believed to be in a form of a dove.

Popular peace symbols (photo credit: Microvector).

New peace symbols continue to come into existence, even in modern times. In Japan, the folding of origami cranes has become a popular symbol of peace because of the story of Sadako Sasaki.

In 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and Sadako, who was two years old at that time, was a survivor. She was later diagnosed with leukemia and hospitalized in February 1955. After her diagnosis, Sadako was inspired to fold origami cranes by a Japanese legend that states that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish.

Sadako and her friends continued to fold cranes until she died on October 25, 1955. The Sadako Legacy (an organization that carries out her message) has donated the cranes that Sadako and her friends folded to places around the world that need healing. Its recipients are also asked to spread peace.

If Japan has spread peace through origami cranes, the United Kingdom has spread peace through poppies.

White poppies are mainly used in the United Kingdom as a way to remember all the victims of war (soldiers and civilians) while advocating an end to all war. In 1934, the Peace Pledge Union joined in the distribution of white poppies and now sells them. They explained it as “The White Poppy symbolises the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts and embodies values that reject killing fellow human beings for whatever reason.” They have been worn during the run-up to Remembrance Day for over eighty years.

There has been a debate over white and red poppies, which are worn on Remembrance Day to remind us of those who have lost their lives to war. Red poppies became popularized after World War I and those who oppose white poppies would argue that the meaning behind white poppies disrespects those who have fought in WWI or other wars.

One of the most common symbols of peace would be the peace sign, which is also known as the anti-nuclear emblem. The peace symbol was initially letters from the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War. Those letters represented “ND,” which derives from naval code of semaphore. “N” stood for nuclear and “D” stood for disarmament. In 1958, Gerald Holtom designed the peace symbol for the British Nuclear Disarmament movement by combining the two semaphore letters. It was popularly used in the U.S. in 1958 during nuclear tests and was used by opponents of apartheid in South Africa.

Nowadays, the peace sign is loosely thrown in photos, but if your palm is facing the wrong way, it may offend some people.

The hand gesture of peace is where your index and middle fingers are raised and the rest of your fingers are clenched with your palm facing outwards. It was used by President Nixon as a signal of victory, but if it is shown to others with your palm facing you, in some countries, it is really disrespectful.

Each of these peace symbols has their own unique stories which show how peace can be shown in many ways. We could all use a little more peace in our lives and it could easily be shared through a symbol.