Peace Day at the Lotus School, Mongolia

By Nitya
Peace day is an internationally recognized day that has taken on a special significance for the children of the Lotus Centre in Mongolia. For Mongolians, the word ekh-taivan, ‘peace’, connotes images of peace with the Russians, or perhaps peace without guns and tanks. Peace Day in Mongolia, however, has developed from a different angle. Rather than focus on peace between political leaders, countries, or political ideologies, Peace Day has become a recognition of the need for peace of another kind; of the need for each of us to develop a sense of peace within ourselves, and of the importance of children in the future of society.The day begins at seven in the morning at one of Mongolia’s Buddhist nunneries, and from there commences a tour of the country’s various religious and spiritual institutions. By noon, the children of the Lotus School are waiting excitedly to perform a concert of music, dance and theatre to the audience of Buddhist nuns and monks, Catholic bishops, Muslim imams, foreigners and Mongolians who have come together throughout the morning. The children have learnt the words for peace in a dozen languages, including Hebrew, Italian and Thai.

The concert is about to begin, and the performers enter to the sound of music and the twinkling bells in their hands:
Shalom shalom shalom, (‘Peace’ in Hebrew)
May peace be with you, Chorus the children,
Shalom shalom shalom,
I’m all that you do,
May peace beyond all understanding
Fill your heart and mind…

The concert is followed by lunch, and everyone enjoys our vegetarian food, despite the tastes being new to some. “This is the best food I have eaten in Mongolia!” commented one of the guests, to the delight of our cook!

After lunch are the peace games. Children and adults, young and old alike, sit down to cut out doves and colour in pictures. Outside is the peace wall, where the children and visitors press their rainbow hands. The air smells like paint, and everyone is smiling as they show off their coloured palms or attempt to scrub the paint from their fingers.

At the end of the day, we raise the giant peace dove and stand underneath for a photo. It is wonderful to witness the smiling faces of the 140 Lotus children, at the end of this joyful day. None of these children have had easy lives; their childhoods have been marked by abandonment, rejection and abuse. They know well enough that peace does not always exist in the world around them, and if they are to overcome the inevitable challenges that await them, we will have to help them find a sense of peace and self-worth that emanates from within. Days such as Peace Day are all a part of this process, helping to show the children that they too, can be part of something special. At least for this day they can feel contented and carefree, and carry their happy memories until the next Peace Day at the Lotus School.