On Sept. 16 from 2 to 9 p.m. Gantry Plaza State Park will offer a variety of events and speakers to ring in the International Day of Peace that officially takes place on Sept. 21.
The festival will be hosted by HarborLAB, a Long Island City organization that hosts public paddling days and teaches people about ecology and the Buddhist Council of New York, Interfaith Center of New York in partnership with Global Movement for the Culture of Peace.
From 2 to 6 p.m., attendees will be able to kayak, participate in guided meditation, yoga, arts and crafts and decorate lanterns for the final event. There will be about 100 lanterns available for guests.
Erik Baard, who founded HarborLAB and co-founded the festival, said the event originally started as a way to commemorate those lost on 9/11. Peace Lanterns Festival was started in 2002 and took place along the Hudson River.
More recently, Baard and co-founder Rev. TK Nakagaki, president of the Buddhist Council of New York, have shifted the festival’s focus to coincide with International Peace Day. It was moved to Gantry Plaza State Park several years ago, which is right across from the United Nations headquarters.
The event focused solely on those who were lost on 9/11 for about 10 years but then shifted “especially since so many have died in war and other terror attacks since then,” Baard said.
The event will bring together faith leaders and scientists to celebrate the holiday and also talk about how to achieve peace. International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by a unanimous United Nations resolution.
This year’s theme is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” The day aims to bring all 193-member countries to support “diversity, non-discrimination and acceptance of refugees and migrants,” according to the United Nations website.
Baard said his group will emphasis the plight of climate refugees and Alex de Sherbinin, the associate director for science applications at the Center for International Earth Science Information Network will talk about the issues affecting people all around the world who are forced to migrate due to extreme weather conditions.
Though the event will tackle serious issues, Baard said the organizations are trying to make it a “joyous occasion.”
Members of the dance group Siren Protectors of the Rainforest will teach people how to Afrodancercise and the event will include face painting and henna tattoos. Speakers will include Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, representative to the United Nations from Bangladesh, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, scholar and founder of the organization Buddhist Global Relief and more.
At 7:30 p.m., attendees will release their decorated lanterns for the final event. Those who have lost someone on 9/11 or want to use the event to reflect on that day are also welcome to come, Baard said.
“We absolutely welcome people for whom 9/11 has more resonance than anything else, who that’s their closest experience to warfare and to terror and we absolutely welcome people to come with their remembrance of people they lost, their reflections on that day,” he said.
HarborLAB is looking for volunteers to help set up and clean up the park. If you’re interested in volunteering, email [email protected].