x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Thousands add their names in support of Peace Day

More than 10,000 people sign a giant, candle-shaped wall at the Mall of the Emirates in support of the International Day of Peace.

DUBAI // More than 10,000 people signed a giant, candle-shaped wall at the Mall of the Emirates yesterday in support of the International Day of Peace. It is the first time that the UAE has officially held an event marking Peace Day, an international anti-war observance that falls on September 21 each year. The calendar date was assigned by the UN in 2001, thanks to the advocacy of Jeremy Gilley, a British filmmaker and peace campaigner.

A group of young professionals, led by Chiara Maioni, a Dubai film producer, were so impressed by Mr Gilley's story after viewing one of his films this year that they started In Support of Peace One Day to raise awareness of the event. "This year has been purely about building awareness so that we have a solid foundation with which to create a much bigger event next year," said Nayla al Khaja, an Emirati filmmaker and spokeswoman for the project.

"Then perhaps we will have the partnerships in place so that we also can contribute to areas of conflict and hunger. "So while we have achieved a phenomenal amount in a short space of time, we are not running before we can walk." The group produced three short videos, directed by Ali Mostafa, which have aired on television. The films were also screened at Cinestar theatres yesterday. Globally, more than 200 million people took part in tens of thousands of events, including walks, debates, poetry readings and concerts to mark the day.

Last year the UN said that guns fell silent over much of Afghanistan on September 21 as the US, Nato, the Afghan government and the Taliban all pledged to halt attacks. Aid workers try to take advantage of the brief lull in hostilities to vaccinate children against preventable diseases such as polio. In a similar vein, the UN has designated October 2 - the birthday of the late Indian statesman and peace activist Mahatma Gandhi - as the International Day of Non-Violence.