NEW YORK – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rang the Japanese peace bell Monday as a call to warring parties in global conflicts to lay down their arms to observe the international day of peace on the 70th anniversary of the organization’s establishment.
The annual ceremony takes each fall, marking the opening of the General Assembly. Ban, along with the new president of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, took turns ringing the bell at the solemn ceremony held in the Japanese garden.
“Today’s ceremony is very significant,” the U.N. chief said. “This is the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. Seven decades ago, the United Nations was born out of war to save others from the same devastation.”
The bell was rung, he said, “to express our resolve to continue until we realize the vision of our Charter: to save the succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”
Thirteen-year-old Aiden Clarke, who attended the ceremony with his family, noted the connection between the bell — made of metals donated from people around the world — and Japan, which suffered two U.S. atomic bombings, and the importance of an enduring peace.
“I think the bell symbolizes the end to nuclear war and it symbolizes peace,” the eighth-grader said.
Following the bell ringing event, a Peace Memorial Tea Ceremony was held inside a lounge in the United Nations that was converted into a tea room. It was led by 92-year-old Grand Master Sen Genshitsu, who served ceremonial tea to Ban, Lykketoft and their respective spouses.
Other diplomats and U.N. staff later followed suit eating Japanese sweets and drinking the frothy green tea, called matcha.
Sen stressed the value of sharing the drink even among warring parties as was the case in feudal Japan when samurai warriors would come together, remove their swords and drink the tea.
“In the tea hut, there are no borders, there are no prejudices, there are no class differences everyone is the same, everyone is equal in the tea room and so once again this shares the principles of your lovely organization and again we are all equal, we are all one,” he explained through an interpreter.