Online Toolkit

Part 4 - Key Concepts, Models, and Tools

Peace Symbols

In many countries around the world, the symbols of peace are used to invoke themes of friendship and kindness. They have become widespread and are associated with noble goals. Such symbols have historical and political significance, and today have become a sign of justice and non-violence in the world.

The Dove

The image of the white dove has become an international sign, signifying a messenger of peace and love. It originates from the biblical story of Noah and the Ark. When the rains of the flood ceased, a dove was released by Noah to see if any signs of land were in existence. The white dove returned clutching an olive branch, indicating the presence of land and calm after the storm.

The Rainbow Flag

Another common sign of peace is the rainbow flag, first used in Italy in 1961 during a peace march. The flag was inspired by similar multi-coloured flags used in the demonstrations against nuclear weapons. The flag in its current shape appeared as early as September 24, 1961, with the word PACE (Peace in Italian, derived from the Latin word, pax) printed prominently across the middle.

Its use spread to other countries too, and the Italian Pace was replaced with the corresponding translation in the local languages. The flag especially gained popularity as a peace symbol when it was used in 2003, for the "pace da tutti i balconi" / peace from every balcony campaign against the Iraq war. This campaign was an effort to get people to show their opposition to the Iraq war in general, and specifically to the Italian participation in the US military campaign in Iraq.

"Pace da tutti i balconi" – peace flags hanging from windows in Milan, Italy, in March 2003.
Over 1,000,000 were hung against the Iraq war.
The seven-color peace flag is not to be confused with the similar six-colour symbol for "gay pride" which has the red color at the top instead of the bottom, and does not have the colour turquoise.

The Peace Sign

Gerald Herbert Holtom, a professional designer and a member of the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) first designed the peace sign on February 21, 1958. [75] It was first used in a march on April 4 that was held from Trafalgar Square to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, in response to the atrocities of WWII. It later became a symbol for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

The sign included the combination of the semaphore signals for the words nuclear – two flags held in an upside down V and the word disarmament – one flag pointing straight up and another one down in a straight line. It became a prominent symbol of the peace movements of the 1960s and 1970s. This anti-nuclear emblem, or the peace sign, is one of the most widely known symbols in the world. [76]

The Crane

In Asia, more specifically in Japan, the crane was originally a sign of prosperity and friendship. A thousand paper cranes are known to bring good luck, and they are often folded around New Year as a sign of prosperity. [77]

After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it took a greater significance in society as a peace symbol. The peace crane was made even more meaningful by Sadako Sasaki, an 11 year old girl who was diagnosed with leukemia in 1955, brought about by the exposure to nuclear radiation. She heard that if she folded a thousand paper cranes, she would be granted a wish, so she began folding one paper crane after another, dedicated to her wish of being healed from her sickness, and for a world without wars. Within the same year, she died without finishing the thousand paper cranes, but her story spread throughout Japan, and it was said that her friends and schoolmates continued making the paper cranes on her behalf. Her story went out to the people of the world, and her legacy lives on in a memorial in her honour.

After the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, students and children folded paper cranes as a sign of hope and good blessings.

The V sign or the VICTORY SIGN

A hand gesture where the index and middle fingers are raised and parted (like a letter V) [78], while the other fingers are clenched. It is most commonly used to represent the letter V as in "victory", and as a symbol of peace (usually with palm outward).

It is the American sign language for the letter V, and has various other meanings, depending on the cultural context and how it is presented. For example, it is an offensive or insulting gesture when done with the palm facing inward, or a hand signal mostly used by Asians, specifically Japanese and Koreans, while smiling for a photo to be taken.

Peace in different languages

In many languages the word for peace is also used a greeting or a farewell, for example the Hawaiian Word "aloha", the Arabic "sala'am", and the Hebrew word "shalom", which also means reconciliation, love and prosperity. In Arabic, "sala'am" is a salutation used as an offering of peace between people to acknowledge universal bond. It means "I come in peace." The Greek word "irene" defines the characteristic of a peaceful person as being whole, a soul in a state of calm. In Chinese, the word "ping" implies unity in diversity, which is said to have come from the ancient concept of the yin and yang – where opposite elements are integrated into one. [79]