International Day of Conscience celebration at the United Nations in Geneva

By John Bond & Tina Clifton

Day of Conscience 5 April Square EN 2


On 5 April, Initiatives of Change hosted a commemoration of the International Day of Conscience in Geneva which brought 210 people to the Palais des Nations at the United Nations, entering symbolically through the Peace Gate. The Day is a call to realize the power of our interconnectedness and take urgent action to open new pathways of conscience and love for fairer, happier, and peaceful societies. The event was co-convened by by Sofia Stril-Rever of Be the Love, and Sarah Noble and Ignacio Packer of Caux Initiatives of Change. 

"Be the change you want to see in the world," the Mahatma Gandhi asserted in the last century. At the dawn of the new millennium, we answer him with Sofia Stril-Rever, "Be the love you want to see in the world."


Day of Conscience 5 April
Room VII at the UN on 5 April with participants of the International Day of Conscience


This commemoration, which takes place every 5 April, was proposed in 2019 by the Kingdom of Bahrain and approved by the UN General Assembly. This year’s Geneva commemoration began with a welcome by Lidiya Grigoreva, the Chef de Cabinet of the Director-General of the UN Geneva, Alfonso Gomez, the Mayor of Geneva, and Hasan Moosa Shafaei, the Chargé d’Affaires of Bahrain.

Lidiya Grigoreva reminded us that “the International Day of Conscience provides a platform to provide people with peace and quiet practices to deepen our ethical decision-making, create a world guided by conscience, love and peace. A world of peace, solidarity and harmony for all.”


Day of Conscience 5 April
From right to left: Sarah Noble, Sofia Stril-Rever, Ignacio Packer, Gerald Pillay


Gerald Pillay, President of Initiatives of Change International, rounded off the keynote messages by drawing attention to the opening of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that all human beings are ‘endowed with reason and conscience’. He said that Initiatives of Change acknowledges the centrality of conscience by ‘seeking guidance and promoting quiet reflection and mindfulness as a daily exercise.’

‘Affirming the importance of conscience brings our struggle for justice to the personal and the existential level,’ he concluded. ‘To search our own hearts and minds for how we may be complicit in the world’s problems, how we may say sorry and forgive our transgressors, and how we may make a difference in treating the people next to us with more kindness and with more graciousness. That personal encounter – living with a clean conscience, if you will - this alone will qualify us to make a difference in the public square and on the world stage.’


Day of Conscience 5 April
Hajar Bichri (left) representing the Caux IofC Creative Leadership youth initiatives, Sofia Stril-Rever, Ignacio Packer, Sarah Noble


Addressing the three themes of the International Day of Conscience, namely Conscience, Love and Peace, the day-long programme featured 35 speakers, either in plenaries or in workshops, who are active in peacemaking, environmental action, inter-religious cooperation and political campaigning in many countries. The speakers were interspersed by songs and violin solos, and pauses for meditation, led by Sofia Stril-Rever.

Hajar Bichri from Morocco spoke on the panel for love, a force for social justice, peace and human evolution: ‘I am here as a young changemaker from the Creative Leadership team,’ she said. ‘I first discovered the power of Initiatives of Change in 2016 when I participated in the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme.’ She told of initiatives by her colleagues in Kenya, Mexico and Colombia which have improved literacy and empowered girls in situations of poverty.

Storytelling is an important part of the Initiatives of Change approach and Hajar reminded us that “In this world shaped by suffering, although we do not have the power to end war, we have the power to support those who are suffering and the choice to hear their stories.”

Réné Longet, Mayor of Onex and moderator for the panel, reflected that “it's very inspiring for us to hear the stories of young people. It is not necessary to have attained an old age to reach wisdom. You can be young and wise.”

Sarah Noble, Head of Global Engagement at the Caux Initiatives of Change Foundation, introduced the panel for peace by echoing United Nations High Commissioner Volker Türk’s words that "peace is the mother of all human rights", calling us all to think about what we can do to make a difference.


Day of Conscience 5 April
From left to right: Panel on Conscience & Love for Peace with Lisa Yasko, Yael Deckelbaum, Guila Clara Kessous, Moses Garelik, Sidi Nabil Baraka, Sylvain Machac, Sarah Noble and Sofia Stril-Rever


This set the stage for a moving exchange which included a reading of the poem Revenge, by the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, interpreted by actor Sylvain Machac. We then heard from Jewish spiritual leader Moses Garelik  who told of the transformation of his attitude towards Muslims when he took part in a gathering of 100,000 Muslims in Morocco, and met and became close friends with Sufi spiritual leader Sidi Nabil Baraka. 

Ukrainian Member of Parliament Lisa Yasko went on to passionately urge young people to go into politics: "It’s an incredibly important way of bringing change."

Yael Deckelbaum, Israeli musician and peace activist expressed her wish for “the women of the world to unite and put an end to the war”. She was then joined by Guila Clara Kessous, ambassador and artist of peace for UNESCO, to sing “The prayer of the Mothers”.


Day of Conscience 5 April
From left to right: Alfonso Gomez, Mayor of Geneva, Guila Clara Kessous and Yael Deckelbaum, Sylvain Machac, Sofia Stril-Rever


The Conscience panel included a creative physicist, an anthropologist and a researcher on plant consciousness who challenged us to think about the conscience of the universe, the earth and plants and consider how we can reconnect to those forces.

The afternoon included a session entitled Walk the Talk where Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes, award-winning actress, producer, global expert and advocate for people with disabilities, shared her own personal fight for peace and how she came to realise that "bursting with anger is not the solution. To achieve real transformation I realised there was only one solution: Act with love!”

Through the presentations, including French artist MA2F’s central painting which was used to represent the day, art and culture became central focus points as potent avenues for conveying and reflecting on the conscience and love for peace.

Thank you to all the speakers, artists, technical support team, participants and our amazing conveners who turned this day into an unforgettable experience.

Stay tuned and join us next year for the 2025 International Day of Conscience!


Day of Conscience 5 April
Workshops on Inner Development Goals with Pascale Fressoz and Corentin Biteau and Talking Plants and Trees with Renaud Ruhlmann


  • The recording of the event has since been accessed over 2000 times. You can watch the highlights here.
  • Discover more photos here.
  • Read a selection of the speeches here.
  • Watch Yael Deckelbaum and Guila Clara Kessous singing "Prayer of the Mothers" here


Photos: Antonin Lechat, Ulrike Ott Chanu, Tina Clifton







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