By Roseann Hughes
THOUSANDS OF strangers are saying hello to each other to mark World Hello Day today.
The event began in 1973 in response to conflict in the Middle East and to promote the value of talking to each other, rather than fighting, to resolve differences.
Now, people in 180 countries take part in this international day of peaceful communication, including 31 winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr Fiona Macaulay, senior lecturer for peace studies and international development at Bradford University said: “When we say hello to someone, we recognise they are human. We overcome suspicion and fear, and see others worthy of the same respect, the same dignity and the same rights as you.
“Saying that first hello is the first process of reaching beyond the exterior.”
Fiona also works with PeaceJam, an organisation which helps to teach young people about the art of peace. The UK has been part of this global network since 2006, when the first Youth Peace Conference was held at the University of Bradford. This weekend, the event is back in Yorkshire at Leeds Trinity University.
Activities include talks and workshops over two days, November 25 and 26.
Fiona said: “The PeaceJam conference this weekend is essentially a massive collective hello! It’s about meeting people you’d never normally meet. Children from different schools and young refugees from different countries will be spending the weekend together.
“It’s about increasing tolerance when you spend time with different people. We’re going to throw around loads of creative ideas to get them excited about making the world a better place.”
Minister of religion Mrs Becky Jarratt, 41, of Dringhouses, York, is taking part in World Hello Day.
She said: “By 11 o’clock I had said hello to two people. It cheered me up when they smiled and said hello back! There was one woman who studiously avoided eye contact so I didn’t say hello.
“I have situations in my life that are definitely made better by communication. I seem to spend half my working life encouraging people to talk to each other. I feel it takes guts to tackle some of these things but it’s worth it.”
West Yorkshire Police is encouraging people to say hello to local officers with the hashtags #WorldHelloDay and #HelloOfficer.
Special constable Andy Hobson said: “I’ve had a few hellos when I was getting a bite to eat. Also had a lot of young children waving at our police vehicle this morning on their way to school.”