By José and Lloydine Argüelles.
The Roerich Pact and Banner of Peace is an international treaty signed by India, the Baltic states, and 22 nations of the Americas including the United States. The Roerich Peace Pact established an international agreement allowing any nation to protect its cultural or artistic heritage with a symbolic banner, the Banner of Peace. Signed in 1935, this treaty is international law today.
Nicholas and Helena Roerich, shocked by the devastations of World War One and the Russian revolution in his own country, realized that the cultural heritage of each nation is in essence a world treasure. Their idea of cultural heritage included not only the physical remains of earlier cultures, but also the active creative centers, universities, libraries, concert halls and theaters of all nations. Just as the Red Cross protects hospitals, the Banner of Peace was implemented to protect culture.
Written with the assistance of international experts and lawyers, the Banner of Peace was praised by many notable figures during its signing including Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, and H.G. Wells. The Pact states, “educational, artistic, and scientific institutions… shall be protected and respected by the belligerents … without any discrimination as to the state allegiance of any particular institution or mission… these missions may display a distinctive flag (the banner of peace).. which will entitle them to special protection and respect…” Thus any site of cultural activity around the world can fly the Banner of Peace to declare itself neutral, independent of combatant forces, and protected by international treaty.
Roerich was an artist and travelled extensively through Russia, India, Tibet, and the United States. He hoped by using a symbol that represented all cultures no group would feel excluded from using it. The Banner would have not one but several meanings, as Nicholas Roerich himself wrote “Let us be united – you will ask in what way? You will agree with me: in the easiest way, to create a common and sincere language. Perhaps in Beauty and in Knowledge.“
The distinctive Banner, shown above, is three red circles surrounded by a larger red circle on a white banner. The banner is a deep red or magenta color to symbolize the color of our one blood, which is the same for all peoples. The top circle represents spirituality and encompasses the truth of all religions, that we can all unite regardless of our distinct beliefs. The two circles on the bottom represent art and science. The circle that surrounds the three spheres represents culture, the unity of art, science, and spirituality.
The symbol for the Banner of Peace can be found in many cultures and numerous philosophical systems. It can be found on the coat of arms of the Popes, on Ethiopian and Coptic antiquities, and stone age amulets. It also appears on Tibetan rings, Buddhist banners, the Temple of Heaven in Peking and in the oldest of Indian symbols, the Chintamani, the sign of happiness.
Found in all cultures, the Banner of Peace is the perfect symbol to bring all peoples together in peace.
Original article by José and Lloydine Argüelles, the Founders of the FLT. Originally published on the former official web of Tortuga.com in 2001. Reconstructed by Tortuga 13:20 for the Planet Art Network.