A respect for human rights is the very foundation of peace, Jeremy Simons says.

He gave a talk at Whanganui's Quaker Settlement on Friday evening, the International Day of Peace. At noon he was with seven others for the annual minute's silence observed at the Handspan monument in Whanganui's Queen's Park.

After the silence there were prayers. He asked God to help those in the group "be people of peace in our very ordinary and everyday lives".

Simons is working toward a PhD at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in Dunedin. He planned to focus on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in his talk.

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The 30 rights were adopted in 1948, in a reaction to the horrors of World War II. The right to peace is one of them.

"We can expand our concept of peace - to not just the absence of war but to the presence of social justice. The ancient definition for [the Hebrew word] shalom is everything being the way it should be. It's harmony, and right relationships between people and the environment," Simons said.

The rights don't have to be enforced by rules, he said. Communities can uphold them regardless of the law.

"The idea is that they will lead to, or bring about, peaceful relationships."

Activist Deirdra McMenamin said the peace focus will continue for the next few weeks, leading up to a Peace Carnival that starts in Palmerston North on October 26.

Between now and then a group of trained artists, educators and therapists will be available to work with schools on peace-related activities such as songwriting or a sustainability game.

Any school that wants to host these free sessions can email Peace Action Women for Sustainability on paws@gmail.com.

Women's Refuge is also collecting a basket of shoes worn by people who have experienced conflict of any sort. The aim of the project is to provide a "silent witness".

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Shoes and the stories people want to share can be left at the pop-up Charity Chest shop benefiting Women's Refuge. It's in the former Shanton building in Victoria Ave.

The shoes will be for future display, then donation.