GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!
Fr. CEDRIC PRAKASH sj
In a powerful speech to world leaders on September 19th, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, kicked off the UN General Assembly 2017. “We are living in a world in pieces”, he warned the leaders; going on to add, "our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing."
Guterres went on to outline seven key threats facing the world, and the major challenges to resolving them: the risk of nuclear conflict, international terrorism, unresolved conflicts and violations of international humanitarian law, climate change, rising inequality, cybersecurity, and the refugee crisis. He concluded with an appeal, “my message to world leaders today: only together, as truly United Nations, can we build a peaceful world and advance human dignity for all.”
The words of the UN Chief which revolved around peace and human dignity, could not have come at a more appropriate time- when several so-called “world leaders” are spewing the venom of hate, violence, war and even indulging in it.The world observes yet another International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) on September 21st . The day is to “commemorate and strengthen the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.” It is therefore necessary to remind ourselves that each one of us is called to be a channel of peace and that we need to have the courage to hold our leaders accountable in ensuring peace for all.
Very significantly, the theme for this year’s ‘Peace Day’ is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” This theme is based on the TOGETHER global campaign that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life. TOGETHER brings together the organizations of the United Nations System, the 193 member countries of the United Nations, the private sector, civil society, academic institutions and individual citizens in a global partnership in support of diversity, non-discrimination and acceptance of refugees and migrants.
Many will certainly doubt whether some key leaders will take this timely theme seriously. Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar’s military junta continue with the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims in their country. More than 400,000 Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring BanglaDesh in just about a month. Appeals from all over the world to stop this genocide have been ignored. In total violation of the past track record, India has closed the doors to the persecuted and helpless refugees. The war in Syria is in its seventh year. Violence continues in South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, Congo and other parts of Africa. The hopes for lasting peace in Colombia, Venezuela and elsewhere in South America remains an illusion. Trump continues to breathe war on several nations across the globe. Duterte in the Philippines has no qualms of conscience in legitimatising violence and murder of his people.
Modi and his henchmen in India seem to be proving that hate, violence and discrimination bring them ‘power’. The brutal murder recently, of well-known journalist Gauri Lankesh is a case in point. In the not too distant past, the country has also witnessed the gruesome killings of rationalists and intellectuals like Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi and of several other journalists, human rights and RTI activists. It is said that on November 17th (Modi’s birthday)‘the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat was lit up and 2,00,000 people (comprising farmers, fishers, potters, pastoralists, tribals, Dalits and small enterprise holders) had to be submerged for the ‘Narmada Mahotsav’ to be a success’. The violence against minorities in India continues unabated.
Pope Francis has consistently and unequivocally asserted the need for peace. In a letter to the International Meeting “Paths of Peace” held in Germany from September 10th to 12th he wrote, “what we may not and must not do is remain indifferent, allowing tragedies of hatred to pass unnoticed, and men and women to be cast aside for the sake of power and profit. Your meeting in these days, and your desire to blaze new paths of peace and for peace, can be seen as a response to the call to overcome indifference in the face of human suffering. I thank you for this, and for the fact that you have gathered, despite your differences, to seek processes of liberation from the evils of war and hatred. For this to happen, the first step is to feel the pain of others, to make it our own, neither overlooking it nor becoming inured to it. We must never grow accustomed or indifferent to evil”.
Some leaders however, obviously do not care with being “Together for Peace” and ensuring “Respect, Safety and Dignity for all.” Many people across the globe lack the respect, safety and dignity and the peace, which they rightly deserve. It is therefore incumbent on each one of us to make real once again the immortal lyrics of John Lennon, who in 1969, in the wake of the anti-Vietnam war protests sang,
(Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is a human rights activist.)