“Peace will not come out of a clash of arms but out of justice lived and done by unarmed nations in the face of odds.”- Mahatma Gandhi
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The UN General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire. The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly. Two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly unanimously voted to designate the Day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire. The United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.
This year, it has been clearer than ever that we are not each other’s enemies. Rather, our common enemy is a tireless virus that threatens our health, security and very way of life. COVID-19 has thrown our world into turmoil and forcibly reminded us that what happens in one part of the planet can impact people everywhere. In March, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on all warring parties to lay down their weapons and focus on the battle against this unprecedented global pandemic. While the message is intended for armed parties, solidarity and cooperation across borders, sectors and generations are also needed to win this new fight against the worst public health crisis of our time.
For the United Nations, 2020 was already meant to be a year of listening and learning. To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN has invited millions of people worldwide to join UN75, the largest and furthest-reaching global conversation on building the peaceful and prosperous future that we want. An UN official release on the occasion reads “As we struggle to defeat COVID-19, your voice is more important than ever. In these difficult times of physical distancing, this International Day of Peace will be dedicated to fostering dialogue and collecting ideas. The world will be invited to unite and share thoughts on how to weather this storm, heal our planet and change it for the better. Even though we may not be able to stand next to each other, we can still dream together.” Adopting the 2020 theme for the International Day of Peace as “Shaping Peace Together”, the United Nations urge the people the world over to celebrate the day by spreading compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the pandemic, to stand together with the UN against attempts to use the virus to promote discrimination or hatred and to join the UN so that everybody can shape peace together.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations has been quoted urging, “warring parties to lay down their weapons. These are not normal times, and our responses cannot be routine. The pandemic is not just a health issue. It is having direct and troubling effects on development, peace, and security. Our global ceasefire appeal is resonating in many places and with many different groups. While distrust can make implementation difficult, I have been heartened by the strong support the appeal has received from civil society, which can influence and mobilize people at the grassroots.”
Closer home, a dark cloud of uncertainty is looming beyond the horizon for the people of the state, and if the centre does take any unilateral step to try and appease a particular group or community without heeding the concerned voices of reason, then the fragile lull the state and the region as a whole is experiencing at present is bound to shatter once again, when real and enduring peace looks so tatalisingly closer than ever before, drawing us back to the tumultuous and violent times that is still fresh in our collective memory. We would then be cursed forever for having mandated a government who has given in to the whims of warmongers and anarchists feeding on fear and coercion. We would have unwittingly or unwillingly be made party to setting a precedent for divisive forces to take root and prosper. Deeds, not words, will ultimately determine the future of the state and the country as a whole. For now, peace still remains an elusive concept, a tool of convenience for those walking the hallowed corridors of power.
“Peace is more important than all justice, and peace was not made for the sake of justice, but justice for the sake of peace.” – Martin Luther