Thirty years ago, the United Nations (UN) dedicated this day to peace, more specifically to the absence of war and violence, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone for humanitarian aid access, and is kept by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples. However, the inequality afforded to some is perhaps aptly demonstrated in the ringing of the Peace Bell itself-the Bell was cast from coins belonging to children from all over the world-except the continent of Africa.
Twenty years ago, then Secretary-General of UN Boutros Boutros-Ghali, wrote a report entitled An Agenda for Peace: Preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peace-keeping. Quite simply, An Agenda for Peace was the resultant document from the UN Security Council’s request for recommendations on how to best strengthen and improve the efficiency of the UN’s practice of preventive diplomacy, for peacemaking and for peace-keeping, within the framework and provisions of the UN Charter. In the report, Boutros-Ghali defines “post-conflict peace-building” as “action to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict”, the most lasting contribution to the concern, the study, and (of course) the appeal of humankind’s concern with Peace Studies.
A decade ago, Secretary-General Kofi Annan marked the beginning of a new peace-day tradition, to observe September 21st as “a day of global ceasefire and non-violence”. He called for:
Twenty-four hours: to give relief workers a safe interlude for the provision of vital services; to offer mediators a building block towards a wider truce; to allow all those engaged in conflict to reconsider the wisdom of further violence.
Today, as I reflect on the promise that tradition held and the state of the world-in the atrocities we have witnessed in this year alone and the so-called divisions that are being emphasized (beliefs, disabilities, ethnicities, orientation, sex, wealth) as the sources of these tragedies-today is more crucial than ever. Humanity time and time again has had to propose, supplement and attempt to ensure the balance of studying warfare with aspiration studies of keeping peace. In today’s world, we seemingly are finding more reasons to “protect ourselves” with arms than to lay them down in favour of “seeking peace” out, however difficult and challenging this may seem. I question whether our psyche has not arrived at a place in our humanity where, we the people, have become compliant with the unacceptable, because we are not willing to put in the work it requires of every single one of us to make this world, not only acceptable, but truly peaceful-for all?
Beyond satyagraha, an “insistence on truth”, we must step away from misleading each other that this cause, like most, go beyond the one day (or one month, in some other cases) devoted to them. This year, the day continues with its call for international truce as usual but will also focus particularly on bullying and domestic violence. Maybe the question of the day should not be “What does peace mean to you?” but rather “What will peace mean to my children, and their children and (so forth)…when war no longer exists?” Take a moment to reflect on what #peacemeans to you today, and spend all others-today and forever-actively doing your part to ensure that, one day, it means peace on this Earth for everyone.
Happy Peace Day, everyone.