Let there be light

Omran, a four-year-old Syrian boy covered in dust and blood, sits in an ambulance after being rescued from the rubble of a building hit by an air strike in the rebel-held Qaterji neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo late on August 17, 2016. PHOTO: AFP / MAHMOUD RSLAN

Omran, a four-year-old Syrian boy covered in dust and blood, sits in an ambulance after being rescued from the rubble of a building hit by an air strike in the rebel-held Qaterji neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo late on August 17, 2016. PHOTO: AFP / MAHMOUD RSLAN

A few weeks ago, the image of a stunned and bloodied Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh shocked the world. Sitting in the back of an ambulance, five-year old Omran, was hauntingly silent, he didn’t cry, he didn’t scream. It was later revealed that his older brother died in the bombing. He was 10. In an interview with The Guardian UK, the journalist who shared the images noted his surprise that the video resonated so deeply because “These children are bombed every day. It’s not an exceptional case.” The journalist said.

In his five years on earth Omran has known nothing but war. He is the same age as the war that has raged endlessly in his country, killing hundreds of thousands and triggering a mass refugee crisis that has caused millions to flee. Despite a fragile ceasefire, the war shows no real signs of abating. It is a frightening reality, scarier still, is the increase of conflict across the world.

According to the 10th annual Global Peace Index, a report produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, there are only 10 countries in the world considered to truly be ‘at peace’ and free from conflict. Nigeria ranks number 149 out of the 163 countries analysed.

A disappointing ranking, but not a surprising one. Nigeria scored 5 out of 5 in the following Global Peace Index (GPI) indicators: perceptions of criminality, violent crime, deaths from internal conflict and internal conflicts fought. Nigeria also scored highly in political terror and terrorism impact. The national cost of violence in Nigeria is an estimated $70,551,273,870.

Numbers aside, it is a rarity to pick up a newspaper, scroll through a Twitter feed or turn on the TV without hearing about one form of violence or another. A day such as World Peace Day seems almost redundant in the midst of such chaos. Observed every 21st of September, World Peace Day is the result of a UN resolution in 1981 declaring an International Day of Peace. It is described by the UN as ‘a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.’ This year, the Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Ban Ki Moon will mark the day by ringing the Peace Bell, followed by a minute silence.

In addition, a theme has been chosen for this year’s celebration: Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace,’ harking back to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the Member States of the UN in 2015. The UN states that the 17 goals outlined are ‘integral to achieving peace as development and peace are interdependent and mutual.’ Ban Ki Moon has described the 17 Goals as ‘our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between world’s leaders and the people. They are a to-do list for people and planet and a blueprint for success.”

Given that it appears that the world is steering further away from peace than towards it, the idea of having a ceremony and ringing a bell for peace may seem futile, because how exactly will it help bring about peace and healing to a wounded and divided wall? That said, having a day set aside for reflection and activity dedicated to peace sheds a light on its importance and the dangers we face the further we move away from it.

The day offers a chance for people and nations to recommit themselves to the ideals and actualization of peace. There are various events and activities held all over the world encouraging people to get involved and celebrate our shared humanity. Such events include intercultural and interfaith dialogues, community gatherings, marches, parades, prayer and meditation, workshops on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, vigils and so on.

There will also be a minute silence held at noon in honour of those who have died in different conflicts across the globe. Everyone, all over the world is encouraged to take part, by taking out one minute to think about how we can make the world a more peaceful place. A moment of reflection won’t fix everything by any means, but the more we start thinking and working towards the actualization of peace, the better for us all.



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