The word peace means different things to different people. To many the dominant meaning is an ‘absence of conflict’. Even the UN who have declared September 21 as the International Day of Peace sees celebrates an annual day “of non-violence and cease-fire” and invites all nations and peoples to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day.
But, many others hold a different view of peace. They see peace as state of serenity, quietude, tranquility of the human being or of living in harmony with ones surroundings.
This is the peace that human beings yearn, pray and work for daily. The peace that comes from an assurance of their personal securities-knowing that they have the means to put food on the table and cater for the accommodation, education, health and other essential needs of their children and immediate family; safety in the streets and at home without fear of being attacked or harassed; that their rights will be respected and maintained and that they will not be swept away by a natural calamity as a result of climate change; that they have access to good employment, financial security and prosperity.
Peace is therefore an existential state where individuals are not only free from armed conflict and their lives are constantly endangered by flying shrapnel, falling bombs or buildings or the threat of nuclear
bombs. It is a state where every person enjoys their basic human right to move freely, express themselves freely and practise their religion freely; where they are included and not excluded or marginalised; where they have a say in decision making on matters affecting their lives.
Yet, around the globe many people are denied this peace which many ofus take for granted and for whichothers have fought and even sacrificed their lives for us to have andenjoy. All religions preach peace but in today’s world, it is difficult to convince many that peace is a basic principle of
the Islamic religion. The Muslim greeting‘a salamaleikum’ and its response, ‘waaleikuma salam’ is supposed to underscore the spread of peace. Salam is one of the holy names of God and envisions a peaceful, harmonious social system.
Intrinsic to the message of peace in Islam is tolerance of otherfaiths and the recognition and acceptance that “there is no compulsion in religion”.
In our region Boko Haram, like Al Qaeda and ISIS in other parts of the world has caused so much harm to Islam andput many Muslims at risk from retaliation from other forces. Neo Nazis, the nationalist front and even ordinary citizens have manifested fear, anger and hatred and for Muslims. Yet, Most of the victims of terrorism are Muslim. Muslims die in Syria, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and the North of Mali. And, when they seek a safe haven under verydifficult and dangerous situations they have the door shut in their
faces or receive a hostile welcome.
Many others – musicians, human rights activists, pacifists and institutions- have fought for peace in different waysand havecontributed immensely to promoting a culture of peace. John Lennon with his
‘Give Peace a Chance’, Oumou Sangare’s ‘Nous Voulons la Paix’ arejust examples of persons who haveused their talent, resources and fame topromote peace. Ghandi and Martin Luther King jnr. promoted anon-violent manifesto for a peaceful world and were brutally assassinated for spreading a gospel of justice and peace. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee useda nonviolent approach in promoting peace, democracy and genderequality in war torn Liberia.
UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations are playing an important role at the national, regional and international promoting sustainable development processes. This is all geared towards building peace for men, women and children of all the world’s regions. A peaceful world where therights of all irrespective of colour, creed, religion or gender arerespected and maintained.
The world will not find peace until allthese disparities and inequalities are reduced. It is important that
we all work to achieve human dignity, justice, freedom and welfare,for all people.This fight sometimes engenders conflict. The bold calls for freedom from oppressions, gender justice; equality in race relations, conservation of the environment against corrupt leaders and for betterimmigration rights taking place on the streets of cities and at worldor regional forums are a challenge for the world to re-think how we
live together; to redistribute resources fairly; to respect and honoureach other’s dignity and to recognise that without peace there willnot be sustainable development.
On International Day of Peace, The Women’s Torch wishes all of you Peace,wherever you are, today and always.
Photo Nigeria Intel: Women at a Farm in Nigeria