The International Day of Peace is observed around the world on September 21 every year. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution 36/37, the General Assembly declared this as a day devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”
With climate catastrophes engulfing the world and devastating wars laying waste to a number of countries, we need to start thinking about peace more seriously than ever before. Bangladesh is hardly distant from these challenges. In addition to the devastating flood, the ongoing ethnic cleansing and mass murder of the Rohingya community in neighbouring Myanmar has affected our country deeply and will continue to have an impact for an unforeseeable period of time.
With the spirit of “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace,” we look at three important things that are essential for a peaceful future.
'Climate justice' is a term used for framing global warming as an ethical and political issue, rather than one that is purely environmental or physical in nature. It has become more urgent than ever to demand climate justice. It strikes as the ultimate dystopian reality when the safety of the only habitable planet cannot be taken for granted.
The ongoing flooding that engulfed a third of Bangladesh is only part of the reality that is threatening to impose itself upon the planet permanently. “Cities across the globe, including London, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, Lagos, Copenhagen, New Orleans, San Francisco, Savannah, Ga., and New York, will become modern-day versions of Atlantis, along with countries such as Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands and large parts of New Zealand and Australia,” Chris Hedges, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist writes in his article “The Great Flood.”
The concept of civil liberty is among the cornerstones upon which modern civilizations are built. But we must protect it and challenge those who seek to constrain them. It is easy to overlook the infringement of liberties when it does not affect us directly, but the reality is that it is seldom felt fully until the clutches of unrestrained power snatches away our own freedom.
“The crawl toward despotism within a failed democracy is always incremental. No regime planning to utterly extinguish civil liberties advertises its intentions in advance. It pays lip service to liberty and justice while obliterating the institutions and laws that make them possible,” Chris Hedges writes in 'A Last Chance for Resistance.'
Legendary British singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam, also known by his former name Cat Stevens, in his song “Peace Train” drew the alluring image of a train that takes its passengers to peace. Yusuf performed the famous song at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Concert ceremony when Dr. Muhammad Yunus received the award. The song believes that peace is inevitable and it has to come one day:
“Oh I've been smiling lately, dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be, someday it's going to come”
Yusuf, of course, does not really believe that the coming together as “one” is imminent. And the song essentially is a melancholic reminder that our world doesn't necessarily have to be a place of terrible misery and repression that it is now. But the words in the song also reiterate Yusuf's firm faith in human being's immense capacity for good:
“Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again”
Ultimately, what Yusuf tells us is that peace is only possible if we have hope, no matter how fantastical or impractical it seems. “Hope never makes sense. Hope is weak, unorganized and absurd. Hope, which is always nonviolent, exposes in its powerlessness the lies, fraud, and coercion employed by the state. Hope does not believe in force,” Chris Hedges writes eloquently in the article 'Real Hope Is About Doing Something'. “Hope knows that an injustice visited on our neighbor is an injustice visited on us all. Hope posits that people are drawn to the good by the good. This is the secret of hope’s power and it is why it can never finally be defeated,” he concludes.