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By Mark DaCosta- The United Nations (UN) has designated September 21, International Day of Peace. Known also as World Peace Day, it is observed annually. Established in 1981 by unanimous UN resolution 36/37, the General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”
The day is dedicated to world peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence. On that day, the UN encourages ceasefires in combat zones for humanitarian aid access as a concrete demonstration of a nation’s dedication to peaceful ideals.
The day was first celebrated in 1981 and is kept by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples around the world. Word Peace day 2022 is being observed under the theme: End racism. Build peace.
Unfortunately, World Peace Day 2022 falls amid significant international and local tensions, including a major war in Europe. Noteworthy, too, considering the theme of the 2022 observance, is the fact that many such tensions are rooted in considerations of race, and differences in culture that arise from ethnic differences.
A major component of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia are the perceptions of some State leaders that historical cultural factors justify military actions that have, so far, cost thousands of lives, and billions of dollars in infrastructural damage. As things stand, the conflict has resulted in global food and energy crises, financial instability, political realignments, and fears of nuclear catastrophes, among other immediate issues and concerns.
Differences in ethnic identity perceptions are the source of other conflicts and potential clashes throughout the world. While most of the world’s attention is focused on the Ukraine-Russia hostilities, The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has simmered since 1988, is once again making headlines. This clash is an ethnic and territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The region is inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians, while seven surrounding districts were, inhabited mostly by Azerbaijanis until their expulsion during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. The dynamically complex situation is once again threatening to flare up.
Guyanese know too, of ethnic disputes within the borders of India and Pakistan, as well as conflicts between those nations. Citizens know of ethnically fuelled wars on the African continent, one of which divided the nation of Sudan into two separate countries. In that case, religious and cultural divisions also contributed to the outcome.
Locally, Guyana continues to face widening ethnic divisions. Those divisions appear to be getting worse rather than healing. One reason for this unfortunate reality may be that political forces are fuelling ethnic cleavages in order to consolidate their bases. In any case, regardless of the complicated nature and complex causes of such divisions, Guyanese, generally, may be well advised to take opportunities such as World Peace Day to reflect on the consequences of divisions.
Citizens may wish to think about the destruction that divisions may cause. And we may wish to consider taking the steps necessary to prevent further damage to our beautiful country.