On September 21, the International Day of Peace (IDP) was marked by the United Nations across the world under the theme: ‘Actions for Peace: Our Ambition for the #GlobalGoals’ in order to recognize efforts at individual and collective level for fostering world peace. According to the UN, the year 2023 marks the mid-point in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed to ensure peaceful, tolerant, and inclusive societies.
The United Nations was founded on October 24, 1945, at a critical time when the world was suffering due to the horrific devastation of World War II. The UN made it clear that its membership is open to every ‘peace-loving’ state. Pakistan was able to become a member of the UN immediately after its establishment and since the first day, Pakistan has always actively participated in every international peace mission under the United Nations.
In every society of the world, doves are considered a symbol of life, peace, innocence and purity. The bird is also mentioned in the holy religious books that after the flood, Prophet Noah sent out a dove from the boat to inquire about the ground situation. After some time, it returned with a piece of olive branch in its beak, reflecting that the land had become green again and finally life had come back. According to the ancient Greek, an olive branch represents goodness and peace.
The UN also endorsed the image of a dove with an olive branch in its beak as a symbol of peace. In November 1974, Palestinian freedom leader Yasser Arafat delivered an historic speech, referred to as the 'gun and olive branch' speech, at the UN headquarters in New York, which became the headline of every newspaper in the world. In his concluding remarks, he said, "Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”
The UN started celebrating the International Day of Peace in 1981, and then from 1982 to 2001, this international day was celebrated on the third Tuesday of September every year. However, after the 9/11 tragedy, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously decided to celebrate the International Day of Peace regularly on September 21 every year.
The day begins with the ringing of the United Nations Peace Bell at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, which is made from coins donated by children from different continents of the world, and gifted by the UN Association of Japan. This bell is a reminder of the human cost of war.
Like every year, the UN released a theme under which awareness events are organized around the world to observe the International Day of Peace. The UN, on that day, used to emphasize that there should be equal opportunities for every person; everyone should be treated equally; and discrimination based on prejudice is the biggest obstacle to world peace.
This year, the UN, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has highlighted the significance of intensifying efforts to build peace at the individual and collective levels. Undoubtedly, achieving the global goals will lead to a culture of peace around the world.
However, as a patriotic Pakistani, it is very worrisome that this year we are celebrating the International Day of Peace at a time when very rapid changes are taking place in our region and efforts are being made to involve our beloved country in unnecessary conflicts. International media reports have raised concerns that some world powers are looking for a new battlefield to fulfil their vested interests.
It is undoubtedly a success of the United Nations that it blocked a third world war so far; however, the lack of resolution of long-standing and new conflicts emerging between different countries are big hurdles to creating a culture of peace internationally.
The writer is a former member of the
National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.
He tweets/posts RVankwani