To play an important role to promote peace in Nigeria and the wider world, writes Olalekan A. Babatunde
Today is the International Day of Peace. Since 1981, September 21 every year is declared the International Day of Peace otherwise known as Peace Day, by the United Nations General Assembly. It is celebrated as “an annual observance of global non-violence and cease-fire and urged all nations and people to commemorate the day as an opportunity to promote peaceful resolutions on conflicts and to honour a cessation of hostilities during the day.” Thereafter many countries including Nigeria commemorate the day with activities that contribute to ceasefires, tolerance, inclusiveness and peaceful coexistence. For example, at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), the government’s foremost agency with the responsibility of investigating the causes and dynamics of violent conflict and promoting peacebuilding, the day is a special one. Since 2008, IPCR has marked the day with peace walk, lectures, sharing of messages of peace, the symbolic release of doves, games and awards, amongst other activities. Some civil society organizations also mark the day under the guidance of the theme of that year. This year’s theme is “Climate Action for Peace”. In other words, its idea is to take pragmatic actions to prevent and manage climate or environmentally-induced conflict either as an individual, group or nation.
In essence, the Peace Day is asking me to pause and reflect, as an individual, on how to play an important role to promote peace in Nigeria and the wider world. Even though I am not engaging in any activities that are taking place across the globe, the day expects me to go look inward for the need to think peace, talk peace, imaging peace and encourage peace. The question here is: why and how could I promote peace in the face of a harsh and difficult environment such as ours? For instance, many people you meet, there are so many complaints, resentment, sadness on faces, desperation and others. Most places you turn to (watching news, social media) are fraught with violent conflicts, criminalities, disasters, etc., that made people to develop fear, despair, anger, sickness or confusion.
Yet, amid armed robbery, kidnapping, ritual killings, cultism, fraudulence and other social vices that pervade the society, I am expected to promote peace. While confronting these challenges, I need to pause and think peace. I look around me thinking someone would give peace to me but there is none. This is not how peace works. According to Jonathan Armando, “peace can only be found in the small corners of my own self …” (HuffPost – Breaking News, U.S. and World News). Another question is: How can I be at peace while some parts of Nigeria are fighting or facing violence? But more important, before peace becomes a state of the world, it must first be a state of mind. I develop a sense of inner calm through self-assessment which helps me to think peace and talk peace. Thus it is very likely I realize that I need to support peace because it actually begins with me. If I am at peace with myself, then I can share my thoughts on peace with messages of peace, unity and hope; feel better and relate better with the other fellows and be a living example and beacon of peace to the larger society. The Peace Day is asking me to interact with others with love and justice while forgiving those that have offended me. Also I can increase my commitment by speaking up when others are at risk of violence. By doing this and other lofty initiatives, others will look upon me as a source of inspiration and Nigeria will attain peaceful coexistence and development through me.
Looking inward, I must denounce my mentality of creating fear and intimidation in the minds of others, but reach out, show respect, educate people, offer my prayers for peace, work for love, justice, equality, unity and freedom. I feel renewed and energized for the Peace Day has given me a new hope for peace and I feel like participating in its celebration. I am expected to join others and work for peace and justice. Peace Day is asking me to adopt non-violent approach to problems, because they are always best solved through dialogue and negotiations. I can only be part of the solution and not part of the problem. To overcome conflict and violence, I will ensure that peace reaches everywhere in Nigeria through my voice and actions.
That is to say the Peace Day is also requesting me to build peace through love and respect for human life, caring, understanding, reconciliation, hope, tolerance and resilience. The fact that we have confronted enormous challenges of conflict and violence especially in our recent history does not mean I should be indifferent to the Peace Day. The day provides an opportunity for me to think on how I can turn the tide and make things or situations better. My attitude and actions could be renewed today if I think deeply about the concept “peace” in relation to myself, to others, to the environment and the society at large. Simply put, peace is freedom from disturbance or a state of harmony. Peace is a feeling I am born with. Therefore, the beliefs and values that have made me to predispose to certain behaviour, attitudes and perceptions should be transformed on this day to support or act on various initiatives in mitigating threats or risks to peaceful society and actualize growth and development.
In conclusion, as we are celebrating the 2019 Peace Day, I think it is important to remind ourselves the relevance of the day’s reflections and lessons to Nigeria more than ever before. I have to commit or recommit myself to what the day means. It means being an embodiment of peace in our challenging times in order to bring us closer to our expected destination. Today I feel absolutely peaceful with myself and I have decided not to live as an enemy with others by forgiving anyone that has offended me. For us in Nigeria, the main idea of peace is to pledge that we will pursue dispassionate values to promote a culture of peace, build social cohesion and heal our country, Africa and the world. As we celebrate peace today, it is hoped that every day can be a day of peace. To make this day very successful, the Peace Day is asking me to be an example of peace to others. We need to promote peace where we live, work, play and recreate. I wish all Nigerians and residents a wonderful International Day of Peace.
Dr Babatunde is a research fellow and peacebuilding practitioner at the Nigeria’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja