This International Day of Peace is indeed a unique one as it is being observed at a time when Nations of the world are united in battling an unseen enemy – COVID-19. We are caught in an insidious war that threatens everything we hold dear and are being called to shape peace together and celebrate the day by spreading compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the pandemic. This message is apt as, now more than ever, we must jettison our differences for the sake of our collective survival and victory. Last year’s theme for the International Day of Peace “Climate Action for Peace” highlighted the global climate emergency as a threat to security and stability.
This year, an even greater health emergency is on us and has paralyzed our societies and led to innumerable losses. The discernible pattern, in all these happenings, is that we live in uncertain and ever-changing times and have to prioritize collective action for sustainable change. It is noteworthy that the UN General Assembly, in 2001, unanimously voted to designate the Day as a 24-hour period of non-violence and cease-fire for the purpose of strengthening the ideals of peace, and while this is commendable, the question remains: Is it really effective and enough? Contemporary realities in Nigeria demand a sober reflection on the State of the Nation as we are surrounded on every side by the myriad challenges plaguing our national unity and very existence.
The noose of insecurity and terrorism continues to tighten while inflation, increasing living costs and a thoroughly inept Government continue to drag us headlong to disaster. This year’s theme of “Shaping Peace Together” presumes that dialogue and collaboration are crucial to actualizing shared goals yet, undertaking this task will be onerous as Nigeria is more divided than ever. How can we preach peace to our fellow citizens and the world when our hearts are filled with anger at our Government’s flagrant dereliction of duty and failure to prioritize our welfare and security? How can we do justice to the commemoration of this important International observance day when the core of our nation appears to be disintegrating before our very eyes? What is peace without giving an audience to the various separationist movements, and empathetically hearing their grievances instead of the wanton killings that further aggravates them and strengthens their desire for secession? Do we claim to be peaceful because we remain silent in the face of massive killings going on in Southern Kaduna and North-Eastern Nigeria? At this point, it appears that juxtaposing peace and Nigeria is infeasible.
How can we afford to do justice to this year’s celebration when insecurity remains rampant in our Country and the bare minimum is being done? How can we appreciate democracy as the Government of the people, by the people and for the people, when it appears that there is a major disconnect between the people and her leaders? The virtue of peace must be reflected on and holistically applied in these times when we are being further plagued by the hydra-headed menaces of terrorism, kidnapping and communal clashes.
As we converge for the sake of peace on this day, we appeal for peaceful resolutions to the various conflicts raging within the Country. Our youths are encouraged to inculcate the values of peace and nation-building. The Government must effectively engage the masses in seeking sustainable solutions to the very many problems that cut across economic, religious, ethnic lines etc. The government must show sincere political will in achieving peace by making sure that justice is not only said to be at all times but must be seen to be done. In decrying our state of affairs, all hope is not lost as we are all called to play our part in ensuring that peace in achieved across board. Let us note that peace is the path to progress and development in every society and it is a necessary condition for the positive transformation of Nigeria.
We call on all persons from various walks of life regardless of our religious and many other differences to use our voices in igniting peaceful and progressive conversations, fostering dialogue and taking action because only through these steps, can we triumph over all our enemies both seen and unseen. We firmly believe that with our hearts united and our faith anchored on God, our dream of a Great and peaceful Nigeria shall be realized and celebrated. May our Mother Mary, Queen of Peace, continue to intercede for us all now and always. • Rev. Fr. Raymond Anoliefo is the Executive Director, Justice, Development and Peace Commission, Lagos (JDPC) Lagos