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Observe Global Truce Day

/ 05:10 AM September 19, 2017

Marawi is now more than just the name of a beloved city in Muslim Mindanao. After more than a hundred days of war that has devastated lives and destroyed the regal city, it is now etched in the heart of every Filipino. It is a grim reminder of and a deadly testament to the fact that no war is worth waging — neither in our country nor elsewhere.

Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, southern Sudan, northern Nigeria, Central African Republic, and Cote d’Ivoire in Africa; the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar; Mexico and its drug-induced wars in Central America. Each embattled country or region represents countless lives lost, the destruction of homes that took entire lives to build, and the irretrievable loss of a generation’s future.

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In the third week of each September, we observe the international day of peace. The 2017 theme is apt and urgent: “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All,” inspired by a coalition called “Together,” launched by the 193-member United Nations during the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants in September 2016.  An initiative to support “diversity, nondiscrimination and acceptance of refugees and migrants,” it challenges the hostile actions taken by states in diverse continents toward those who have had to flee wars and manmade and natural disasters to survive.

As Global Truce Day, Sept. 21 sends a timely message: to silence the guns as a symbol of the aspiration of peoples everywhere to end, one day at a time, the scourge of war; to make everyone realize that the costs of war outweigh the perceived gains of warfare; and to appeal to global citizens to put pressure on their leaders and mobilize to underline two interlinked aims—to make peace possible so that together we can train our sights and redouble our efforts to make poverty history.

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End the bloodshed! This is the cry of the aggrieved and the vulnerable in countries in conflict.

We are part of the main; we make up part of the whole and cannot be indifferent while parts of the country are plunged into violent turmoil. Neither can we turn our eyes away when conflict flares into the settling of old scores, justifying violent retaliation because of perceived hurts or deep grievances.

If leaders are unable to find ways to negotiate political settlements, then citizens must resolve to practice unconventional peace diplomacy that will force states or their leaders, clusters of countries or intergovernmental institutions, to engage in humanitarian intervention. We must strive for a “pause” to enable essential services to be delivered to endangered and defenseless peoples, as well as to provide room for reflection to think peace, and how to build it piece by painful piece.

By reducing the number of deaths we can also ease the intensity of the hatred and bitterness that fuel the “wars to the death” that we have witnessed firsthand in our country and from a distance in other parts of Asia and in Africa, the Americas and the Middle East.

Global Truce Day reminds policymakers and decisionmakers of their responsibility to protect, and, more importantly, to remind global citizens of their critical role so that they can employ the “unconventional arsenal” of citizen peacemaking that can breach the walls of intolerance and indifference.

This is the time to push back against scripted arguments for protracted conflicts in our land and elsewhere.  We can ask questions, and march the extra mile so that we can begin to understand what it means to build bridges and to encourage people to live peaceably together. Indeed, we can make possible the dream of the next generation who wish to live side by side with their neighbors despite differences in class, gender, race, religion, or ethnicity.

“In my Father’s house, there are many mansions,” scripture tells us. Today we have to make room not only for our neighbors but also for those whose paths cross ours, for in a world wired to its fingertips we may have become responsible for their futures as well. If our eyes are open in this journey we call life, we may realize that the dreams that bind us are stronger than what divides us. What this day then ultimately provides is the opportunity to listen and learn, and to act since we must. Seize the moment!

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Ed Garcia, a framer of the 1987 Constitution, taught at Ateneo and UP, worked at both Amnesty International and International Alert in London, and now serves as consultant on the formation of scholar-athletes at FEU Diliman.

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TAGS: Ed Garcia, Global Truce Day, Inquirer Commentary, Marawi siege
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