‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all’ in 2024? | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all’ in 2024?

/ 05:01 AM December 23, 2023

With Christmas and the New Year approaching, expect to hear “Peace on earth and goodwill to all” in personal greetings, songs, or poems, or emblazoned on tarpaulin signs and holiday cards. It’s a simple and positive message meant to convey a sense of hope and a wish for all of us to get along.

But is there really any chance that 2024 would usher in peace on earth and goodwill to all? A quick look at the current situation in the world doesn’t appear encouraging.

In Gaza, Israel says it needs about two months to wrap up the first stage of its military operations, so peace isn’t likely to come any sooner in that part of the world. Goodwill seems in short supply, too, with the number of casualties and damage that both sides are suffering. Things are also dicey along the Israeli-Lebanese border, and the risk of a regional conflagration is possible.

Not content with fighting the Yemeni government, the Houthis are menacing commercial shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden as part of the Iran-aligned Axis of Resistance against Israel, the United States, and generally, the Western world. The war in Sudan continues to rage on, while the Sahel region in Africa has been wracked by coups and Islamist terrorism that have led to the displacement of millions from their homes.

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In Europe, the war in Ukraine is headed to its second year, with an end to the conflict being unlikely in the short term. In South America, Venezuela is posturing about reclaiming the Essequibo region from Guyana, by force if necessary. Closer to home, Taiwan remains a potential flashpoint along with our very own West Philippine Sea. In just one weekend, China Coast Guard ships inflicted damage to Philippine vessels conducting humanitarian resupply missions in two separate areas with their aggressive and dangerous actions in violation of international laws and maritime safety regulations.

When you think about it, our world has always been riven by conflict, with the human species embroiled in violence against our own kind. Peace and goodwill remain as elusive as they were in centuries past. And yet humanity has not been without its good moments, interludes of peace that have enabled some societies to prosper and their people to live better lives. They may seem few and fleeting in comparison to the butchery and violence, but they’re there and we shouldn’t lose our drive to grasp them so that we may share their benefits with those who hardly know of such moments.

It’s easy to point out the bad things happening right now, but there are positive developments if we look for them. In light of the rising tension between them, Venezuela and Guyana have agreed to meet for a dialogue facilitated by Brazil that is aimed at avoiding unilateral action that could escalate the situation. In talks in Djibouti, African officials involved in efforts to mediate in the war in Sudan said they have obtained a commitment for a ceasefire and a dialogue aimed at resolving the conflict. Following a large-scale offensive by Azerbaijan against Armenia in September 2023, the two sides have recently agreed to normalize relations and hope to sign a peace treaty before the end of the year. Meanwhile in the Philippines, the government and the National Democratic Front are making moves to resume peace talks once more.

Those bright sparks at peace-making remain tenuous and could still fall by the wayside but let’s take what we can, given the current state of the world. It may seem a futile pursuit at times, this quest for world peace and goodwill to all, but it is one we cannot afford to give up on. We need to keep our hope for a better world alive and continue to do our respective roles toward that objective, for as Fyodor Dostoevsky once said, “To live without hope, is to cease to live.”

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So while it can sometimes feel futile to do so given what’s going on around the world, I’d still like to hope and pray that in 2024, there will be “peace on earth and goodwill to all.”

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Moira G. Gallaga served three Philippine presidents as presidential protocol officer and was posted as a diplomat at the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles, and the Philippine Embassy in Washington.

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TAGS: Christmas, gaza, goodwill, Israel, Palestine, Ukraine

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