September 21, International Day of Peace: Building on History Towards a Global Call for Peace

The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), together with its allied local and regional networks including the Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW) and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict- Southeast Asia (GPPAC-SEA), joins the rest of the world come September 21 in calling for a celebration of peace and a stop to the destruction and violence that conflict and war brings. Engaged in dialogue and peace-building for a quarter-century, IID treasures every effort and measure whereby the message of peace and an end to war resonate in the minds and hearts of men and women.

The International Day of Peace, initially known as World Ceasefire Day, traces its history to grassroots-driven, civilsociety calls for global conflict ceasefires since the 1980’s. The call gained UN attention by the turn of the millennium, capped with the declaration of September 21 as the official International Day of Peace. In all these efforts, civil society has remained a key and involved sector in furthering the call for peace, which IID fully supports.

For us based in the Philippines even while we reach out to places like Burma, West Papua and South Thailand, it is in a way both ironic yet apt that September 21 marks this global call for peace and an end to conflict. Forty years ago, President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed Presidential Decree 1081 that put the Philippines under a decade of martial rule and decimated many of our rights, liberties and the ranks of progressive advocates as well. Within and around that span of time, many of our current conflicts took root, grew and consolidated themselves, nurtured in the fertile environment of the dictator Marcos’ excesses. For many of those who survived through that era, Martial Law struck a blow that still reverberates strongly with a number of us to this very day.

Yet we should also note that despite this history we have moved on with manifest hopeful steps forward. Our Muslim brothers and sisters, after years of conflict, have shown their willingness to talk and act on peace. We applaud the unclenched fist being proffered by both the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as they move towards the homestretch with their peace talks aimed at ending the decades-long war in Mindanao. We continue to urge and encourage other protagonists elsewhere to do the same, to come together, talk, dialogue and meet, to reconsider ways for moving forward, and to never stop exploring possibilities towards ending conflict and building peace. We do not ask those who have been victimized to forget, but rather to consider taking the extraordinary step towards resolving their conflicts and ultimately allowing us all to wage a just peace instead.

But the work before us remains sizeable. On the South East Asian front, we see the rise of regimes that parallel and even surpass those we have found contemptible in the past. Thus we continue to sound the call for a resolution to the humanitarian crisis in Burma, particularly the intensifying militarization prevailing in the Arakan and Kachin states. We are constantly reminded of the plight of the West Papuans and South Thais who continue to suffer militarization and human rights abuse under oppressive regimes. On this day of peace, let us remember their ongoing struggles and take them on as part of our own.

IID therefore finds it appropriate that our observance of the International Day of Peace here in the Philippines and insolidarity with our partners abroad, is framed within the context of our recent history, our continuing struggles and pegged on a date of such historical significance for many of us. For it is in realizing and cherishing what we have sacrificed and endured, what we have gained and lost, and ultimately what it is we continue to fight for, can we fully appreciate that which we now have. Towards this end, on this observance of the International Day of Peace, IID commits and redoubles its efforts towards fostering dialogue, resolving conflict and celebrating peace both here and in other conflicted regions we serve in SouthEast Asia. This day-long respite may prove to be the invaluable pause from all conflict that allows us all to evaluate and rethink our pathways to peace . Towards this end and for us all, let September 21 not be the apex of our efforts for peace but rather our starting point.

Let us silence the guns and build on peace. And let us all start now.

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