A Piece of Peace: When Will The Conflict Cease?


A Piece of Peace: When Will The Conflict Cease?

Editor’s Note: [Faheem Mohammed Class of 2020]In this impassioned outburst from yours truly, the painful episodes of war and torment are decried and deconstructed. This piece attempts to bring an essence of hope in a world obsessed with disaster and lacking in optimism.This essay won  the Gold Award at The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition organized by the Royal Commonwealth Society.

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” —Albert Einstein

It is this understanding; this sense of propriety, that has enabled the Commonwealth of Nations to endure times of turbulence, and prosper in times of peace. However, the spectrum of military engagement and methods of warfare that has now expanded to include biological, chemical and cyber modes of conflict, threatens the post-Cold War world order that has brought about peace and stability in a majority of Commonwealth nations.

Most prominent of these episodes of rising instability is the Syrian civil war. The political polarisation and divisiveness over thisescalating conflict is unprecedented, andquite frankly — immensely sickening. Saving
lives should not be a question to be debated or politicised; it is a sacred duty that we have disregarded for far too long.

This should not be the case because this is not a question of Christian or Muslim; of Kurdish or Yazidi. It is a question of life or death; of fear or hope; of peace or savagery. It doesn’t matter that the Commonwealth is an agglomeration of diverse people. But it matters that we remain an agglomeration of decent people.

You would be lying to yourself if seeing images of that bloodied Syrian boy stashed at the back of an ambulance, didn’t pull at your heartstrings. His eyes, glimmering with the childish innocence that symbolises humanity at its best, now ironically confronts its worst. This is the cost of war, and ultimately that of peace, because we live in a world where peacebuilding comes after conflict and does not always preempt it.

It is easy to scapegoat and marginalise a certain sect of people for crimes they didn’t commit. Times of divisiveness demand that we embrace a common humanity that each one of us possesses; a common empathy we share as human beings, a belief that hope will last us through the darkness, and that conscience will guide us in the light. A conscience that brings us to the choices that matter — unity over division; hope over fear; and most importantly, right over wrong.page1image20288  Ultimately, it is this humanity that should be at the very foundation of 21st century peacebuilding efforts — not short-sighted economic interests or political incentives, as is the case today. The kind of humanity that transcends cultural boundaries. The humanity that diminishes doubtfulness and distrust that has plagued the world scene for far too long.

The Syrian refugee crisis not only poses a gargantuan humanitarian problem, but also an ethical dilemma. Our inaction and silence speak volumes on the world stage — and it is barely positive.

Peace, in its complex essence, is an enigma of understandings and contributions. It is a matter of pride that over 50% of the UN Peacekeeping Force is constituted by troops from the Commonwealth. However, there is a startling disparity of contribution size between developed and developing Commonwealth countries. Bangladesh, a small developing country in the Indian subcontinent contributed 6,772 troops to the force, compared to just 10 from New Zealand.

The human cost of peace, it seems, is a burden for the developing world to bear whilst some developed nations are engaged in crippling proxy arms races that devour resources at an unsustainable and illogical pace. World peace is a commodity that is in the interest of every sovereign nation, and it is only fair that developed nations match, if not exceed the contributions made by their developing and undeveloped counterparts.

Now, because the cost of war is in itself, oftentimes the cost of peace, it also means that institutions at the cornerstone of civil society, like hospitals and schools, destroyed in war, have to be rebuilt when peace triumphs. This is another economic burden that most of the world does nothing to alleviate. It is a necessity that is often superseded by the requirement of bare necessities
like food and water, in undeveloped countries.

Since peacebuilding requires understanding, and because understanding requires some degree of education, any hope of the youth as an agent of change is essentially nipped in the bud due to the destruction of educational institutions. This brings us to other costs of war, that if not properly tended to, may become costs of peace as well, like illiteracy and malnutrition.

Modern peacebuilding has generally concentrated on bringing a region to a state where there is an absence of conflict in the short-term. However, nothing is done to address the very problems that bring about conflicts, like the disproportionate usage of resources, lack of education or inaccessibility of medical facilities. In undeveloped countries, it has become the responsibility of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to mitigate the effects of war. And if a certain country has economic or political interests in the region, it may mediate peace talks. Otherwise, they’re left to fend for themselves. International pressure must be placed on countries that do nothing to mitigate conflicts within their own borders, even while having the requisite resources to do so.

Conflict-prone countries must be edified about the role of education in the maturation of economies and the toll war has on its people. The cost of peace isn’t just the casualties from conflict — the economic strain of war cripples the entire populace, regardless of income group.

Surrender should never be the cost of peace as every country has the right to its dignity and stature; bowing before an aggressor would deteriorate national morale and by extension, citizen productivity. Mutually equitable peace treaties, optimally achieved with minimum skirmishes and combatant engagement is ideal. If a third country playing the role of a mediator would help expedite the peace process, then that country is obliged to act in that capacity and must welcome that responsibility, because peace must not have a price; peace itself is the reward.

It is ironic how we, at times need to resort to aggression to maintain peace. Soldiers come in where diplomats have failed. Diplomacy is a perpetual rite; without its performance, minor misunderstandings can escalate to a full- blown military conflict. That is why diplomacy shouldn’t just be between governments, it must also be in the form of public diplomacy, wherein we engage the people so that they have a broad perspective of world affairs. The lack of misinformation will in turn, cause a decline in the global rise of populist demagoguery.

It is deplorable that there is a dearth of initiative among nations to resolve their differences. A phenomenon I like to call ‘national introversion’ is slowly creeping into the world scene. Nationalistic politicians promise total independence from imports and a self-sustenance that is impossible to bring about in the increasingly diversified economies of the world. In today’s globalised world, isolation is a luxury only the ignorant can afford.

It is easy to cave into cynicism when the times are so dire. Giving into pessimism, in itself is defeat. The world was built on hope. A hope that every generation will be better off than the one before it. A hope that we can celebrate our differences and find cohesion in our many commonalities.
The challenges we will face, the costs we must bear, and the barriers we must break, must not deter us from building a more peaceful world; a more inclusive world. A world where peacebuilding is easier than war; a world where optimism trumps pessimism; a world where there is room for discussion; a world where we realise that the cost of war outweighs that of dialogue, because in dialogue we only have words to lose, but have the world to gain.

The refugee crisis that has embroiled the world offers an opportunity unparalleled in history. An opportunity to define the Commonwealth, as a people. An opportunity to proclaim to the world that we are a decent people; a welcoming people. A people that does not quiver in fear, but revels in hope. A people that does not retreat to hate, but conquers with love.

In this ideal world that we must strive to be, peace costs nothing more than a few words.