“An opportunity for the world to pause, reflect and consider how best to break the vicious cycle of violence that conflict creates”: International Peace Day was created in 1981 for this very purpose. With U.S. military intervention in Syria presently averted but still not out of the question, observing this year’s Peace Day is all the more pressing.
It is not enough to teach children how to read, write and count. Education has to cultivate mutual respect for others and the world in which we live, and help people forge more just, inclusive and peaceful societies.
To achieve this goal, Ban calls for peace education programs, for protecting students and teachers from conflict, for assistance to rebuild schools destroyed by war and for measures to ” ensure all girls and boys have access to a quality education that includes learning about resolving and preventing conflicts.”
Ban’s words resonate amid ongoing reports about the thousands of refugees from the war in Syria. Of the many children who have ended up in refugee camps in countries including Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, few are receiving any kind of schooling and many are speaking of them as a “lost generation.” More than 100,000 have been killed in the Syrian conflict since March of 2011.
There is a pressing need to teach about “resolving and preventing conflicts,” as more than underscored by this partial list of wars in the past ten years:
1. Somali Civil War (1991-present)
The Somali government was felled by a clan-based armed opposition groups in 1991 and the country has been at war ever since. A U.N.-led peacekeeping initiative in the 1990s was ultimately unsuccessful. An interim federal government, the Transitional Federal Government, was established in 2004 but the power vacuum has given rise to radical groups, including Al-Shabaab.
2. War in Darfur (2003 – present)
The ongoing conflict in Darfur began in February of 2003 when rebel groups (the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and Justice and Equality Movement) accused the Sudan government of marginalizing the country’s non-Arab population and rose up in arms against it. Casualties are estimated at several hundred thousand, with many starving after being forced to migrate and being displaced from their homes.
3. Iraq War (2003-2011)
U.S. forces invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003, on the grounds that the country allegedly possessed weapons of massed destruction. Americans remained until December of 2011 to fight an insurgency against the U.S. occupation and the newly formed Iraqi government. Bombings and other attacks including some this past weekend continue to take thousands of lives.
Photos of soldier/peace sign, Iraq, Libya from Wikimedia CommonsPhoto Credit: Terry Mitchell, Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Islamist_fighters_in_northern_Mali.PNG, Photo Credit: International Solidarity Movement, Photo Credit: Magharebia, Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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