Does peace have a chance in our world?

The escalation of hostilities between Israel and Iran, while the war rages in Ukraine, and civilians continue to be butchered in Gaza, reflects the troubled times we live in. Random gun attacks in the US, recent stabbings in Australia, ongoing conflict in Sudan and Syria, all paint a dark picture of our world today. An eye for an eye… or two eyes for one, seems to be the credo in geopolitics today. Amidst unprecedented violence and bloodshed, while the assault on Ukraine continued, the Hamas carried out a bloody attack on Israel, which responded ferociously, pounding Palestine with bombs, making no distinction between civilians and Hamas militants. Hospitals and homes were bombed, and turned into rubble, and people were killed in thousands. Each morning, the world woke up to heartrending images of children… injured, burnt, or dead… bringing to mind Shakespeare’s famous lines from King Lear: “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport.”

But here, gods were replaced by humans. The relentless attacks on Gaza continued; most western nations led by the US cheering from the sidelines, as Gaza’s helpless civilians, most of them women and children, died in thousands. They were finally jolted, and frowned, when the Israel military killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers delivering humanitarian aid in Gaza. Israel acted swiftly and sacked a couple of senior military officials. But who can condone Israel’s disproportionate and twisted response to the Hamas attack… destroying hospitals, killing innocent children? There is a limit to collateral damage. The numbers say it all; is this how a nation should exercise its “right to defend itself,” when that ‘defence’ results in the death of over 30,000 Palestinian civilians, the majority being women and children, over 200 aid workers and around 100 Palestinian journalists trying to report from that horror zone? What about respect for international humanitarian law or rules of war? Or, do these exist only for the world’s weaker and not powerful nations?

More violence and tension came when Iran responded to Israel killing two of its senior generals and several others at its diplomatic facility in Syria, by launching some 300 drones and a few missiles on Israel, almost all of which were intercepted and destroyed with help from the US, UK and Jordan. This escalation spooked financial markets across the world and in the cacophony of sound that resulted, what was pushed to the inside pages was the raging armed conflict in Sudan. So and so Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, described it as “the worst child displacement crisis in the world,” while addressing the recent international humanitarian conference on Sudan held in Paris. And yet, she added, “in many of our countries, as the war enters its second year, it is practically absent from our daily news. Every life counts equally, whether in Ukraine, in Gaza, or in Sudan.” The international community was just not doing enough, she said.

As the drums of war beat with a greater frenzy, Rotary’s Peace Centres and Peace Scholars gain a greater relevance and sharper focus. Every drop of peace matters in this raging flood of hate, violence and war that has engulfed our world.

Rasheeda Bhagat

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