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COLUMN: International Day of Peace offers chance to improve lives both locally and abroad

'Take a moment Tuesday to be thankful we live in such a stable, peaceful country,' says writer, encouraging locals to reflect on what life would be like if they lived in war-torn countries
Dove and heart

It’s hard to keep up with the many and varied days designated to remind us of a certain cause or event.

The best known of these celebrate military victories, Armistice Day, VJ Day, VE Day, or famous people like Martin Luther King. Some have us reflect on atrocities, notably the bombing of Hiroshima, Pearl Harbour and most recently 9/11.

Does September 21 ring a bell?

I thought not, it doesn't to most of us. However it’s a day we overlook at our peril. Designated by the UN as the International Day of Peace, it’s a day to reflect on how war-torn our world still is a century after the “war to end all wars.”

When we think war, we automatically think soldiers, bombs, missiles, rockets, rifles, and so on. We don’t immediately think of the massive displacement of men, women and children who are rendered homeless and often stateless by conflicts.

On every continent including our own, there are refugee camps housing over 64 million victims of war, genocide, poverty and famine.

You may ask, so what’s it to us? We’re not responsible for the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, the famine in Yemen, the displacement of the Rohingya, the caravans of those fleeing violent and corrupt regimes in Central America.

Perhaps not directly, but look a little closer.

A Canadian company is acquiring beach property in Honduras which is displacing indigenous communities. A plant in Midland is supplying light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen. Canadian companies have mining interests in Myanmar. We all sooner or later wear clothes manufactured by Uyghurs’ forced labour in China and Canada has actually had boots on the ground in Afghanistan.

So how can we mark the International Day of Peace in 2021?

Wallowing in anxiety, guilt, or xenophobia will help neither us nor the victims of these seemingly endless wars.

Here are a few positive suggestions:

Take a moment on Tuesday to be thankful that we live in such a stable, peaceful country.

Take another moment to imagine what your life would be like if you and your children were reduced to living in a tent in someone else’s country with little prospect of a better future.

Then take another moment to consider what Canada might do to help at least some of these disenfranchised people.

Finally, at the local level, see how you can help welcome a newcomer to our town.

A warm smile and an outstretched hand are infinitely more effective than tanks and guns in creating a peaceful and prosperous international community.

The solution lies within each of us.

Mark your calendar, Tuesday September 21, International Day of Peace, take a moment.

(Elizabeth O’Connor is a Midland resident involved with Peaceworks)