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Message of Peace

It is exciting! It is encouraging! It is historical! It brings enormous hope for the future. And it is not just an ordinary demonstration but a mass quest for peace. The past weeks have witnessed millions of people on the streets around the world, with protests and slogans to stop the war. There were grandparents holding the fingers of their grandchildren on one hand and a peace placard in another, the parents of September 11 victims and the children of martyrs of the Second World War who turned to peace activists, expressing their serious concerns against war.


In India, hundreds of former child labourers and school going children along with teachers, parents, social workers, artists and politicians had a daylong peace prayer at Rajghat, Mahatma Gandhi's memorial in New Delhi. Challenging questions were raised by some youngsters like Om Prakash, Shahzad and Sunita, as to why children always become the worst sufferers of war and why the politicians and adults cannot give a second thought to their plight before opting for it. One of them also said, 'If you kill our fathers before our eyes, do you think we will ever sit at rest? You will give birth to numerous terrorists if you drop bombs on our families.' Another asked, 'If you cannot give us peace and childhood, what right do you have to rob them from us?'


According to a study, an estimated number of dead and wounded civilians will be at least 500,000 if just conventional weapons are used. Nobody is able to predict the damage if nuclear weapons are used. Only the knowledge of our history can answer how devastating it would be."

This mass upsurge for peace has proved those wrong who were under the impression that there is only one superpower left in the post-cold war. In fact another is born-that is the people’s power, which at least has delayed if not fully stopped the United States and its alliance in their decision of war on Iraq. Thousands of Iraqi children and their families’ lives are about to vanish if the war is launched. Beyond the moment of the war, the nation will lose generations of innocent smile and hope, which cannot be easily restored after such trauma. Thousands of them will be abandoned on the streets and in unchained cycle of poverty, illiteracy, child labour and loss of hope.


Is it not a shame that the world is not prepared to spend an additional 10 billion dollars to protect all its children from exploitation and to ensure their education which amounts to nothing but four days of military expenditure? Is it not a greater shame that when most people want to live in peace, a few powerful politicians often manage to find excuses or raise age-old arguments that war is a necessity and an inevitable solution to buy peace? Sadly, we have produced enough weapons to destroy the entire humanity but not enough life saving medicines, safe drinking water, books and toys for our children.


Even before a war is launched in Iraq, the economic embargo imposed on the country for over the last 10 years has led to a massive impoverishment of the country. Due to lack of basic facilities, especially food and medicine, more than 1.7 million Iraqis died-almost a third of the lives lost are children who never had a chance to live their lives. Even if they had survived to live, 800,000 children suffered from malnutrition. WHO and UNICEF reports show that 6,000 children below the age of 5 years old die each month in Iraq, affected by the ignorance of the impact of war on people. Why should these innocents pay a heavy price due to Saddam or any other?


To highlight a few more alarming facts, the military expenditure over the past two years has increased in all the regions. The steepest rises were in Africa and Asia. Of the 25 conflicts in the year 2000, greatest numbers were in these two regions. The situation has been worse during the last decade. Asia which has about 40% of the world’s child labour force spends about 115 billion dollars on military and has witnessed an increase of 50% in military expenditure over the last decade. Similarly, the African region spends 14 billion dollars on military with 20% increase in the same period with 30% of child labour. Also Latin America with 50% increase in military budget in the same period with 30 billion current spending on military has 20% of child labour force.


According to a study, an estimated number of dead and wounded civilians will be at least 500,000 if just conventional weapons are used. Nobody is able to predict the damage if nuclear weapons are used. Only the knowledge of our history can answer how devastating it would be. The United States has not ruled out the possibility of using nuclear weapons, if the situation demands so. Wars in themselves are highly destructive leading to huge amount of displacement of people in the affected zones. And if at all it materialises, you and I might have to watch unfortunate scenes on our television screens that how the fastest and the most sophisticated guided missiles are bombing on Baghdad.


The dangerous reality is that the technological advancement has always been used as the most effective weapon for mass destruction and violence.There is no doubt that many of the weapons and strategies designated for ‘the defence’ are increasingly irrelevant to the real underlying instabilities and dangers facing their people. Armaments have always been the examples of misused technology, right from the invention of a sharp stone to kill animals to swords, spears, arrows, guns, cannons, and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The resilience in the expenditure is a cause of concern to us all since so many human development challenges still need to be addressed in these regions-homes to largest concentration of poor, illiterate and the exploited.


Of course one must not ignore the dangers of terrorism. Many countries have been facing the curse for years but it did not acquire so much momentum on the world agenda. Once again the most shameful incident of September 11 has exposed the ugly face of terror. We should recognise and respect the sentiments of the people of US and elsewhere. But revenge is no solution. Similarly, the alleged production and procurement of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction by Baghdad or any other country is a matter of serious concern. They must be unearthed wherever they are and destroyed without a second thought keeping in mind that war is not the only remedy. Any war, violence or destruction causes unprecedented hatred and revenge, which may result in extremism, terrorism and destruction.


I am writing this not with any ideological, geo-political or religious sentiments but with a deep concern for the innocent children in Iraq who may be punished for no fault of theirs. My friends, another war is in the offing, another death of peace efforts is on its way to glory, another seed for future revenge is sown and another blot is waiting to be put on the face of the humankind. Such a war would have very serious long-term repercussions and definitely there would be worldwide reactions to it.


Today, on behalf of millions of children and peace loving people we must speak up and stand for peace, as peace is not just the privilege of George Bush or Tony Blair or any other politician. It is our birthright - the right of every human being. I propose that without getting into any political debate we should raise our voice for peace, as well as against the very culture of war which eventually deprives millions of other children from their childhood, smile, protection and education.

Kailash Satyarthi... the seeker of truth
Copyright © 2018 Kailash Satryarthi
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