Plan and Pray for a Significant Peace Initiative around Christmas and New Year

Christmas in Bethlehem

Can a year which experienced such terrible although entirely avoidable violence and conflict still end on a note of peace and hope? Yes, it can if the remaining few days can be used for a significant peace initiative to take place around Christmas or the arrival of the New Year.

This is the time of the year when people, and hopefully world leaders, are likely to be more inclined toward ideas and plans of peace and harmony. Efforts should be made to make the best use of this limited time-span.

There is another reason why such an effort should be made. The calendar for the next year 2024 is full of several important elections and issues of critical importance. It is important that such a year should begin on a note of peace and goodwill.

Although the present world scene is characterized by several deeply worrying conflict situations, at the same time there are some indicators that the time may be favorable for some peace initiatives.

In the context of Ukraine, for example, the enthusiasm of several western supporters of Ukraine for continuing weapons supply and continuing conflict appears to have diminished in recent times after taking a more realistic view of the situation. Hence this may be an opportune type for declaring an unconditional ceasefire on the basis of the present line of control, accompanied by some gestures of goodwill, to be followed after a short gap by negotiations to resolve all contentious issues.

As this writer has argued consistently, the territorial and perhaps some other issues are so contentious that if a ceasefire is to be based on such conditions then it may be delayed indefinitely, leading to further highly distressing, avoidable loss of life. Hence unconditional ceasefire is really the way forward and the likelihood of acceptance of this has improved in recent times. If this idea is promoted in an unbiased way with due respect and dignity for both sides and with true, sincere commitment to peace, then it is just possible that surprising good results can be achieved very quickly in current conditions.

In Gaza the situation is even more distressing just now. However many journalists, activists and others have been working with deep commitment to draw attention to the terrible human tragedy being enacted here and as a result world opinion has also been changing, to the extent that even the USA policy makers and President Joe Biden could not remain entirely unaffected by it. We should not forget that within Israel also there have been some very sincere voices of peace. True, Netanyahu with his extremely aggressive agenda is a big problem and obstacle for any peace initiative. But can just one obstinate leader stand in the path of peace if the peace effort is strong enough?

As the people of Gaza have suffered so much recently and there is increased worldwide sympathy for them, this may be just the right time to speed up the peace efforts to stop the Israeli aggression while securing the release of remaining hostages, to be followed by gestures of peace and goodwill ( such as release of prisoners). This in turn can be followed by talks to secure some kind of a two-state solution which is based on peace and justice, even if only to a limited extent, for all sides.

While these two are the most worrying conflict situations, both in terms of the distress caused and the threats of escalation and widening of conflict, there is the ever-present threat of the blowing up of the USA-China rivalry into a serious conflict situation, and so peace efforts should give due attention to this too.

There are several other costly conflicts too, whether in Sudan, or the wider Horn of Africa region, or in Yemen or Myanmar or elsewhere. Significant efforts for ending conflicts and moving toward peace should be attempted around this time of the year in all conflict zones.

In the extremely important context of disarmament too the world has been moving in the wrong direction as even some of the existing treaties, including some of the most crucial ones concerning weapons of mass destruction, have been weakened or have collapsed. Hence any major step forward in the direction of strengthening disarmament would also be a very welcome and reassuring way of ending an year that has seen so much of highly distressing conflict.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders and A Day in 2071.

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