Peace work is an unfinished agenda. It seems that we still live in times of war. Amidst all the senseless violence, is it possible to understand what is happening today in our world?
Perfect peace can never be realised in this broken world; there are always injustices and (violent) conflicts in our own societies, both local and global. The only thing we can do is to believe in peace and to keep working towards it. It is possible to create peace. People of faith believe in peace because it is their radical hope for a better and just world that keeps them moving. Hope is asking for courage. People who believe in peace make a difference. They are called “people of hope.”
Let us have a brief look at the state of our world. The present turmoil in the world is an evidence of a world characterised by chaos. Three planes crashed in just one week, with Flight MH17 attacked in the Eastern part of Ukraine with 298 people killed. Instability in Egypt and fighting in Libya continue and a military aircraft has been shot down over Benghazi. The consequences of increased militarisation in Israel and Palestine are horrific. The disintegration of Iraq, the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq, the Levant (ISIS), and the steady destruction of Syria add to the sense of despair to which it is easy to succumb. We can add to that the ongoing tragedies of poverty, mass killings, and violations of human rights in South Sudan, Nigeria, and elsewhere on our planet. Climate change and growing extremism present even more complex issues to be addressed. Fear and mistrust, resulting in hatred and violent action, continue to mount both locally and globally.
This ongoing chaos is evidence of the precariousness of the current world order. It is gravely dangerous to attempt to keep order primarily through old means: namely, the concept of strategic stability, ultimately underwritten by massive arsenals of nuclear weapons. Today, our world system is just too complex and fragmented for nuclear nationalism to be effective. At the same time, war is still used as a continuation of purposes of politics; it is simply “politics by other means.” But war always signifies a defeat for humanity. Arms stockpiling is still on the agenda of various countries, while needs of so many people, not least the poor in our world, need social welfare.
The system managing our world affairs will be increasingly unpredictable as they increase in complexity. Seemingly dormant, yet still very real within our chaotic and complex world, are more than 16,000 nuclear weapons, many of which are on high-alert status. Fissionable material remains insufficiently secured and vulnerable to theft or misuse. Nuclear weapons are possessed by nine countries, of which the USA and the Russian Federation possessing 93%. These twentieth-century relics constitute nothing short of an existential threat to humanity.
Regardless of the ratification of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the acknowledged agreements for nuclear disarmament, we are far from our goal to live our lives in a nuclear weapons-free world. Rising awareness of the fatal humanitarian consequences of deployment of nuclear weapons, may it be by accident or testing, is extremely important. The international peace movement and Civil Society as such is called to support the Oslo-Nayrit-Vienna process on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and to encourage the efforts of those states committed to building a global consensus for the outlawing of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons can be stigmatized and banned just as chemical and biological weapons have been.
In fact, our security is interminably intertwined with that of everyone else who shares our planet. Existential threats, such as those posed by climate change and insecurity provoked by weapons of mass destruction, are inarguably global. Not a single state can unilaterally address these issues successfully. Cooperation between states is not merely a dream, but a necessity to successfully address shared global threats.
It is time to embrace the reality of the twenty-first century and to stop pretending that our security requires the insecurity of others. Security and peace are not zero-sum games; they should be shared by all peoples. Our world needs a new cycle of trust and collaboration. Dialogue, negotiations and, in the end, reconciliation should guide our international political system. We are called to be peacemakers and to bring hope to this world.
Fr. Paul Lansu,
Senior Policy Advisor at Pax Christi International