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Peace is possible if people work for it

Greed of the few endangers happiness of the many

  • Renato Mabunga, Manila
  • Philippines
  • September 26, 2012
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The world marked the International Day of Peace last week, on September 21, the same day the Philippines marked the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law.

This year, the United Nations called on countries around the world to work for "sustainable peace for a sustainable future." The UN statement highlighted the use and abuse of land and natural resources in instigating conflict situations.

The UN urged member states to initiate "ceasefires" and stop the wanton destruction of the environment and the bloody massacres of people out to defend their ancestral domains.

Early this month, gunmen ambushed a Subanen tribal leader in the southern Philippines. Timuay Locenio Magda survived but his 11-year-old son Jason did not.

The incident allegedly arose from a dispute over ancestral domain claims among mining interests in the area. The attack on Magda was the 36th documented incident in the area in the past two years.

In South Korea, villagers of Gangjeong have been protesting the construction of a naval base on Jeju Island. The island has been dubbed the "Island of Peace" by the government but peaceful protests were met with force and violence.

In Cambodia, the government’s abuse of law and misuse of the courts have led to the displacement of the Boeung Kak and Borei Keila communities in Phnom Penh. Activists and human rights defenders like Yorm Bopha and Tim Sakmony, who were arrested on September 4 and 5, respectively, are also persecuted.

In Myanmar, Wai Lu was arrested in early September for helping farmers win back their land from a copper mining company in Latpadaung mountain range.

Attacks against communities underscore the connection of peace, human rights and the aggressive promotion of "progress" that displace people. And as conditions of people worsen, governments create "illusions" to cover up their violations and obligations.

Governments speak of peace and draw a future that is far removed from the aspirations of their people. Peace has been corrupted by political and economic individualism and greed, yet it remains a symbol of resistance and a source of courage for the afflicted.

Peace and sustainable future describes the legitimacy of the continuing struggle of indigenous peoples, communities and environmental activists in protecting ancestral land, their life, culture and future against corporations and armed groups.

Peace provides reason for the assertion of communities and peoples who debunk the idea of peace as a mere construct. These communities assert that peace is an action fueled by inspirations and sacrifices of peoples and nations searching for a sustainable future.

As the world celebrates the "International Day of Peace," peoples around the world continue to clamor for it, act on it and die for it.

In the same manner, Filipinos remember the 20 years of martial law to remind themselves that tyrants can be overthrown, people have the power, and peace is a possibility.

As dark days continue to linger in many parts of the world, especially in Asia, it is apt to consolidate the lessons of history, muster the courage to block the horrors of the past and lay down a solid foundation for peace that is mindful of the universal dignity of all and for all.

Dr. Renato Mabunga is chairman of Human Rights Defenders, a lobbyist at the UN Human Rights Council and a regional educator on human rights
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