The wars, political strife, conflicts, protests and fighting worldwide need to pause if only for Wednesday in honor of International Human Rights Day.
The designation was set by the United Nations General Assembly more than 60 years ago after the horrors of World War II. It was meant to protect people’s civil and political rights such as life, liberty and freedom of expression.
Others include social, cultural and economic rights. Among those are the right to participate in one’s own culture, the right to food, clean water, the right to work and to an education. But what may have seemed so clear on other International Human Rights Days has become muddled in the last few years.
President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, but instead of peace he is leading an international coalition into fighting to eradicate the Islamic State. What’s also disturbing to peace activists Kathy Kelly, Georgia Walker and Brian Terrell is the increasing use of drones to fight today’s wars.
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Kelly and Walker were arrested at Whiteman Air Force Base earlier this year for peacefully trying to encourage the base commander to stop using drones for surveillance and attacks. “The more we mechanize and depersonalize the wars, the more likely we’ll get into a new war,” said Kelly with Voices for Creative Nonviolence based in Chicago.
“I wonder what is happening to us?” she asked a Kansas City audience earlier this fall. “I’m pretty sure that Georgia and I didn’t commit a crime. We tried to sound an alarm.”
Walker added: “We are compelled by our spirituality to keep speaking up, to let people know silence is complicity. We have to speak out. We have to put our bodies out there and say not in our names.”
The two go to trial today in the June incident and could face prison time.
These are difficult days for peace. Islamic State militants keep trying to take more territory in Iraq and Syria. The radical group continues to behead hostages from the United States and other Western nations, adding to tensions and uncertainties in the Middle East and worldwide.
It was just three short years ago that the Arab Spring was hailed as a great thing, leading to oppressed people in many Middle Eastern nations such as Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and Egypt toppling dictatorships and pushing for social justice, democracy and political and economic opportunities.
But instead of things getting better, they became more unstable, Roey Gilad, consul general of Israel to the Midwest, said in a meeting this fall with The Star editorial board. The Arab Spring created a power vacuum. Nations like Libya, Syria and Yemen aren’t states anymore.
“The collapse of order is not good for anyone looking for order,” Gilad said. It adds to the continuing uncertainty Israel, the U.S. and others face in the Middle East from Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran.
Instead of adding to the disorder, people must unite and work for peace, said Terrell, who spoke in Kansas City with Kelly and Walker. “We have to be against war for fear of hurting someone else,” he said.
Yet, the U.S. led war in Afghanistan — starting just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — is far from over. And what people thought was the end of the eight-year war in Iraq with U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011 looks more and more like a rekindling fire.
The United States and other countries of the world have to find a way to put all weapons down and wage peace. Obama must try to live up to the hope the Nobel committee had in him to “strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation.”
Obama needs to dial down drone warfare and find a way to make International Human Rights Day every day for the world and America. Until that happens, the fighting won’t let up, and even more people will think that world peace is an unattainable dream for humanity.