Belfast Telegraph

Show your support for peace

By Jacqueline Irwin

This Sunday marks International Day of Peace. The date was established 30 years ago by the United Nations General Assembly to strengthen the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples. This year's theme is the Right of Peoples to Peace.

The Declaration on the Rights of Peoples to Peace recognises that the promotion of peace is vital for the full enjoyment of human rights. Here, as in many places across the world, conflict creates a violent and insecure environment which makes the delivery of human rights more difficult.

We are often regarded as having produced a successful peace settlement after 30 years of conflict. However, many of us have known, since long before the signing of our peace agreement, that peace is more than the absence of violence. Things remain fragile here and for the moment, we have stopped short of achieving the mutual trust and transformation in relationships that is needed to truly embed peace and reconciliation.

Political agreement on many of the big issues is one thing and a great achievement but the work of sustaining peace remains highly complex and challenging; it starts with the political agreement but it never ends there. We are still struggling to manage conflicts over identity, whether over flags, parades and the legacy of the past, or issues of sharing and separation. Sustaining our peace requires people to take steps outside our normal community of comfort for reconciliation. It requires bravery from people willing to stand against sectarianism and racism in the ordinary everyday events of their lives.

Conflict is often, in part, a dispute over competing rights, and between rights and responsibilities. That is why a peace which embeds and promotes human rights for all is so important. This is most certainly a matter for law, policy makers and for politicians, but it is also an opportunity for ordinary citizens. By marking and observing International Day of Peace, both publicly and within workplaces and in private reflection, we can demonstrate our solidarity with, and commitment to peace and our common humanity throughout the world.

Jacqueline Irwin is chief executive of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council

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