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Attack against civilians is attack against peace

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Rev. Fr. John Damian

Early this week, there was a breaking News: “A Nigerian UN peacekeeper had been killed and another injured by unidentified assailants in Timbuktu, Mali.”

This ugly incident happened few days to the annual International Day of UN Peacekeepers celebration. This is not the first time people have lost their lives as peacekeepers.

So many soldiers have lost their lives in the ongoing fight against insurgencies. Armed Forces Remembrance Day is an annual event organised to honour fallen heroes, the Nigerian Armed Forces who fought in the first and second World Wars, as well as the Nigerian civil war and those that served or are still serving in various peace support operations across the world.

May 29th is International Day of UN Peacekeepers. This day is set aside by the UN General Assembly to honour the 98 peacekeepers who lost their lives last year and more than 3,800 peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving under the UN since 1948.

This very day, the world pays tribute to all those that have contributed to the work of the Organisation and other humanitarian services. The theme of this year’s International Day of UN Peacekeepers is “Protecting Civilians, Protecting Peace.”

The civilians are vulnerable, harmless and often defenceless. The primary role of every well-meaning government is to protect the lives and properties of its citizens, especially that of the civilians.

The military men and women are trained not just to defend themselves, but to also defend the vulnerable and unarmed civilians. Every attempt to protect civilians is not just a welcomed development, it is also the only way to safeguard peace.

Hence, the theme of this year’s International Day of UN Peacekeepers: “Protecting Civilians, Protecting Peace!” On the other hand, any attack against the civilian is an attack against peace.

Over the years, there have been reports on how soldiers, policemen, civil defence corps and even members of the Road Safety, who were supposed to protect the lives of civilians are going about bullying the civilians with their uniforms and guns.

On February 9th 2017, BBC reported an ugly incident where two soldiers were filmed beating up a disabled man at Onitsha in Anambra State of Nigeria. The disabled man, according to them, was seen wearing a camouflage uniform.

This is just one out of so many similar incidents where uniformed men have brutalised the civilians. The issue of using force to collect bribe from civilian motorists, especially by the Nigeria Police along the roads is no longer news. A taxi driver was even shot to death at Edo State, on his way back from Onitsha, just because of N200.

According to BBC report, “Human rights groups have persistently accused Nigeria’s military of abuses against civilians, especially in the Northeast, where it has been fighting a long-running insurgency by militant Islamist group, Boko Haram.”

Most people are now scared each time they see soldiers or other uniformed men. The soldiers and other uniformed men should be reminded that “Protecting Civilians (is a way of) Protecting Peace.”

Apart from those who have abused their positions as peacekeepers, we equally have devoted peacekeepers, those who are ready to sacrifice their lives to ensure that there is peaceful co-existence in the society. They are the ones we are celebrating today. They deserve our respect.

In the gospel of Matthew 5:9, our Lord Jesus Christ did not just declare peacekeepers blessed, He also declared them sons and daughters of the Most High God: “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” If you are a peacekeeper, you are indeed a true child of God. You belong to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. You are blessed! And it shall be well with you in Jesus name – Amen!


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