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International Peace Day: Harnessing Culture as a Medium of Peace amidst Covid-19 Woes

As Uganda and the world at large celebrates the International Peace day, Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC) Public Relations Officer Robert Musiitwa has said that culture should be seen as a medium of peace amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we all observe 24 hours of non-violence in commemoration of the International Peace Day 2020, I would like us to focus on culture as a medium of peace amidst the current pandemic and lockdown,” he said in an exclusive interview.

The United Nations General Assembly declared September 21 as a day devoted to strengthening the ideas of peace through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.

“This year, the day is observed under the theme ‘Shaping Peace Together’. We are all encouraged to celebrate the day by spreading compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the pandemic,” Musiitwa added.

Musiitwa added thus, “A few weeks ago, social media was awash with pictures of Kanyamunyu, a Ugandan businessman undergoing the Mato Oput ceremony. I would like to commend Kanyanyumyu for taking this brave step and I wish everyone would take this route, the world would be a better place to live.”

Mato Oput is a peace, forgiveness and reconciliation process in the Acholi Culture among the warring parties. It is carried out in the case of accidental or intentional killing of an individual. The ceremony involves two clans bringing together the offender and the family of victim with the aim of restoring harmony.

Mato Oput is a clear demonstration that culture is an essential part of conflict resolution. It informs, and influences the way people relate to development, conflict and reconciliation in a distinct but direct manner. It also shows that it further leads and creates paths for lasting conflict resolution and healing.

Musiitwa urged leaders to focus on peace and accept the fact that having divergent political ideologies does not mean enmity but simply diversity hence ‘unity in diversity’ and the ability to avert the fear reflex when confronted by the ‘otherness’.

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“It has become more evident that we need each other to face challenges before us hence an urgent need for cooperation and multilateralism for globally agreed, shared policies that integrate culture into peace building strategies and programmes with emphasis on promotion and support of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue,” he said.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has asked the public to stand together with the UN against attempts to use the Coronavirus period to promote discrimination or hatred.

“This year, it has been clearer than ever that we are not each other’s enemies. Rather, our common enemy is a tireless virus that threatens our health, security and every way of life. COVID-19 has thrown our world into turmoil and forcibly reminded us that what happens in one part of the planet can impact people everywhere,” Guterres said.

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