The International Day of Peace was celebrated in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Wednesday with special events in a country where more than 144,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed during two decades of conflict.
The Lebanese Medical Students’ International Committee in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the United Nations Information Centre organised events, including workshops to address topics such as inner peace, non-violent communication, conflict resolution and human rights.
"Lebanese society is still suffering from the aftermath of the civil war and it is important to remember that and for us to promote peace in a non-political way – that’s why we set up this committee," said Sora al-Rowas, the chairperson of the event on behalf of the medical students committee.
"We hope our efforts will encourage others too," she said in remarks following a news conference. Al-Rowas hails from Oman and explained that she hopes to promotes peace and human rights in Lebanon. "Peace has no nationality and we should all work together in harmony."
At the briefing, the personal representative of the UN Secretary-General for southern Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, read out a message from Kofi Annan.
"On this International Day of Peace, let us honour those who have suffered from violence and armed conflict and let us pledge to do our utmost to carry out the important decisions on peace taken by last week’s World Summit," he said, noting that "the Lebanese know better than most the cost of social conflict."
During the conflict, nearly 1 million people left the country, which now has an estimated 4 million people. In addition, some 800,000 were displaced, with 450,000 still to return to their native regions, according to the UN.
Pedersen also referred to the tragic sequence of events this year following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in February, pledging that the international community was committed in working to make the territory "free from outside interference".
The UN is currently conducting an investigation into the death of al-Hariri and there has been much speculative reporting in relation to Syria’s involvement in Lebanese affairs and recent instability.
Syria had some 15,000 troops based in Lebanon for 29 years. Damascus finally withdrew its forces in April 2005 after al-Hariri’s death led to increased international pressure and demonstrations by the Lebanese people.
To mark the end of the activities for peace day in Beirut, a concert was held by the National Orchestra of Nowherestan, a mixture of artists brought together by renowned Lebanese artist, Michel Elefteriades.