BEIRUT: To mark the International Day of Peace Thursday, the U.N. Interim Forces in Lebanon held a ceremony at their headquarters in Naqoura, southern Lebanon. The event, which was attended by representatives from the Lebanese Army, religious and municipality leaders, and ambassadors, was held under this year’s theme, “Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future.”
UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra and Lebanese Army South Litani Commander Brig. Gen. George Chraim laid wreaths at the UNIFIL Cenotaph in memory of the peacekeepers who have died in the line of duty in southern Lebanon. Since the first UNIFIL deployment in 1978, 279 troops have died in Lebanon.
“This year’s theme for the international day of peace highlights the fact that we cannot possibly think about building a sustainable future if there is no sustainable peace, as armed conflicts attack the very pillars of sustainable development,” Serra said, addressing the ceremony.
“I am pleased to say that, following UNIFIL’s expansion and with the deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces to the area in 2006, southern Lebanon is witnessing one of the most peaceful times in its recent history.”
Serra also expressed his appreciation for the work done by the Lebanese Army in coordination with UNIFIL.
“I am very grateful for the tremendous support, cooperation and good-will which the Lebanese Army has been extending to UNIFIL, and I remain firmly committed to continue conducting all our activities in close coordination with them.
“I am encouraged by the assurances from the parties that they will continue working closely with UNIFIL to maintain calm in the area,” he said.
Head of the European Union delegation Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst, together with the ambassadors and representatives from Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden, attended the ceremony. EU member states contribute 38.7 percent of the staff to the UNIFIL mission.
Speaking at the event, Eichhorst said, “Europe, after suffering in the past the results of hatred and conflict, has learned to overcome differences and to build peace on the respect for diversity.”
“Lebanon is also a symbol of coexistence and diversity, and we witness everyday and fully support the efforts of the Lebanese society to preserve peace and stability in a complex regional context and vis-à-vis its troubled past.
“For this reason, the European Union’s support to Lebanon stands firm, as it does to UNIFIL, in order to promote dialogue and a culture of peace within Lebanon and at the more global level,” she added.
To celebrate the day, UNIFIL also invited 16 students from eight schools in southern Lebanon to its headquarters, where they joined UNIFIL staff members’ children in sketching their visions of peace in wall paintings in an event called, “Painting for Peace.”
“The International Day of Peace is an opportunity to involve every individual in the quest for peace. Each one of us can serve as a role model to inspire and mobilize others,” Serra said.