Author : Sufiya Tazeen

“The conscience of the world is so guilty that it always assumes that people who investigate heresies must be heretics.” – G.K. Chesterton.

Amid a world ravaged by war, turmoil and chaos, the world observes April 5th as the International Day of Conscience. The United Nations established this annual event to promote peace, tolerance and compassion. This day is a bitter reminder of our moral obligations to uphold peace, justice, and human dignity. However, its observance in the ongoing global conflicts highlights the glaring irony of our collective failure to honour these principles. As nations engage in cruel genocidal actions, audaciously ignoring the basic fundamental rights and legal frameworks, the celebration of conscience serves as both a beacon of hope and a call to action, urging us to reflect on the disconnect between our ideals and the harsh realities of our world.

The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlights that disregard and disdain for human rights have led to atrocious acts that have deeply offended humanity’s conscience. It envisions a world where individuals can freely express themselves, believe in their convictions, and live without fear or deprivation, which is regarded as humanity’s ultimate goal. Additionally, Article 1 emphasises the inherent freedom and equality of all individuals who possess reason and conscience and should treat each other with fraternity and compassion.

The International Day of Conscience serves as a reminder of the importance of ethical decision-making and moral responsibility in the face of adversity. It calls upon individuals and nations to uphold the principles of humanity and to strive for a more just and equitable world. Yet, the stark contrast between this noble aspiration and the grim realities of conflict and oppression raises questions about the efficacy of such observances in the face of entrenched injustice and systemic violence.

One cannot help but ponder the irony of celebrating a day dedicated to conscience while witnessing the flagrant disregard for human life and dignity characterising many global conflicts. From the ravages of civil war to the atrocities committed in the name of ideology or power, the international community finds itself grappling with the sobering reality that the pursuit of peace and justice remains an elusive goal.

In war-torn regions, where civilians are caught in the crossfire and necessities such as food, water, and medical care are scarce, the concept of conscience can seem like a luxury reserved for those untouched by the horrors of conflict. In such dire circumstances, survival often precedes moral reflection, and the instinct for self-preservation eclipses any considerations of right or wrong.

Moreover, the erosion of international norms and the breakdown of diplomatic channels have further complicated efforts to address global conflicts through peaceful means. As countries pursue their strategic interests with little regard for the consequences on civilian populations, the concept of conscience appears increasingly out of reach in the corridors of power.

Yet, amidst the chaos and despair, there are glimmers of hope that remind us of the enduring resilience of the human spirit. From grassroots movements advocating for peace and reconciliation to individuals risking their lives to aid those in need, there are countless examples of ordinary people following their conscience, even in the face of overwhelming adversity. In the words of James Freeman Clarke, “Conscience is the root of all true courage; if a man would be brave, let him obey his conscience.

These acts of courage and compassion serve as a testament to the enduring power of conscience, even in the darkest of times. While the International Day of Conscience may seem incongruous against the backdrop of global conflict, it also serves as a rallying cry for those who refuse to surrender to despair and apathy. It is a reminder that, despite our challenges, pursuing justice and compassion remains a noble and worthwhile endeavour.

In conclusion, the irony of celebrating the International Day of Conscience amidst a world engulfed in conflict and chaos is palpable. Yet, in times of crisis, the importance of moral reflection and ethical action becomes most apparent. As we confront the challenges of our time, let us keep sight of the enduring values that bind us together as a global community. Let us recommit ourselves to the pursuit of peace, justice, and human dignity, knowing that the path ahead may be difficult but that the rewards are immeasurable.


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