Fiji Time: 10:02 AM on Saturday 30 May

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Honouring our peacekeepers

Fred Wesley
Saturday, May 30, 2015

YESTERDAY was a special day for many people. Fiji honoured the International Day for UN Peacekeepers.

We are an integral part of the UN peacekeeping missions abroad, serving many tours of duty in conflict zones around the world.

Missions have extended to countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Golan Heights, the Sinai and East Timor.

Our men have served with distinction, earning accolades for being exemplary soldiers.

Our soldiers continue to serve with pride in international missions.

And along the way, some of our soldiers have had to pay the ultimate price for being brave enough to extend our friendliness across the seas.

They were remembered yesterday on this special day.

Decades later, as we look back at the reputation we have gained in these peacekeeping missions, perhaps we should ponder on the importance of translating our desire for peace abroad back to the home-front.

For that to happen demands action from us as individuals. It means taking the high ground and ensuring we continue to live peacefully in a nation we have grown up in. It means acceptance of the fact that there are differences in how we perceive things, in how we live our lives, traditions we follow and customs we hold dear to our hearts.

It means acknowledging multiracialism and what it means to us as a nation. It means accommodating the aspirations of people of different ethnicities and shouldering the responsibility of ensuring whatever differences we have do not hinder our peaceful existence as Fijians.

These aren't easy things to do. They are important though for the sake of a Fiji we can all feel safe and secure in. Looking forward, there may be questions about whether we should re-look at our international peacekeeping engagements for our soldiers.

Are there issues that should be dealt with urgently?

The hostage crisis that involved our soldiers and the al-Nusra Front is a clear indication of how dangerous the work of our peacekeepers can become.

The long tours of duty have obviously placed a strain on many families.

Deaths of loved ones tugged at the heartstrings.

The advent of the digital age has to some extent eased the distances. Internet access has enabled faster and easier communication from these volatile zones back home, meaning families can be in touch regularly with their loved ones. Such tours come with a price though.

Are we doing enough to compensate for the sacrifice of our soldiers? Yesterday was about honouring the memory of UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. It was also about paying tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in UN peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage.

Lest we forget.

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