Benazir Bhutto

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(HOST) Commentator Madeleine Kunin is approaching the New Year with very mixed emotions.

(KUNIN) The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, opposition candidate and former Prime Minister of Pakistan, is bringing 2007 to a violent and tragic end.

The holiday spirit that led us to believe that there could be peace on earth, if only we wished for it, prayed for it, hard enough and long enough, has been interrupted.

Benazir Bhutto knew she was in danger from the moment she stepped back on the ground of her native land two months ago. Her procession was stopped by a suicide bomb which killed 100 of her supporters. Still, she persevered. She was the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim country to be elected twice – an extraordinary achievement. Her father had been executed – she knew the risks of political life. Why did she continue to take them?

The only answer that makes sense is that she had a passionate belief in democracy and in her own capacity to help bring it about. The word is courage – courage to act on her beliefs, regardless of the consequences.

She stood up to dictatorship and terrorism, until terrorism struck her down.

As we are on the eve of a New Year, can we keep our hope alive for peace on earth, good will to all women and men? Pakistan is teetering on the edge of instability, the Middle East remains divided into dangerous religious factions, violence permeates the lives of those in Darfur and the Congo.

It is impossible to escape the reality that chaos is more powerful than peace in some parts of the world. And yet — and yet, we cannot resist our deeply embedded longing for peace, for a ew beginning that may bring us a better world, a better life, a better chance.

The harsh reality that is portrayed on the nightly news – the visions of blood on the streets and flames in the sky – cannot completely blot out hope, cannot shield us from our responsibility to bring peace.

I mourn for Benazir Bhutto’s husband and children, I fear for the people of Pakistan, I am angry at the men who killed the hope she brought to her people and fear what they may do next.

But it is New Year’s Eve. When the clock strikes midnight, it will be 2008. I like the sound of it. A new year. I believe it will be a better year. I can’t help myself. I wish you a more peaceful and happy New Year. Like you, I hold onto hope.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.

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