(UPDATE) SYDNEY, Australia: Jubilant crowds bid farewell to the hottest year on record Sunday, closing a turbulent 12 months marked by clever chatbots, climate crises, and wrenching wars in Gaza and Ukraine. However, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza cast a pall over the celebrations.
The world’s population, which now exceeds 8 billion, bid farewell to the old year and welcomed the new one, with many hoping to shake off the burden of high living costs and global turmoil.
In Sydney, known as the “New Year’s capital of the world,” more than a million partygoers gathered along the city’s foreshore. Even before nightfall, tens of thousands of people defied uncharacteristically dank weather and gathered at vantage points around the iconic Harbor Bridge.
At the stroke of midnight, 8 tons of fireworks illuminated the sky, heralding the arrival of 2024. This year will bring elections that will impact half the world’s population and a summer Olympiad celebrated in Paris.
In New York’s Times Square, crowds of revelers filled the heart of midtown Manhattan. The celebrity-filled event included live performances from Flo Rida, Megan Thee Stallion, and LL Cool J, as well as televised appearances from Cardi B and others.
However, in Muslim-majority Pakistan, the government has banned all New Year’s Eve celebrations as an act of solidarity with the Palestinians. In an overnight televised message, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar urged Pakistanis to “show solidarity with the oppressed people of Gaza” by beginning the new year with simplicity. Kakar expressed the sadness felt by Muslims worldwide over Israel’s attacks on Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
The past 12 months brought various notable events, including the release of the blockbuster movie “Barbiegeddon,” advancements in human-like artificial intelligence tools, and the world’s first whole-eye transplant. India surpassed China as the world’s most populous country and achieved the historic milestone of landing a rocket on the dark side of the moon.
However, 2023 will be remembered most for the conflicts in the Middle East, particularly the brutal raids by Hamas on southern Israel and Israel’s ferocious reprisals. The United Nations estimates that almost 2 million Gazans have been displaced since Israel’s siege began, accounting for approximately 85 percent of the peacetime population. With once-vibrant neighborhoods reduced to rubble, there were few places left to celebrate the new year and fewer loved ones to share the joy with.
Abed Akkawi, a 37-year-old resident of Gaza who now lives in a UN shelter in Rafah, southern Gaza, described the war as a year full of tragedies. His house was destroyed, and he lost his brother. Nevertheless, he holds onto modest hopes for 2024, expressing a desire for the war to end and the possibility of rebuilding his home, even if it means living in a tent on the rubble.
In Ukraine, where Russia’s invasion approaches its second anniversary, there is a mix of hope and defiance in the face of renewed aggression from Moscow. Tetiana Shostka, a resident of Kyiv, exclaimed, “Victory! We are waiting for it and believe that Ukraine will win,” as air raid sirens blared in the background. She added, “We will have everything we want if Ukraine is free, without Russia.”
Even within Russia, there are those who yearn for an end to the conflict. As the new year begins, many hope for an end to the war, the election of a new president, and a return to stability.
As we reflect on the events of 2023, it is clear that the year was marked by both triumphs and tragedies. From the impacts of climate change to geopolitical conflicts, the world faced significant challenges. However, amidst the turmoil, there remains hope for a better future, where peace, stability, and progress prevail. As we embark on the journey of 2024, let us carry the lessons of the past year and work towards a world that is more resilient, compassionate, and united.
Source: The Manila Times