A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

Archive for the ‘Afghan Youth Peace Initiative’ Category

From Afghanistan: making running and playing the norm

I landed in Afghanistan last week to continue my work with the Afghan Peace Volunteers. It has been a wonderful first week here. Being with the volunteers again and learning of their lives and hopes and struggles at this time. I wanted to share a simple story with you to give a picture of Afghanistan that I think is forgotten.
We are staying in a sweet little house in an area of Kabul near their university. Many of the professors live on this same street. The houses have big fences around them. This is a tradition as well as a security measure. The fences are made of corrugated metal and have big doors.
Most folks leave their doors open. So people can pass through and say hello and such. There is a family across from us who has four kids between the ages of six and two.
They run in and out of our yard and seem to enjoy a game of pretend vandalism. They take things and draw with chalk on the walls and sidewalks.
The peace volunteers pretend mock outrage and despair and the kids laugh wildly all the more. They are sweet and funny and a little wild and remind me so much of my own nieces and nephews at home.
It has been a gift to see them play while I am here. A good reminder of why a better future must be built for all kids around the world. Surely each child deserves more than war, poverty, environmental destruction and intolerance.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers are working hard to make sure these children might know a childhood different then their own. After more than thirty years of war they hope these kids will reach 18 and not be living with the scars of war on their hearts. They hope their work will help Afghanistan become a place where running and playing are the norm instead of suffering and loss.
I am blessed to be here and carry with me all the grace and support of the FSPA community.
Thank you and Peace.

International Peace Day Continued:Become One of 2 Million Friends

Last week many of you celebrated  International Peace Day. Below is a great opportunity to continue the work and the celebration. The members of Afghan Youth Peace Initiative, the boys I visited in Afghanistan, have created a new campaign for peace. They are trying to create “two million” friends to mark the roughly two million civilians who have been killed in civil conflicts and the U.S. invasion.

This act is simple and yet it helps to create a global network that says: “We believe that all people have the right to live in peace.”

Be One of ‘2 Million Friends’! for peace in Afghanistan

Join the ‘2 Million Friends’ Campaign.

 

Farzana, 22 year old Afghan stage actress, and a member of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, said, “When I express the whole range of emotions on stage, I enter an awareness, and a thrilling consciousness of human reality. I have a pain and my husband and fellow Afghan citizens, men and women, share the pain with me. It is the pain of being treated as less than humans. We are human beings. We have wishes. War has brought this pain on us. War kills our joy and hides our tears.”

Farzana calls out to our compassionate imagination, “Instead of fight, talk and build, I suggest, ‘Be friends, talk and build!’”

Listen to Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers say in this video clip “Be One of 2 Million Friends!”

 Why ‘2 Million Friends’?

2 million Afghan victims of war were killed over the past four decades. We wish to remember them by finding 2 million friends, to call for a ceasefire in Afghanistan. More friends! No more war. No more killing.

Help Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers find those friends : Visit http://2millionfriends.org

1. Be a Friend!

(a)     Email “ I’m One of 2 Million Friends!” to befriends@2millionfriends.org

(b)     Communicate : Email, Facebook and Twitter

(c)      Listen : Global Days of Listening conversations with Afghans & people from conflict areas

(d)     Upload photos and video clips of friendship

2.  Help them find 2 million friends: Email, Facebook and Tweet this far and wide to all your friends!

3. Support their call for a ceasefire : Sign a letter to the U.N. for a ceasefire  

The letterwill be ‘presented’ to the U.N. office in Kabul on the International Day of Human Rights, December 10th, 2012.

4.  Host or join concurrent, solidarity events on Dec 10th, 2012

An event will be held in Kabul on December 10th , 2012and attended by ordinary Afghans and Afghan civil society groups, Dr Sima Samar ( Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission ), Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire and others.

You can host or join concurrent, solidarity events on December 10th , 2012in your own communities and countries, to remember the 2 million Afghan victims of war in various ways e.g. releasing doves, flying kites, displaying banners, lighting candles etc.,

5. Consider participating in Dec 2012 visit to Afghanistan or a fast in New York

The Journey to Smile

Afghan Youth in India

Below is an update from Hakim and the Afghan Youth Peace Initiative I travelled with last March in Afghanistan. The boys have made a trip to India and continue to explore what it means to build peace in this world. Catch up on their journey with note and link from Hakim below.

 

 

Dear friends,

The last photo-essay update of our India trip is available at http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/2012/01/what-would-gandhi-say-to-afghan-youth-today/

Love,

Hakim and the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers

Thanks to all who made this trip to India possible!

1.     South Asia Peace Alliance http:// http://southasiapeacealliance.weebly.com/

Thanks to Vijay and Rita of South Asia Peace Alliance for inviting, hosting and teaching us!

2.     Ekta Parishad  http://ektaparishad.com/

The team at Bhopal : Aneesh, Lilly, Vinod, Rakesh who organized our field visits in Bhopal

The team in Delhi : Muntajan, Paul, Kathrin and Fran who made our stay in Delhi, Bhopal and India so colourful

3.     Kathy Kelly ( Voices for Creative Non-violence USA http://vcnv.org/ ) and Maya Evans ( Justice not Vengeance UK http://www.j-n-v.org/ )

4.     The Oasis Program facilitators and participants, including teachers and students of Gandhinagar International School

There are no expectations in our crying…

Dear All – So good to see so many of you at the Chapter of Chats! A wonderful space for connecting, sharing stories and dreaming of a future shaped and held by justice and compassion. In light of the spirit of Chats I wanted to share an update from The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. Please see below and blessings on your summers!

Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers

Peace from Afghanistan, specially to those with the Caravan of Solace

far-away in Mexico, who strengthen us with their poetic struggle.

From Afghanistan, we need you to know : Walking together is not a

weakness. It is our everything.

We thank you for walking differently.

Julian LeBaron, a Caravan of Solace leader whose brother was

kidnapped, tortured and killed last year, reminded the crowd that fear

isn’t the only thing keeping people home — it’s apathy: ‘There should

be 100 million people here, holding hands to mourn the death of 40,000

of us.”

If you have a few minutes this Sunday 19th of June, let’s connect on

the Global Days of Listening ( email to the cc-ed address

globaldaysoflistening@gmail.com )

Love,

Hakim and the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers

http://ourjourneytosmile.com

http://globaldaysoflistening.org/

From Afghanistan, we need you to know

Javier Sicilia, Julian Lebaron and all with the Caravan of Solace,

like you and the families of 40,000 Mexican victims, we need you to

know that we’ve also been crying.

There are no expectations in our crying.

There’s only grief, and ignored anger, the ignored anger of the mundane masses.

To all fellow humans alive today, we need you to know that many people

are hurting badly because we will not do more than what is normally

required to preserve our conventional ways of life.

We need you to know that the many who are hurting are real people.

Sadly, every day that we defend our lives as usual, we demean other

lives as usual, and therefore we all become less dignified, less

human.

We in Afghanistan have been learning that being alive is not just

about busily earning our keep, or more ridiculous, about getting good

grades in ‘empty’ schools.

We have also been learning what it means to be alive.

Here, the other Friday, we felt alive when we walked together to the

river, listening to everything.

We felt alive caring for one another despite our utter despair.

Unfortunately.

Our systems have been structured to rule us out, to corner our

humanity. Our systems despise our hope.

The doorways of our governments are tunnels for theft.

To conform with Power, we’re ‘told’ that we must remain helpless, friendless.

Our poverty is ‘graced’ by bullets, bombs and blood.

Our struggle is ‘condemned’ by religious and political dogma.

We detest these from way deep down. We detest these so much. Every soul does.

But today, self-protection at the expense of the distant ‘other’

justifies a strategy of ‘Man killing Man for Greed’s sake.’

How can that be?

How can it be that ‘the common good’ is no longer ‘good’, that it has

become an impractical ideal divorced from human society?

How can it be that asking for economic fairness is considered being

anti-government, that speaking against corruption gets us into

trouble?

How can it be that when we tell our leaders to stop killing, we are

the ones deemed naïve and dangerous?

We detest this violent antagonism infecting the world.

We detest the decay of our values.

We’re creating so few lifetime opportunities for genuine education,

decent livelihoods, and grief.

Not enough space, except by the rivers.

We need to talk differently, walk differently, serve ( lead )

differently and relate differently, and if we so earnestly and

painstaking act in love, ‘Y’ not?

Who has dictated to the ‘Y’ generation that,’ You can never change

this unequal, unkind global system of governance.’?

‘Y’ not when the majority of humanity and the majority of 30 million

Afghan citizens manage to get along without killing one another?

‘Y’ not step towards the rivers where human solidarity runs?

How can we live without crying? How can we suggest what could be done

when we ourselves are hardly coping?

We need you to know that your journey is our journey too, and that

yes, ‘No estas solo’.

We need you to know that crying is our friend, and not a weakness.

We need you to know that walking together is not a weakness. It is our

everything.

Why not love?

I am back from an incredible week in Afghanistan and wanted to share with you some highlights of this most important trip.

I traveled with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, a group of young men between the ages of 14 and 20 who are working on creating peace within the war-torn context of Afghanistan. The question the boys ask of their fellow Afghanis and the international community is: Why not love?

Why not love instead of war, poverty, instability and ongoing cycles of hatred and revenge?

To help illustrate this questions the boys engaged in a walk for peace, a tree planting for peace, and a candlelight vigil. As international partners we were able to participate in different activities that supported the boys.

I think the poem and video created by the boys below is the best explanation fo their work and world view. Please read and watch and join me in celebrating the incredible work for peace the boys are engaging and the presence of the FSPA and 8th Day community in their struggle.    Peace Liz

P.S. I am in the video but you only see the top of my head covered in a black scarf! 🙂 I did not look up at the right moment.

Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers

Dear friends,

On 19th March, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, with an
international team of 24 peace activists, planted 55 trees at a school
in Kabul, Afghanistan. They did this to usher in the Afghan New Year,
in hope for a new way of living, a non-violent way of rebuilding the
country.

Hakim and the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers
http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog
http://livewithoutwars.org
http://globaldayoflistening.org

Poem

We need a different tree

For seekers of roots, life has ample proof
that Power and Privilege consistently oppress the People.
This Power and Privilege is perfected in war,
& accepted universally like any other conventional tree.
And then,
its shade kills the People.
Why would an Afghan mother want a tree that kills?
Why would scholars promote it?
Why would the few rich and powerful insist on it?
Why would the People want it?
War is NOT what we wish to plant on any day, & certainly not today.
We wish to plant a tree rooted in Love,
a Love which says,’I live and love, so I shall not kill.’
If we wish to live without wars,
we need to plant a different tree.

Video

Killing civilians in Afghanistan is terrorism

Guest blogger Patrick Kennelly, writing from Kabul, Afghanistan (continuing our posts from Afghanistan as Liz Deligio travels this week with Voices for Creative Nonviolence).

In Kabul, on the same day that Der Spiegel released photos
documenting American soldiers posing with the bodies of civilians they
murdered, the Transitional Justice Coordinating Group (TJCG), the
umbrella organization for NGOs in Afghanistan that are pursuing
transitional justice, gathered Afghan, Australian, American, and
German peacemakers to discuss methods to bring peace and security to
Afghanistan. The photos present the grim reality that this conflict is
characterized by civilian killing and violence.
          In 2001, the American led ISAF (International Security Assistance
Force), a coalition of the richest nations in the world, began
military operations in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 killing of
civilians in New York and Washington. The purpose of the operations
was to fight terrorism and seek reprisal for the Taliban’s harboring
of Al Qaeda. The operation has turned into a near decade long war on
one of the poorest nations in the world.
       After nearly ten years of war Afghanistan is mired in terror,
brutality, and a security situation that is worsening. Among Afghans
there is growing consensus that the ISAF is pursuing military
measures, such as the formation and arming of independent local
militias under the banner of the “Afghan Local Police” against the
wishes of President Karzai and the Afghan people, which undermine the
prospects of peace in the future and further endangers ordinary
people. However, it is the killing of civilians by American military
personal and mercenaries that most enflames the conflict and expands
the rift between ISAF and the Afghan people.
       Most Westerners are familiar with the thousands of American civilians
killed 9/11, some people know about the atrocities committed by the
armed opposition groups in Afghanistan, and even fewer people are
familiar with the stories of Afghan civilians killed by ISAF forces.
Some of the recent civilian killings by ISAF, primarily composed of
American forces include:  2children in Kunar province on March 14, 9
children collecting firewood in Kunar province on March 1, five
civilians including two children  who were searching for food in
Kapisa province on February 24,  22 women, 26 boys, and 3 old men in a
raid on insurgents in Kunar province on February 17, 2 civilians were
killed  and one injured while traveling in a van in Helmand province
on February 3.
       As the fallout from the Der Spiegel photos continues to be felt
around the world, ISAF and the other belligerents who have publicly
stated their objective is to prevent terrorism need to recognize that
the killing of civilians whether by Taliban, mercenaries, militias,
insurgents, or by soldiers of a nation is terrorism.

Guest blogger Patrick Kennelly is the Associate Director of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking and is participating in the peacemaking efforts organized by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Voices for Creative Nonviolence.  He writes from Kabul, Afghanistan. He can be contacted at kennellyp@gmail.com

Celebrating Nauroz in Kabul

 Guest blogger Patrick Kennelly, writing from Kabul, Afghanistan (continuing our posts from Afghanistan as Liz Deligio travels this week with Voices for Creative Nonviolence).

Throughout Afghanistan people are gathering to celebrate the Afghan new year, Nauroz (March 21, 2011). It is a chance for Afghans to celebrate the rebirth of nature after the long winter. In Kabul, today thousands of gathered in the cemetery and spent the day picnicking. Before heading home to share a meal that included seven items to symbolize their hope for the coming year: wheat for rebirth, a sweet pudding for affluence, garlic for health, apples for beauty, berries representing the sunrise, vinegar for patience, coins for prosperity. After 13 days the wheat will be collected and tossed into flowing water, by which time it will have collected the family’s bad luck for the year.

Afghans gather during New Year celebration
While some Afghan’s describe the situation in their country as bad luck, the majority of Afghans realize that there is a direct correlation with the increased number of American and foreign fighters entering the country. Currently, there are more foreign troops in Afghanistan than at any time since the American led invasion and the security situation is at the worst point since the beginning of the war.  While nearly all Afghan’s do not want to see the return of the Taliban, they do not want the status quo of violence caused by the International Security Assistance Force and the armed opposition groups to continue. Instead Afghans are realizing that the underlying problems of their country are the problems of poverty, hate, and violence.  They are also realizing that these are problems that cannot be solved by war.

The streets of Afghanistan

 
In Kabul, a group of young people are adopting strategies that would help solve Afghanistan’s problems and allow them to see their wishes from Nauroz come to fruition.  They have consciously chosen methods that are exemplary in applying theoretical nonviolence to actively resist the indignity of violence and seek out life sustaining alternatives. For example, under the tutelage of professional journalist a group of young men and women in their twenties launched a campaign of public speeches, declarations, and photography by young journalist to manifest Afghan’s desire for peace.
On another occasion the group gathered nearly one hundred people, primarily school children and elders, to plant fruit  and nut trees at a school in Kabul. The trees will help clean the air of Kabul that is polluted from decades of war. The trees will produce nutritious food. The tree planting was preceded by a forum on the importance of creating educational opportunities. The action demonstrates the point of Gandhian nonviolence that from the seed grows the fruit or in other words that nonviolence has to begin with education and be integrated into daily living. 
While these feats are exceptional considering the situation in Afghanistan, if Afghans are going to get their Nauroz wish the international community will need to begin following these Afghans example and integrate nonviolent strategies into their lives and foreign policy. This will begin by working to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan.

 

Patrick Kennelly is the Associate Director of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking and is participating in the peacemaking efforts organized by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Voices for Creative Nonviolence.  He writes from Kabul, Afghanistan and can be contacted at kennellyp@gmail.com.

Photos courtesy of Patrick Kennelly

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