December 14, 2012
By Emmey Malloy
A small group of international peace activists spent the past week in Kabul, Afghanistan with the Afghan Peace Volunteers for International Human Rights Day. The Afghan Peace Volunteers are a small group of young people, under the mentorship of Singaporean physician Hakim, who are sowing the seeds of nonviolent change in Afghanistan. Their current projects are multiple, but possibly the most meaningful is their struggle to live peacefully together in an interethnic, cooperative community. They share space, chores, cooking and managing the various project of the group. They take photographs, organize cooperatives, distribute aid to the poor, and make youtube videos spreading peaceful messages to others. They ask each other ‘hard questions’ and discuss their own personal struggles, stereotypes and discrimination. Finally, they make friends with other Afghans and a variety of internationals. In a country that has been torn by nearly four decades of war and taught that outsiders should not be trusted, this is a small but powerful change.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers hosted international peace activists for Human Rights Day, among them Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and Ann Patterson from the Peace People in Northern Ireland, Ann Wright, former Army colonel and peace activist, John Dear, SJ, who has spoken and written widely on nonviolence throughout the world, Patrick Kennelly and Chris Jeske from the Marquette University Center For Peacemaking, Shane Claiborne, a peace activist who lives in the Simple Way community in Philadelphia, Dr. Linda Sartor, peace keeper and citizen diplomat and several others. For some of the delegates, this was their first trip to Afghanistan, for others their third.
The Afghan Peace volunteers organized an International Human Rights day event in order to present their ‘2 million friends campaign.’ Over one hundred people came to the event, including local media. The Afghan Peace Volunteers brought together a representative from the UN, the international delegates, members of the civil society of Afghanistan including representatives from the Youth Peace Jirga of Afghanistan and the Transitional Justice Group. The main speaker was Mairead Maguire, who called on the international community and all members of Afghan society to lay down their weapons and begin to dream of a new Afghanistan, and then to make the dream of a peaceful, nonviolent Afghanistan a reality.
The 2 million friends campaign calls on the UN to broker a cease-fire. It remembers the 2 million people who have lost their lives in the past 35 years of war in Afghanistan, while simultaneously calling for 2 million more people—2 million friends—to demand an end to the violence. The 2 million friends campaign wrote a letter to Secretary General Ben Ki Moon calling for a ceasefire and sharing their dream of a nonviolent Afghanistan. The letter was read at the event by the Afghan Peace Volunteers, first in Dari and then in English, and shared the message ‘we can be friends!’
Throughout the week the delegation has met with a variety of Afghans in various positions in society in order to discuss their hopes and concerns for the future. Regardless of the person, or their role in society, all had the same message, “we are tired of war, we want a future for our children, we want education, where is this war getting us?” The delegation had the opportunity to meet with several groups of women, and listen to their concerns. “Who will hear our voices?” the women asked. “We want an end to the war and the violence. Every day we are scared for the lives of our children. We want them to have a future that does not include war.” The Afghan Peace Volunteers are listening to their voices, responding to their concerns and trying to make change. Like any movement, the seeds are small, but will continue to grow, establishing roots with the Afghan people. Our small human rights delegation stands honored and humbled by their powerful work. We join the Afghan Peace Volunteers in their call for nonviolence and peace. Every human being deserves to live without war.
To learn more about the 2 million friends campaign or sign the petition, please visit https://www.change.org/petitions/2-million-friends-call-on-the-u-n-for-a-ceasefire-in-afghanistan. To learn more about the Afghan Peace Volunteers please visit www.ourjourneytosmile.com.