On Sunday, Aug. 21, I had the privilege of speaking via conference call with several young people from the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. The occasion was what they termed the "Global Day of Listening," during which the kids spoke with supporters and sympathizers all over the world for approximately 8 hours.
Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, Bamyan Province, Afghanistan
I was immensely saddened to hear that they are discouraged about the prospects of peace in their beleaguered country. The kids stated more than once that things are worse than they were the last time they held the conference call a few months ago, and that their hopes for peace have dwindled down to almost zero. This was in marked contrast to earlier conversations in which I participated, when they projected a sense of ebullience and hope. I had the impression in those past talks that they felt confident that they could make a difference through their admirable efforts to end the conflicts within their nation.
Yesterday, they expressed their belief that the Afghan people desire that our troops leave their country, that our military presence there essentially contributes to the decreasing potential for peace. Yet, they see little chance of our withdrawal in the foreseeable future.
The publication recently in numerous Online publications of a report that an agreement is about to be signed which would allow thousands of U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan until at least 2024 certainly reinforces the young peoples' despair. US Troops May Stay in Afghanistan Until 2024 | Common Dreams
The group (AYPV) of mostly teen-agers is located 100 miles to the north of Kabul in a mountainous province called Bamiyan. Their lives are extremely difficult. By contrast, an average middle-class American youngster's life seems like a dream. One of the younger ones, for instance, walks miles daily to obtain fresh water for his family. School is a luxury oftentimes, given that some must work the farms or sell potatoes full-time to help support their families. Despite their hardships, though, this group of juveniles manages to devote themselves heroically to the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. Among their many activities, they cleared through substantial debris to create a Peace Park, in which they planted trees and shrubs.
They have made a number of beautiful short videos very effectively urging peace. They've traveled 100 miles through difficult and even perilous terrain to Kabul for their periodic Global Days of Listening.
Their mentor and interpreter is Hakim, a doctor from Singapore, who has spent several years forming the AYPV, writing eloquent articles promoting their cause, creating and producing their videos, and interpreting in several languages, including excellent and fluent English, for their global conference calls. Influenced by Gandhi and Noam Chomsky's writings, Hakim gave up his private medical practice to focus on leading the young Afghans to pursue peace.
I tried to help them feel more positive as best I could. I told them I had lived many, many years and I've learned that things often change, even when you don't expect them to. I urged them to keep up their wonderful and inspiring actions, and that we peace grannies would do the same. That is the best I could offer, as I, myself, feel despair about the possibilities for peace in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) anytime in the near future.
I hope readers of these words will be moved as I was by the plight of these kids we threaten with our instruments of war. Please contact them by writing firstname.lastname@example.org
. They are very heartened by words of encouragement from people from other locales, particularly the United States, one of the principal causes of the chaos they endure. Ask to be notified of the various ways you can help them.
Finally, please watch this very brief video about the youngsters. They will steal your heart.
JOAN WILE -- author of newly-published book,
GRANDMOTHERS AGAINST THE WAR: GETTING OFF OUR FANNIES AND STANDING UP FOR PEACE (Citadel Press, May 2008 -- available at amazon.com and in book stores), which is an account of her founding of (more...)