Tag Archives: Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN: Borderfree

Kathy Kellyby Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Here in Kabul, Sherri Maurin and I are guests of the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ recently formed live-in community for young women. Hollyhocks in the garden reach as high as the second floor of our living space.  Rose bushes, morning glories and four-o-clocks have bloomed, and each day we eat tomatoes, mint and green onions plucked from the well-cared for garden. The water source is a hose and tank outside, (there’s no indoor plumbing) so that’s where dishes and clothes are cleaned. The latrine is also outside, –and unfortunately we’re sharing it with playful neighbourhood cats, but otherwise  Zarghuna, Zahidi and Zahro complete almost every detail of housekeeping, each day, by 7:00 a.m.

Two additional rooms are filled with sewing machines and tables used by a group of local seamstresses.

The men’s community, separate now from the newly launched “Borderfree Community Center of Nonviolence,” where projects and programs take place, also has a fine garden and similar room arrangements.  An added plus – their yard has four trees!

The graffiti, ‘We Love Peace’, on the wall of Borderfree Community Center of Nonviolence. (photo courtesy of Kathy Kelly)

The graffiti, ‘We Love Peace’, on the wall of Borderfree Community Center of Nonviolence. (photo courtesy of Kathy Kelly)

The Borderfree Center is named for Prof. Noam Chomsky’s call, in a 2013 American University of Beirut commencement speech, for participation in “a worldwide struggle to preserve the global commons” so as to secure “decent human survival in a world that has no borders.”  The symbol of their participation is the blue scarf they distribute to friends and supporters, symbolizing the blue expanse of sky upon which national boundary lines will never be drawn.

Going and coming from our communities to “the Center” is a 35-minute walk through village-like streets if you take the back ways.  The Borderfree Community Center, when it was first rented, needed considerable rehab and repairs. Hakim, Faiz, Zekerullah and Abdulhai worked hard to shape it up.  Now, guests enter an attractive space, neatly painted, with plenty of classroom and meeting space.  Plants, curtains, photo exhibits, and carpets have all been carefully chosen.  Sadaf, one of the APV women who has been active in producing the Borderfree scarves, organized art students from local universities to paint images on the walls of a children’s classroom as well as the reception area.  Painted on a wall inside the center’s gate is a playful piece of graffiti with lots of floating bubbles. Letters appearing where the bubbles pop spell out “We Love Peace,” although in a jumbled order that presents a challenge for linear thinkers.  Another artist, a well-known cartoonist, painted an image on the outside wall, visible to passers-by.  It shows a figure who has fired a slingshot at a drone, but instead of a rock, a small red heart symbol breaks the drone in half. 

Classes and programs keep the center lively.  Earlier this week,   ten people who had been invited to participate in a four-week orientation course on nonviolence attended the first session.  We also gathered for the weekly Global Awareness sessions which focus on a range of topics related to militarism, environmental concerns, and socioeconomic inequalities.  Hamidullah Natiq, a seasoned practitioner of conflict resolution in Afghanistan, meets with the group once a week. Local children, part of a “street kids” project, come once a week for Dari language and Math classes, guided by two capable young volunteer teachers, Hadisa and Farzana. And, once a month, the “street kids” receive, for their families, large sacks of rice and containers of cooking oil. These donations allow them to attend school rather than work as vendors on Kabul’s streets.

Rent for the center costs $500 per month. The APVs hope that by selling the borderfree sky blue scarves they can help cover this cost. Sherri, I and other internationals will encourage people in our home locales to assist with the center’s expenses. 

During a recent visit to Kabul’s Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War, the staff shared with us their sense of what’s happening around the country, derived from the reports of staff working at several dozen clinics and at their main hospitals in two other provinces.  They described Kabul as “a bubble.”  They told us full-scale wars are being fought between quite heavily armed forces in both eastern and southern Afghanistan, although the news coverage that goes beyond Afghanistan generally pertains to Kabul. The groups fighting the Afghan government include various warlords, the Taliban, drug kingpins, and foreign fighters, some of whom may be strategizing ways to cut off the roads to Kabul. The Kabul “bubble” can be quite vulnerable. 

The borders now vanishing in the Middle East – the most radical transformations of the map here since the post-WWI Sykes Picot agreement – are being redrawn in chaos and fear. The bubbles that burst here are the hopes for peace in a world avid for control of this region and its resources.  Unfortunately, durable structures of separation and domination make it difficult for many young Afghans to fulfill their longings to connect meaningfully, peacefully, and stably with a saner world united under one blue sky.

I asked Faiz what he most appreciates about the Borderfree Center.  He immediately spoke of the graffiti outside, saying that it gives him hope and suggests a sense of freedom and courage.  I believe that courage is the ability to control one’s fear. Faiz dares to hope that the courage and love of ordinary people can free them from artificial systems of surveillance, separation, and dominion. The heart of love that breaks apart the drone, propelled by a slingshot converted into a peace-making tool, points all of us in a direction, sorely needed, that aims to abolish war. We have a lot of work to do, our tools are small, and the time is short. Yet over the past several years, as I’ve watched this inter-ethnic community grow, acts of kindness have been a reliable bulwark against war.  Before me, looking out on a flourishing garden, I’m grateful for their hope.

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.  While in Kabul, she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (ourjourneytosmile.org)

AFGHANISTAN: Celebrate the Afghan New Year by connecting with the Afghan Peace Volunteers

from Voices for Creative Nonviolence & Afghan Peace Volunteers

apv

Salam from Afghanistan, where the Afghan New Year ( Nao Roz  / New Day ) is five days away on the 21st of March.  Alas, peace is much further away.

We ask for your friendship and time in making a Skype or telephone connection with my Afghan family, the Afghan Peace Volunteers, on Nao Roz or in the next few weeks, to talk about their wishes for the new year, their joy in flying kites, and their hope to build a world free of human borders.

The Afghan Peace Volunteers are so tired of war that they are determined to build relationships to abolish war.

We believe that an immediate way to be a strong 99% is to get to know one another through arranging Skype or telephone connections across all borders.

We wish to speak via Skype or telephone with ordinary folk, youth, students, farmers, labourers, teachers, musicians and artists, environmentalists, social workers, indigenous communities, friends and activists from every single country in the world, thus catalyzing the most powerful force in the world – love.

To converse with us on Nao Roz the 21st of March,  please email globaldaysoflistening@gmail.com, and for other dates, please email borderfree@mail2world.com

We wish to hear your ‘Borderfree’ voice!

Love from Afghanistan,

Torpekai, Khalida, Sadaf, Sonia, Zerghuna, Basir, Abdulhai, Ali, Ghulamai, Zekerullah, Faiz, Raz, Khamad, Barath, Feroz, Hikmat and Hakim, with the Afghan Peace Volunteers

AFGHANISTAN: “Who will hear our voice?” the plea of Afghan women

Rev. John Dear, S.J.

by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

This week, as our war president was inaugurated on the holiday of Martin Luther King Jr., I thought how King would be speaking out boldly against our war in Afghanistan, our use of drones, our use of torture, our use of execution and our use of bombs and call us once again to end the killings, become people of nonviolence and side with the victims of our war that we might create the “beloved community.”

So my thoughts turn again to the many impoverished women and children I met last month in Kabul. Reflecting on my journey to Afghanistan, I hear the question that was asked over and over again: “Who will hear our voice?”

“No one listens to our voices,” one woman told us. “We can’t imagine a better future for our children. There is little hope for them. Some countries say they send aid, but where is it? We have never seen it. It all goes into the hands of the government leaders who buy homes in Dubai. Who will hear the voice of the people? We have so much pain in our hearts because no one will listen to us.”…

Click here to read this entire article.

MLK DAY 2013: MLK Injustice Index 2013 – Racism, Materialism and Militarism in the U.S.

Bill Quigley, PCUSA Teacher of Peaceby Bill Quigley, Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values…when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967

While the U.S. celebrates the re-election of its first African American President and the successes of numerous African Americans in all walks of life, there remain troubling challenges.

While remembering how far this nation has come since Dr. King was alive, we cannot forget how far we have still to go to combat the oppressions of racism, materialism and militarism.

MLK_Memorial_NPS_photoRacism

Whites have 22 times more wealth than blacks and 15 times more wealth than Latino/as.  Median household net worth for whites was $110,000 versus $4,900 for blacks versus $7,424 for Latinos, according to CNN Money and the Census Bureau.

African Americans are 12.3 percent of the population but 4.7 percent of attorneys.

Latino/as are 15.8 percent of the population but only 2.8 percent of attorneys.

African American students face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous high school classes and are more likely to be taught by less experienced and lower paid teachers according to a government sponsored national survey of 72,000 schools.

13% of whites, 21% of blacks and 32% of Hispanics lack health insurance, according to the Kaiser Foundation.

The latest Census analysis shows 9% of white families below the U.S. poverty level and 23% of Black and Hispanic families below the same levels.

Materialism

The chairman of Goldman Sachs was awarded $21 million in total pay for 2012 according to the Wall Street Journal.

From 1978 to 2011, compensation for workers grew by 5.7 percent.  During the same time, CEO compensation grew by 725 percent.  In 1965 CEOs earned about 20 times the typical worker.  In 2011, the typical CEO “earned” over 200 times the typical worker.

The top 1% of earners took home 93% of the growth in incomes in 2010, while middle income household have lower incomes than they did in 1996, according to Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

People in the U.S. spent $52 billion on pets in 2012, according to the American Pet Products Association.  The latest figures from the Census Bureau indicate the U.S. spends less than $50 billion per year in non-military foreign aid.

Student loan debt is now higher than total credit card debt and total auto loan debt.

Over 2.8 million children in the U.S. live in homes of extreme poverty, less than $2 per person per day before government benefits.  This is double what it was 15 years ago.

Nearly one in six people in the U.S. live in poverty according to the Census.  One in five children live in poverty.  Latest information shows 17% of white children in poverty, 32% of Hispanic children and 35% of black children.

Militarism

The U.S. spends more on its military than any country in the world.  The U.S. spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined!  More than China, Russia, UK, France, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Brazil together.

The 2013 military budget authorizes spending $633 billion on our military defense, not including money for the Veterans Administration.  The VA budget submission for 2013 is $140 billion.  To compare, total federal spending on Social Security for 2012 was about $773 billion.

The U.S. has 737 military bases outside the U.S. around the world and over 2 million military personnel, including Defense Department and local hires.

The U.S. leads the world in the sale of weapons in the global arms market.  In 2011 the U.S. tripled sales to $66 billion making up three-quarters of the global market.  Russia was second with less than $5 billion in sales.

45% of the 1.6 million veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking disability benefits from physical and mental injuries suffered while in the service.

Suicides in active U.S. military, 349 in 2012, exceeded the 295 total combat deaths in Afghanistan in 2012, according to the Associated Press.

Conclusion

These are challenges we should face with the hope and courage Dr. King and so many others have taught us as we celebrate his accomplishments and his inspiration.

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer who teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and works with the Center for Constitutional Rights.  He is a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace. A version of this article with sources is available.  You can contact Bill at quigley77@gmail.com.

REFLECTION: Brian Terrell’s peace witness from prison

Rev. John Dear, S.J.

by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

This week, the president nominated the head of the U.S. drones program, responsible for killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to be his new head of the CIA. That is appropriate, because the CIA runs the U.S. torture, rendition, assassination and mass-murder program in conjunction with the Pentagon. Of course, all of this pure evil goes contrary to everything the nonviolent Jesus taught. What do we Christians do? We protest the ongoing killings by these evil U.S. drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen; continue to call for nonviolent conflict resolution; try to build a movement of nonviolence; and take nonviolent risks to stop the killings.

My friend Brian Terrell has taken many nonviolent risks to say “no” to a future of drones and permanent war. A longtime peace activist, a member of the “Creech 14″ and a founder of the Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa, Brian is currently serving six months in the federal prison in Yankton, S.D., for protesting our evil U.S. drones program.

On April 15, Brian and two friends walked onto the Whiteman Air Force Base in central Missouri to present a letter to the base commander calling for an end to the U.S. drone warfare. They tried to make the case that dropping bombs on women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan will not lead to peace — much less improve our own security — but will inspire thousands of people to join the violent movements against the United States. They were immediately arrested, tried and sentenced in federal court. While our recent government war criminals, Wall Street criminals and torturers go free, Brian is holed up in a cell in South Dakota.

To read this entire article which appeared in the Huffington Post, click here.

AFGHANISTAN: Bearing witness to peacemaking in a war-torn country

Rev. John Dear, S.J.by Fr. John Dear, SJ
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

This is part two of my diary from Afghanistan. It’s very long, but I offer it to those who are interested in my experience in Afghanistan, where we have waged the longest war in U.S. history. To learn more about the Afghan Peace Volunteers, visit 2millionfriends.orgourjourneytosmile.com and vcnv.org. Merry Christmas to one and all!

Dec. 6

This afternoon, we drove across Kabul, one of the most polluted, impoverished cities on earth, with its sea of speeding cars, to one of the many refugee camps, where we sat in a U.N. tent listening to camp leaders share their suffering and beg for peace. About 55 families fill this crowded camp, and some of the families have as many as 25 members.

“We are tired of war,” the elder began. “We have nothing to live on. We have no work. We do not want our children killed. Who would want this? Finish this war. We don’t want anyone else killed. No one in this camp wants the war to continue. We are sick of war.

“One of the main problems,” he said, “is that we are not willing to talk to one another. The powers that be must talk. Everyone in Afghanistan is Muslim; there should be no fighting between Muslims. We all know war has no benefit for the people. They want it to end. The war only benefits those in power. There are many widows, orphans, maimed people, hungry, sick and unemployed people. They are sick of this war. The same fighting has been going on for decades and we fear we will never see peace. It’s just been a matter of changing those who sit in the chairs of power. The killings just continue. The powers that be have turned Afghanistan into a killing field, their personal playground of war….

To read the rest of this article, click here.

AFGHANISTAN: Youth of Afghanistan call for peace

Rev. John Dear, S.J.by Fr. John Dear, SJ
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

“We call upon the United Nations to negotiate an immediate cease-fire to the war in Afghanistan, and to start talks aimed at ending the war and beginning the long road to healing and recovery.” That’s what the Afghan youth said on Tuesday afternoon in Kabul, along with Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire of Ireland, as they launched their “Two Million Friends for Afghanistan” campaign and presented their petition to a senior United Nations official.

For me, it was the climax of a heart-breaking, astonishing eight days in one of the poorest, most violent, most war-torn, most corrupt, and most polluted places on the planet — and because of the amazing “Afghan Peace Volunteers,” the 25 Afghan youth who live and work together in a community of peace and nonviolence — one of the most hopeful.

All these Afghan youth have suffered from war and poverty, but as they point out, two million people have been killed in war in Afghanistan over the past four decades. After ten years of Soviet war and occupation in the 1980s, then the Civil War in the early 1990s led by the corrupt warlords, then the years of oppression under the Taliban, and now 11 years of American war and occupation, they are sick of war. Their message is the same message we heard everywhere — from a woman’s cooperative, a children’s school, a refugee camp, and even in Parliament — “Stop the Killings. End the war. We want peace.”…

To read the rest of this article, click here.