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Day of Peace Observed at an Educational Program in Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan - An observance of the UN International Day of Peace in the conference hall of Ibn-e-Sina University in Kabul on September 20 constituted a microcosm of Afghanistan, assembling people from various sections of the society and different ethnic groups, religions, and cultures.

Background

Afghanistan is going through a very critical situation. The process of security and political transition has left people suspended between hope and worry. Two situations are developing simultaneously. First, the country is rapidly passing a process of transformation economically, politically, and culturally. It is going to be more democratic, more developed and stable. The elections will take place in spite of challenges facing them; the peace process or other similar process will become more effective and lead to a regional and national convergence of will towards peace and reintegration of the insurgent groups. The economic situation will get better, enabling the country to use its internal resources and geographic potentials to cushion an increasingly economically independent and reviving state. This situation is supported by comments made by government officials and most of the reiterations by the international community.

Another situation is the increasingly fearful image of an uncertain future that triggers the tragic experience that people had after the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the collapse of communist regime and the legacy of Soviet occupation. This situation is supported by the fact that some areas of the country are actually insecure; the fate of peace process is unclear, clouded by contradictions and the refusal of insurgents to come to the table of dialogue with the government. Widespread corruption; war and narcotic economy; the apparently hostile position of neighboring countries; the ambiguous stand of the international community regarding their post-2014 policies towards Afghanistan; and the suspicions surrounding the will of the incumbent regime to peacefully hand over the power as envisaged in the law all contribute to a gloomy picture of the future played in the minds of people.

Amidst this ambiguity and uncertainty, however, a great deal of activities and campaigns are being undertaken by the civil society, women's rights groups, human rights activists, and individuals to ensure transparent and peaceful elections and transfer of power. They are conducting many activities and events that support the values of peace, nonviolence, and democracy in hopes of a more positive future for Afghanistan and reinforcing the hope that this country will not collapse into chaos and war again.

A microcosm of Afghan society

The celebration of the International Day of Peace by UPF-Afghanistan was one of those events that cast a light of hope in the horizon of a prospective peaceful Afghanistan. This single event transformed the dynamics of conflicts into elements of peace and coexistence for some hours.

Distinguished participants included the Deputy Director of the Council of Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan, Mr. Rawail Singh; Deputy Secretary of Vice President Khalili, Mr. Arif Basir; Director of Central Asia’s Desk of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Basir Hamdard; Special Advisor to the Parliament, Professor Jamili; spokesman and a candidate for next year’s presidential election, Mr. Dost Zada. Professors, school principals and teachers, civil society members, artists and many other men and women from other walks of life attended this gathering. A TV channel also came, and the report of event was broadcasted in the evening news of one of the popular TV channels, “Channel One.”

A gathering of around 150 people attended the celebration that began at 1:30 pm. Maryam Husaini recited a few verses of Holy Qur’an and prayed for peace. After that, Rahman Ali Javid, the Acting Education Director of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), opened the event with his remarks. He talked about the significance of the International Day of Peace, its history and this year’s motto, which is education for peace. He shared his own experience of teaching human rights and peace as a trainer and educator. According to him, activities that aim at raising the public awareness and cultural development play an important role in building sustainable peace. He pointed to the approximately 10 million school students in the country, of whom 40 percent are girls, as an achievement in the last decade which is a sign of hope for the future of this country, but he also pointed out that it is not enough merely to increase the numbers of schools and students. The quality of the curricula and the methodology of implementing it will determine whether peace is assured or undermined. He said that AIHRC had lobbied and worked to include human rights and peace themes into the school curricula, and this would impact the attitudes of students and teachers alike, helping them become more peaceful and responsible.

In order to add a new viewpoint to the program an essay contest was presented to high school students on the theme “How Education Can Contribute to Peace.” Ataullah, a student from Marefaf High School, won the contest and read his essay at the program representing the youth. He also shared some of his experiences and the stories he had heard from his father about war and described how much life had changed for him since 2001. The audience warmly applauded him and his impressive story on change and peace.

The next speaker was Salman Ali Dost Zada, who spoke about the importance of compassion, love, and forgiveness for realizing peace. He said that when hearts are filled with love and compassion, peace is a natural outcome that pervades the interpersonal and structural levels in the society. Dost Zada held that forgiveness was one key element in any circumstance and that violence and hatred could never leave human society until we arrived at a development stage in which our hearts could forgive even our enemies. In the context of Afghanistan he pointed out the enormity of the bad things that have happened, the number of people who lost their lives, and the confusion surrounding processes such as peace efforts, transitional justice, and democratization. He said that only the power of forgiveness can wash out the bloody history that the country has gone through and the hearts that have been stained with the rust of hatred and grudge. However, according to him, only a structural and cultural transformation of the conflict culture can make it possible to overcome violence and hatred at the societal level.

Mitra Wahidi, a young school girl, then played violin and added to the beauty of the event. She skillfully played an old traditional song unifying the audience in a sense of nostalgia and wonder.

Another speech was delivered by Rawail Singh, who talked about the importance of unity and diversity. He emphasized that real peace could only be realized when the diversity and the mosaic nature of a society has been acknowledged and upheld by law and regarded by political regimes. Diversity, according to him, was an intrinsic nature of each human society, and any effort to achieve a mechanically uniform society culturally, religiously, or otherwise was against the peace and harmony in the society, since even in the seemingly uniform nations of the world there can be found diverse belief systems, subcultures, languages and so on that was inevitable by the nature of them as human beings. So the fact that people follow different religions or speak different languages cannot by itself be the cause of conflict or war, but the way we deal with these phenomena determines whether they can enjoy a relatively peaceful and stable society or not. He added that in Afghanistan the government and public institutions should be at the service of all its citizens. This way, they could have a nation with common interests and identity. This way, Rawail said, the unity of a diverse nation such as Afghanistan would be realized.

In this part of the program, Mr. Umberto Angelucci, the regional director of UPF for southwest Asia, was invited to the podium to read the message of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In this year’s message he emphasized the importance of education and called on states to allocate more resources for educating the children of the world, especially those who live in war zones and in poor conditions. The audience observed a minute of silence, as the Secretary General had asked.

Mr. Angelucci then praised the audience and the people of Afghanistan for working and struggling to achieve peace. He said that peace cannot be realized overnight; rather it is a process that had already started in Afghanistan in the form of the enthusiasm shown by the energetic and dynamic young generation for learning, achieving, and developing. He gave the analogy of a seed that before sprouting and generating beautiful flowers and fruits penetrates deep into the heavy layers of soil for weeks or months, but once it wants to come out, it forcefully penetrates through the soil so strongly that nothing can stop it growing. The people of Afghanistan also, according to Mr. Angelucci, have a special capacity to grow and generate flowers of peace and realize universal values.

Principles of Peace

Mrs. Marilyn Angelucci was the last speaker and explained UPF's five Principles of Peace. She said that those five principles were universal and of paramount importance in order to achieve peace. She illustrated her speech with a PowerPoint presentation that pointed out the five principles on which sustainable world peace has to be founded. Acknowledging a common source/creator for all humanity was the first principle, and no matter what that source was called, it has been the cornerstone of all religions from ancient times to today. According to her, under such a common source, humanity can become like a family living in peace, harmony, and prosperity.

Another principle was the acknowledgment of another dimension to human life. That dimension was nonmaterial and as real as the physical world. The existence of such a dimension means that we need to educate ourselves not only in material sciences and skills but also in values that feed our non-material or spiritual dimension. Unless we pay attention to this dimension and the needs of this dimension, we can’t enjoy real and lasting peace.

Marriage and family was another principle in which the very seeds of peace are formed. Family has been an institution of all societies and times, because it is based on the very innate characteristics of the human race. The fundamentals of real peace, values such love, compassion, respect, and service are learned and cultivated in family life. So the institution of family has to be strengthened if humanity wants to enjoy a perpetual real peace.

Additionally human beings need to develop the attitude of living for the sake of others, so that they can overcome their selfishness, which is the source of all war and adversities. Mrs. Angelucci explained that this principle was the basic universal rule reflected in each natural phenomenon and event. Humans have to choose to uphold this principle if they want a joyful life and peace in each of its aspects.

The fifth principle of a sustainable world peace is interfaith dialogue, which underlies the very meaning of any dialogue of civilizations. The importance and role of world religion in history and contemporary societies is not something to be overlooked. No real peace can come about unless people of different belief systems and religions understand each other through dialogue and come to a point to focus on the commonalities and mutual acknowledgement and respect.

Music and entertainment

The last part of the program was music and entertainment. Hamid Sakhi Zada, who is a popular Afghan singer and musician, came on the stage with his band to sing peace songs, which were welcomed by smiles of thrill and applause of the audience. This part was a moment of joy, peace, and unity. The songs calling for unity, peace, and brotherhood made everybody happy. The program ended with serving a snack, participants sharing in groups, and taking photos.

International Day of Peace 2013 from Universal Peace Federation International

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