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International Day of Peace Celebrated in Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan - The International Day of Peace was celebrated in Kabul on Sept. 21, 2014 by thousands of school and university students, members of civil society organizations, teachers and peace volunteers in a program of speeches, recreational activities and a cleaning project. This event was held at Merafat High School and sponsored by UPF.

Afghanistan is going through a tough time due to tensions surrounding the first democratic power devolution in its history. For months the disagreements surrounding the presidential elections have led the country into almost a stalemate politically and economically. According to the law, the power was to be transferred to a new elected government, but allegations of rigging and claims and counter claims of fraud clouded the legitimacy of the whole process and postponed the power transfer for more than a month. This compelled the UN and the US officials to engage in serious dialogue with the two opposing candidates and their camps and mediate between them. Amidst this, International Day of Peace was celebrated in many programs and events in Kabul. Peace Village Organization, a local partner of UPF, marked the day in cooperation with Marefat Private High School.

The program was held at the Merafat High School campus, where 2100 students and a number of civil society activists, teachers, parents and peace volunteers had gathered. The program started with a prayer followed by students singing "We want peace, we want peace." Then two students came on stage and recited poems and quotations from short interviews they had conducted with a selected number of teachers and students. The Merefat students' Council for Peace and Environment that had helped in the organization of students and decoration of the site presented songs and peace messages through arts and poems.

Mr. Ahmadshah Stanekzai, the director of Peace Village, talked next. He spoke about peace at different levels of life. Making a good connection with audience, he gave examples from real life and emphasized that peace is continuously affected by what we think and what we do in our daily life. He said that each and every relationship we have with the social web and the environment is either peaceful or tends to be violent and harmful. He pointed out the need for conflict management in each and every relationship and insisted on the importance of participation to made peace more likely and decrease the occasions of violence by using conflict as opportunities for learning, improving and connecting.

Miss Shahzad Akbar, a civil society activist and political analyst, talked about the role of tolerance and justice in peace. She said: "We can say that we have a real peace in this country if every boy and girl in all corners of this country have equal opportunities and access to education." She said that once the population has been empowered then definitely people will opt for peace by meeting their needs, demanding and struggling for their needs to be met and finding better ways of managing their personal and social life. She said that the most essential factor for peace to prevail in society is tolerating one another's differences and acknowledging the real nature of life, which is diverse. She said once we can acknowledge these differences and everyone in the society has access to equal opportunities and potential for growth, then the society will be more peaceful, empowered, self-sustaining and self-correcting.

A group of students used wax to make symbols of peace and patterns that depict peace from their viewpoint. It was an exciting and joyful scene. Within the limited time, the students had to express peace in the form of designs and patterns.

A choral group came on stage and sang a long song with themes of patriotism and peace, calling on humans to stop violence since all of us are brothers and sisters; there are many ways and methods to resolve our differences rather than killing and harming each other. It was an emotional and inspirational song which brought some of the audience into tears.

Another part of the program was a two-hour cleaning project. Hundreds of older students from schools and universities participated in this project, calling their activity “cleaning for peace.” They had been provided with gloves, face masks and plastic sacks. Participants were divided equally into groups, supervised and led by peace volunteers. It was the time of both joy and work. They were singing as they were cleaning, creating a scene of fun and responsibility. Many bystanders and passersby joined the cleaning, clearing the streets of west Kabul from tons of garbage.

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