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South Asia Peace Initiative

Everest Climb to Symbolize Nepali Unity

Kathmandu, Nepal — People climb Mt. Everest for many reasons, often for adventure or to win glory for themselves. But what about climbing the highest mountain in the world in order to help write a national Constitution? An even higher goal: How could ascending 8,848 meters above sea level help establish world peace?

The True North Expedition, with the sponsorship of the Universal Peace Federation of Nepal, has organized just such an expedition. “The porters are already at base camp,” said expedition leader Gokul Thapa, “and our climbers expect to reach the summit by mid-May.” He was speaking at a press conference in Kathmandu Wednesday.

At the same time Nepal’s peace process, which brought an end to 10 years of civil war, is facing a critical crisis. Seventeen political parties walked out of the Constituent Assembly on Tuesday, blocking Parliament from doing any business. They were against the Maoist government’s call to sack the chief of army staff, Gen. Rookmangud Katawal.

An on-going row between the government and the Nepal Army has reached a boiling point. Over the past few months they have been at odds over issues of recruitment, integration of the Maoist’s People Liberation Army with the Nepal Army, participation in national sporting games and the early retirement of eight generals.

The Maoist government sees the army, its enemy for nearly 10 years, as the biggest obstacle to establishing what some leftist parliamentarians still demand – a communist state.

Over the past several months the government has had confrontations with several institutions of the state, including allowing impunity for murders, stifling freedom of the press, insulting the judiciary and castigating Hinduism, the dominant religion.

How then is climbing a mountain going to help write a viable Constitution and bring the peace process back on track?

UPF-Nepal Chairman Ek Nath Dhakal explained during a two-day education program held April 13-14 for the climbers that a banner, “Everest Expedition for New Constitution and World Peace – 2009,” will be taken to the summit.

The banner will be signed by the leaders of all political parties, leaders of government and all religious leaders. “It will be a symbol of unity, teamwork and reconciliation,” Dhakal said.

In carrying the banner to the top of Mt. Everest, the climbers symbolize a commitment to a higher purpose for the sake of the nation. In signing it, the party leaders express a commitment to put the interests of the nation above those of their political parties in writing the new Constitution.

Five camps, including base camp, are needed to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. When climbers leave the second highest camp at 7,200 meters they continue without sleeping until reaching the summit. This is partly because they may not wake up if they go to sleep at those high altitudes.

It is also because they begin the final ascent to the summit at about 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. after resting just a few hours at the last and highest camp, called “South Col,” at 8,000 meters. After reaching the summit, where they will stay only about 15 minutes, the five-man team will start their descent immediately. They may go all the way to base camp before sleeping again.

High-altitude climbing, like writing a national Constitution, requires sleepless nights, lots of sacrifice and unselfish teamwork.

Dhakal continued the analogy by explaining, “All members of the expedition must work together to reach the summit. So, too, all Nepalese people, especially our leaders, need to work together, sacrificing for a higher purpose in order to create a new Constitution and lay the foundation for a new Nepal.”

Highlighting this point the UPF-Nepal Chairman reiterated, “Only when we learn to live more for others than for ourselves can we create peace.”

Starting with the Cabinet of the government of Nepal, which unanimously approved the expedition and waived royalties for the climb to the tune of US$50,000, everyone has been making sacrifices. The team of Sherpa climbers did not demand high fees for their services.

The Ministry of Tourism, which presented the proposal to the Cabinet, expedited the legal process and issued the climbing permit quickly. UPF-Nepal is sacrificing financially to support the expedition. Even the painter went without sleep one night to finish the banner in time for the press conference.

Santosh Paudel, director of True North Expedition, stressed that this heart and spirit made it all possible. “Clearly the willingness for everyone to make small sacrifices combined together to make this expedition possible. We need this kind of spirit in Nepal.”

This concept of peace through selfless service is very much a part of the expedition and one of the core values of UPF. Organizers have been working closely with the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee to set up cleaning projects on Sagarmatha – the Nepali name for Mt. Everest. The peace foundation will be spending a good portion of its resources to help clean up the waste and garbage at several camps on the mountain.

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