Mail from NDE’s Jim in Kabul

March 21, 2011
Jim Haber via email from Kabul, Afghanistan:

Today’s discussions with the young Afghans was so powerful, hearing their individual stories. Also, they have specific ideas for us to share with our friends at home. We’re looking forward to sharing with you the images of their actions, the powerful slogans that we can share and amplify. The candle light of hope that we hope to ignite with you, sparked from candles we return with from the vigil here the other night. Their commitment to ending the killing in their country is strong. The clarity with which they call on all the warring factions to stop killing is so powerful. The risks for peace they take are so real. The 25 members of this delegation are inspired by this small group to redouble our work to get their message out, to combat the ignorant perspectives of the people of Afghanistan.

People were warned about threats of violence today, the Afghan New Year, the first day of Spring. 50,000 people gathered, and throughout the city there was a bit of an earthquake in the afternoon, but no bombs or attacks. It was a day of celebration. Tomorrow, Mary Lou and I will visit a internally displaced person’s camp on the edge of town. I’m sure it will be sobering, but we’ll also have more to share when we return.

Finding Hope in Afghanistan
By Jake Olzen
March 20, 2011

In a country torn by thirty years of war where the promise of peace is continually broken, despair and resignation seem to be the norm for Afghan society.  War – and its corollaries of social decay, poverty, corruption, and trauma – does not discriminate. 

Not a family in Afghanistan has been left unaffected by the death or disappearance of a loved one and the daily, traumatizing stress of living in an occupied war zone.  Billions of aid intended for reconstruction has been siphoned off leaving little left over for meaningful, local development. 

Afghanistan is an unstable society wracked by corruption at nearly every level of government and a pervasive distrust of strangers and neighbors alike is the expectant result of such disintegration of social ties.  But as the late Studs Terkel reminds us, “hope dies last.”  And this is certainly true for the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, a small but growing group of young Afghans committed to a life of peace in the midst of so much violence.

While cynicism and disbelief  run deep across generations, the AYPVs have an alternative vision for their country embedded deep in their hearts – and they believe this hope for peace is already in the heart of every Afghan.

Hope in the Afghan Spring
Fifty-five young saplings mark the beginning of a new year in Afghanistan.   The various apple, apricot, and almond trees were planted in a Kabul elementary and high school as a sign of hope and promise of peace.  Organized by the AYPVs, twenty-five international partners joined together with over fifty ordinary Afghans to declare a commitment to an Afghanistan without war.

The previous day, the AYPVS along with members of the Open Society organized and participated in an inter-ethnic walk for an end to the war.  As far as anyone can tell, this is the first public gathering calling for peace in Afghanistan that is not politically aligned or sponsored.  The bright blue scarves of the AYPVs, their smiles and words of gratitude to the accompanying riot police, and banners denouncing warmongering is a considerable different message that most Kabulis are not used to seeing or hearing. 

The steadfast commitment to nonviolence of the AYPVs and their deep desire for peace offers a kind of hope that is unheard of in Afghanistan but it also offers a breath of fresh air.  Slowly but surely the AYPVs and their partners – both Afghan and international – are growing into a sizable community with a peace-filled vision for Afghanistan. 

The planting of trees is a small gesture indeed and the challenges for ending the foreign occupation of Afghanistan, confronting corruption and human rights abuses (particularly of women), and promoting a culture of peace are many.  But the planting of trees is a beginning and it may very well be the birth of a movement that transforms Afghanistan.       

Jake Olzen is a member of the White Rose Community in Chicago, Il.  He writes from Kabul, Afghanistan.  He can be reached at jake.olzen@gmail.com

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March 19th: Candlelight commemoration remembering the children recently killed in Afghanistan – Nau Roz

From Kathy Kelly´s article on Antiwar.com, entitled One blue sky above us:

On March 19th, in Kabul, Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers will hold a candlelight commemoration, remembering the children recently killed in Afghanistan. Following this ceremony they will plant saplings as a symbol of their dedication to a nonviolent future. Their compassion extends beyond Afghanistan to young people in other lands, some of whom they will connect with through a “Global Day of Listening,” a 24-hour Skype communication which they’ll host on the first day of spring, Afghanistan’s “Nau Roz” (New Year’s Day) holiday. Colorado College students, on their spring break, plan to participate.

Read the whole article http://original.antiwar.com/kathy-kelly/2011/03/18/one-blue-sky-above-us/”>here.

International peace activists arrive in Afghanistan for week of actions

From Wagingnonviolence.org

by Eric Stoner | March 18, 2011

A group of 28 peace activists from the US and Australia, including Waging Nonviolence contributors Simon Moyle, Jim Haber and Jake Olzen, has just arrived in Afghanistan. They immediately connected with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, a truly inspirational group of young people who I had the good fortune of getting to know during my trip there in December. As Voices for Creative Nonviolence co-coordinator Kathy Kelly explains in an article that was widely published today:

Last evening, they showed us photos of an unusual walk they’d held in the streets of downtown Kabul that morning. Dressed in white, with the young women wearing sky blue veils and the young men in the same color neck scarves, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers carried sky blue and white banners proclaiming that Peace is a Pre-Requisite for Progress. They are seeking an end to wars in their country. “Why did you choose sky blue?” I asked. “Because it shows that there is just one sky over all of us,” Chahara replied. Although they came from different ethnicities and various provinces, they walked shoulder to shoulder, 40 of them, on a bright, warm day.

The delegation’s itinerary over the next few days is jam-packed. Kelly writes that:

On March 19th, in Kabul, Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers will hold a candlelight commemoration, remembering the children recently killed in Afghanistan. Following this ceremony they will plant saplings as a symbol of their dedication to a nonviolent future. Their compassion extends beyond Afghanistan to young people in other lands, some of whom they will connect with through a “Global Day of Listening,” a 24 hour Skype communication which they’ll host on the first day of spring [March 20], Afghanistan’s “Nau Roz” (New Year’s Day) holiday… (see: www.livewithoutwars.org and www.ourjourneytosmile.com or email globaldayoflistening@gmail.com to arrange participation for yourself and/or your community.

Hopefully over the next few days we will be running the dispatches from our contributors on the ground, so check back for updates on the work of these courageous activists.

NDE: International Activists Assemble in Kabul, March 17 – 24to Join Afghan Youth in Solidarity Delegation

*FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

*Contacts:

Jim Haber 415.828.2506 haber.jim@gmail.com
Mary Lou Anderson 775.219.5327 mlavegas@yahoo.com
Hakim (AYPV, Afghanistan) weeteckyoung@gmail.com
Joshua Brollier (VCNV, Chicago, IL) 773.878.3815 joshua@vcnv.org
Mario Intino (NDE, Las Vegas, NV) 702.806.4152 mario@cyberservo.com

*International Activists Assemble in Kabul, March 17 – 24 to Join Afghan Youth in Solidarity Delegation*

Jim Haber and Mary Lou Anderson of Las Vegas will be among the international peace activists meeting with members of Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV), in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 17-24, 2011.

Traveling as “citizen diplomats,” they hope to learn about Afghan experiences and to support an AYPV campaign called “I Wish to Live Without Wars,”. Updates from Haber and Anderson will be posted on an NDE webpage and on Twitter @NVDesertExp (and on this blog and on the facebook page).

Haber and Anderson are coordinator and a volunteer, respectively, with Nevada Desert Experience (NDE). Founded to resist nuclear weapons work at the Nevada National Security Site, NDE has recently been in the forefront of the movement against the increasingly deadly use of Predator pilotless aircraft in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Many Predator “drones” are controlled from Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, NV.NDE also facilitates personal renewal in the desert tradition, honoring the land, as people of the Earth.

“I look forward to meeting the brave citizens and youth groups of Afghanistan, listening to their dreams, their strife; sharing some joy, knowledge and hope for a violence-free future,” Anderson said about her reasons for going on this journey. Haber added, “One doesn’t have to go there to have solidarity with average Afghans, beset by violence from so many quarters, both foreign and domestic. However, I feel called to see for myself, to meet peacemakers there who I have been supporting in my long-standing work against US war-making and other brutalizing forces in Afghanistan.”

The AYPVs have asked the international delegation to help promote the second “Live Without Wars, Global Day of Listening” and to support their other anti-violence activities in Kabul in celebration of the Afghan New Year which is March 21, the first day of Spring. Afghans of many ethnicities will walk for peace together, followed by a tree planting take on Saturday, March 19, the Global Day of Listening on Sunday, March 20 (starting on 3/19 in Las Vegas), and the candle lighting on Monday, March 21.

Like the group Afghans for Peace, AYPV calls for an end to war. Determined not to exacerbate spiraling violence based on desires for revenge, members encourage wide-scale friendships of love and truth that will cross all borders towards nonviolent and conciliatory relations. They ask, “Why not love?”

During 2010, Voices for Creative Nonviolence members spent three weeks in October and again in December as guests of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, first in Bamiyan and then in Kabul. As in those trips, Anderson, Haber and the other 22 delegation members will meet with representatives of various NGOs and with leaders of civil society. They will also meet with Afghans who have been displaced by the war and now endure wretched conditions in a Kabul refugee camp.

*Voices for Creative Nonviolence has deep, long-standing roots in active nonviolent resistance to U.S. war-making. Begun in the summer of 2005, Voices draws upon the experiences of those who challenged the brutal economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and U.N. against the Iraqi people between 1990 and 2003.

Nevada Desert Experience has been organizing interfaith resistance to nuclear weapons and war since the mid-1980s. Through campaigns of education, dialogue and nonviolent direct action, NDE works against development and use of nuclear and other new weapons systems.