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Joan Wile

Joan Wile is the Founder of Grandmothers Against the War and the author of "Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace" (Citadel Press)

August 23rd, 2011 5:43 PM

Afghan Peace Youths Feel Hopeless

Say Conditions are Worsening

On Sunday, Aug. 21, I had the privilege of speaking via conference call with several young people from the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.  It was the occasion of what they have termed the "Global Day of Listening," during which the kids spoke with supporters and sympathizers all over the world for approximately 5 and a half hours.
 


Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, Bamyan Province, Afghanistan
 
I was immensely saddened to hear that they are discouraged about the prospects of peace in their beleaguered country.  The kids stated more than once that things are worse than they were the last time they held the conference call a few months ago, and that their hopes for peace have dwindled down to almost zero.  This was in marked contrast to earlier conversations in which I participated, when they projected a sense of ebullience and hope.  I had the impression in those past talks that they felt confident that they could make a difference through their admirable efforts to end the conflicts within their nation.
 
Yesterday, they expressed their belief that the Afghan people desire that our troops leave their country in a responsible manner as soon as possible, that our military presence there essentially contributes to the decreasing potential for peace.  Yet, they see little chance of our withdrawal in the foreseeable future.
 
The publication recently of a report in numerous Online publications that an agreement is about to be signed which would allow thousands of U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan until at least 2024 certainly reinforces the young peoples' despair.  US Troops May Stay in Afghanistan Until 2024 | Common Dreams
 
The group (AYPV) of mostly teen-agers is located 100 miles to the north of Kabul in a mountainous province called Bamiyan.  Their lives are extremely difficult.  By contrast, an average middle-class American youngster's life seems like a rhapsodic fantasy.  One of the younger ones, for instance, walks miles daily to obtain fresh water for his family.  School is a luxury oftentimes, given that some must work the farms or market potatoes full-time to help support their families.  The landscape is desolate, and there is a lack of warm clothing to protect against the extreme cold.   Despite their hardships, though, this group of juveniles manages to devote themselves to the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.  Among their many activities, they cleared through substantial debris to create a Peace Park, in which they planted trees and shrubs.

They have made a number of beautiful short videos very effectively urging peace.  (See below.)  They've traveled 100 miles through difficult and even perilous terrain to Kabul for their periodic Global Days of Listening.
 
Their mentor and interpreter is Hakim, a doctor from Singapore, who has spent several years organizing the AYPV, writing eloquent articles promoting their cause, creating and producing their videos, and interpreting in several languages, including excellent and fluent English, for their global conference calls.  Influenced by Gandhi and Noam Chomsky's writings, Hakim gave up his private medical practice to focus on leading the young Afghans to pursue peace.
 
I tried to help them feel more positive as best I could, telling them I had lived many, many years and learned that things often change, even when you don't expect them to.  I urged them to keep up their wonderful and inspiring actions, and that we peace grannies (the Granny Peace Brigade, Grandmothers Against the War, Grandmothers for Peace International, and the Raging Grannies, among many) would do the same.
 
But, they need so much more solace and stimulation than I or any one person could provide.  I hope readers of these words will be moved as I was by the plight of these kids we threaten with our instruments of war.  Please contact them by writing journeytosmile@gmail.com.  They are very heartened by words of encouragement from people from other locales, particularly the United States, a principal cause of the chaos they must endure.  Ask to be notified of the various ways you can help them
 
Finally, please watch this very brief video made by the youngsters.  They will steal your heart.
- Afghan Children Smile for Love Forgiveness Peace Humanity

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