Our Journey to Smile

An Afghan message of peace to Obama the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, about our savage ‘Afghan’ instincts; and timeless advice from the ‎wall behind him

Please watch a young, Afghan friend talk about our savage ‘Afghan’ instincts


the 'savage' Afghan

“They are like ‘animals’ because they are unethical & get furious.”

From my peaceful mud-house in the Afghan Hindu Kush hills, I imagine a White House morning when Malia and Shasha are sincerely worried and fearful about some dangerous rumours, that inhuman extremists in Hamburg, Yemen, Somalia, Afg/Pak and closer to home, in New York, may be plotting to hurt them and their friends.

I can’t imagine their kind, loving father Obama storming into their room and shouting, “Don’t worry, I will send 40,000 more troops to every one of those places, I’ll escalate the number of Nevada-based computer-drone pilots who would remotely extinguish your distant fears, and if you have any strong suspicions about any fishy characters near you, I will activate our modified renditions, trace down and destroy all their safe havens or simply, I’ll kill them all.”

I can’t imagine it because behind Obama’s desk in his Senate office, there are 2 iconic pictures on the wall, of heroes close to Obama’s heart : Ghandi and Martin Luther King. They would speak to Obama in their deaths if they could. What they would have said today they had said years ago; and I’ve reproduced their clear strategy below for Obama’s convenience.

I can’t imagine this of a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We congratulate him for being conferred this title.

Obama's heroes behind his Senate desk

If hate is the root of the ‘terror’ around and within us, we clearly need a civil response of courageous love.

We need to bravely re-define what is of ‘necessity’; our conscience and even our fears recognize that what is of ‘necessity’ now is not war.

We cannot make ourselves more secure with more violence. We cannot gain trust with more mutual killing. We never win by imposing death on others or on our own soldiers.

Even if we, somehow, ‘win’, we ourselves, eventually, die. We all do, not just Afghans.

President Obama, ordinary Afghans and international soldiers who are dying in what is now your Afghan war, ask that you do not inadvertently re-define peace as war, for in so doing, you would have taken away all of our hope.

Though I can’t think this mad-ness of America’s First Family, the world is staring at the angry, arrogant illogic of our 21st century’s insecure, First World elite policy makers.

With them, there are no longer any creative, non-violent, civilian alternatives. Very few thinkers think. Hardly any empathize and philosophy is derisively dead.

So, when Gore Vidal said that there’ll be a ‘dictatorship’ in the US soon, or when Jimmy Carter suggested a deep racist undercurrent to health care reform or when the Pope had called the kettle black in blaming greed for the financial crisis, they are partly referring to the complete dominance of the haughty, savage instinct of SELF-preservation over all else. And this isn’t a uniquely savage ‘Afghan’ instinct. It’s in all of us.

No questions.

No alternatives.

Questions and alternatives are deemed treason.

The only ‘winnable’ military strategy becomes sacred and ‘holier-than-thou’, because we believe that we must have ‘victory’ at all cost. We fear ‘losing’, even if we lose everything ‘essential about ourselves’.

Afghans know this strategy very well. They have been dying from the dictatorship of their ancient, violent greed for power and money. Now, we are sealing their greed and our deaths with Man’s hollow appearances and foggy wars. We are declaring:

Fraud is free.

Lies are truths.

Military might is right.

And money is everything.

Afghanistan’s tribal warlordism used to be confined to villages and valleys but now, with international assistance, it has been sanctioned and propagated country-wide. So, Afghans who have lived all their lives surviving and mastering this primitive warlordism are waiting, hungrily waiting.

“Train us! Send us those dollars! We’ll help you through our endlessly vengeful, constantly traitorous shifting allegiances. Don’t worry about us; on the average, we live for only 43 years anyway,” the Afghan elite shout.

Living here in a tribal village in Afghanistan, I’ve come to understand our common human condition. I’m not talking about the breakout of the ‘Lord of the Flies’ style savagery on William Golding’s island or at Kabul’s US fortress or in the desperate, fraudulent Afghan elections.

I’m talking about something much, much cruder.

This madness needs to stop. We need to find love and truth again.

Afghans have not seen compassion or justice in the inhumanity of constant war. They need hope that the abusive money and power of the corporate 1% do not always triumph. Every human needs such hope.

Maybe, they and the world can discover these human values if Obama remains engaged in Afghanistan, but through a 90% civilian effort. We can all be more imaginative in our commitment.

Those who reason that the military strategy must precede the civilian surge should consider the view of Amrullah Saleh, the head of the Afghan intelligence agency, when he said that the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, could play a vital role in ending the Afghan war. “To arrest the Taliban leadership in Quetta, you don’t need a military operation … just soft-knock their house and arrest them,” Saleh told Al Jazeera. Or I ask myself how some international humanitarian civilians and I could live in Quetta post-September 11, without hired security.

We wish for a 90% civilian approach because we envision that robust international relations are fostered through sincere diplomacy, not armed threats and we expect that Obama’s government is ultimately a civilian government, not a military one.

The authority of the Commander-in-Chief was not intended to approve militarism as a way of good governance but as a check, lest we forget that we are firstly humans, and that our naked humanity needs to be our primary resort, way before partisan politics and uniformed plans.

And since weighing the financial cost-benefit of waging war would remorselessly favor fighting for an illusory national security and recycling the tangible military-industrial profit, we’re unlikely to find sanity that way. It’s time, instead, to humanely deliberate over the priceless human cost behind every soldier, veteran and civilian dying, for what?

Obama is heading towards real Change in re-considering the Afghan strategy anew, for the sake of ourselves and our fellow human beings, because re-considering is a key to humanity’s innovation, if not a way to recover our kindness. We are trusting in the kindred spirit overcoming man-made institutions and temporal decorum when we keep hope that the debate would truly be diverse and not merely cosmetic.

No human likes abandonment, as is natural in normal friendships, so while some rightly fear that creating all the civilian options we can muster to assist Afghanistan may be misconstrued as leaving Afghanistan, those fears are unfounded and unfriendly.

Einstein’s pacifist intellect is sorely needed but his common sense intellect is sufficiently important at this moment: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

Obama’s penchant for history knows that war certainly isn’t new. War is the same old, tragic story. It will never be the ‘substantially new manner of thinking’ required for our survival, for our freedom from fear and our search for meaning.

President Obama, please reason with the civil hearts among the masses, whose majority want peace, through a referendum if necessary. You will then witness the very virtue you want your iconic heroes to remind you of, that ‘real results will not just come from Washington, they will come from the people’, that a truer ‘governance of the people by the people’ built upon the moral compass of ordinary people is possible in the States, and with great patience, in Afghanistan too. After all, whether we live life with a conferred title, rank or uniform, or as name-less souls, we all perish as ordinary people.

And please heed the civil voices, even if they come from the dead, silent wall behind you.

For then, the escalating anger and madness, our shared savage instincts, would begin to abate. And our world would find genuine safety in decency and in the conciliatory civilizations of this age, the momentous change we’ve all been longing for.

the 'civil' Afghanthe bright, civil Afghan

Ghandi and Martin Luther King to Obama today

Below are the 2 icons speaking to Obama. I have not bothered to change the names of the countries mentioned because the love and truth spoken in their views don’t change, not for the well-known Presidents that pass through the White House, or for the unknown Afghans that live in the hills.

And enough similarities have been drawn about the Afghan and Vietnam war scenarios, though such analyses can never bring back those who have been killed in the past, nor clarify the doubts of those who choose to kill today, nor alleviate the terror of those who may be killed.

Ghandi to Obama today

Gandhi spinning wheel Obama's office


I may not carry my argument any further. Language at best is but a poor vehicle for expressing one’s thoughts in full. For me nonviolence is not a mere philosophical principle. It is the rule and the breath of my life. I know I fail often, sometimes consciously, more often unconsciously. It is a matter not of the intellect but of the heart. True guidance comes by constant waiting upon God, by utmost humility, Self-abnegation, by being ever ready to sacrifice one’s self. Its practice requires fearlessness and courage of the highest order. I am painfully aware of my failings.

But the Light within me is steady and clear. There is no escape for any of us save through truth and non-violence. I know that war is wrong, is an unmitigated evil. I know too that it has got to go. I firmly believe that freedom won through bloodshed or fraud is no freedom.

The end and aim of the movement for British withdrawal is to prepare India, by making her free for resisting all militarist and imperialist ambition, whether it is called British Imperialism, German Nazism, or your pattern. If we do not, we shall have been ignoble spectators of the militarization of the world in spite of our belief that in non-violence we have the only solvent of the militarist spirit and ambition. Personally I fear that without declaring the Independence of India the Allied powers would still not be able to beat the Axis combination which has raised violence to the dignity of a religion. The allies cannot beat you and your partners unless they beat you in your ruthless and skilled warfare. If they copy it, their declaration that they will save the world for democracy and individual freedom must come to naught. I feel that they can only gain strength to avoid copying your ruthlessness by declaring and recognizing now the freedom of India, and turning sullen India’s forced co-operation into freed India’s voluntary co-operation.
To Britain and the Allies we have appealed in the name of justice, in proof of their professions, and in their own self-interest. To you I appeal in the name of humanity. It is a marvel to me that you do not see that ruthless warfare is nobody’s monopoly. If not the Allies, some other Power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. Even if you win you will leave no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride in a recital of cruel deeds however skillfully achieved.
Even if you win, it will not prove that you were in the right; it will only prove that your power of destruction was greater. This applies obviously to the Allies too, unless they perform now the just and righteous act of freeing India as an earnest and promise of similarly freeing all other subject peoples in Asia and Africa.

I address this appeal to you in the hope that our movement may even influence you and your partners in the right direction and deflect you and them from the course which is bound to end in your moral ruin and the reduction of human beings to robots.
The hope of your response to my appeal is much fainter than that of response from Britain. I know that the British are not devoid of a sense of justice and they know me. I do not know you enough to be able to judge. All I have read tells me that you listen to no appeal but to the sword. How I wish that you are cruelly misrepresented and that I shall touch the right chord in your heart! Anyway I have an undying faith in the responsiveness of human nature.

Martin Luther King to Obama today

Martin Luther King at rally Obama's office

Martin Luther King

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements, and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops.

Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease.

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the hearts of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood. It ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.


Sometimes, ‘no’ is better for Afghan toilet development; building a Peace Park in Afghanistan

Please watch a short video clip of Bamiyan Peace Park’s opening


Bamiyan Peace Park Opening

Bamiyan Governor Dr Sarobi with volunteer youth at Peace Park opening

Play that Afghan flute with your own breath of truth

Sound that Afghan tune with your own heart of love

Transform that Afghan poverty with your own hand of labour

“No, in that case, don’t apply for those foreign funds!”

In 2007, City Mayor Zahir proposed to the Bamiyan Peace Committee ( a UN-facilitated government and non-governmental peace building committee headed by the Bamiyan Provincial Governor Dr Sarobi ) to build a 1134 square meter Peace Park within Bamiyan City.

From the Peace Park site, you can see the Bamiyan Buddhas which were destroyed by the Taliban. These Buddhist structures were built more than 1800 years ago and though Bamiyan locals are all Muslims, they were dismayed at the loss of this heritage.

Also seen in another direction is the City of Gholghola. ‘Gholghola’ means ‘noise’, said to be the noise made by the screams of the ancient city’s inhabitants as they were being slaughtered by the raiding hordes of Genghis Khan. Genghis was taking revenge for Metiken, his favorite grandson who was killed earlier in a Bamiyan battle.

Bamiyan City is a fascinating, historical crossroads whose atmosphere holds both hurt and hope.

Can Afghans develop a single-street city and its environs? No? Size-wise, it’s merely a ­­­2 km-long street lined on both sides by mud-brick haggling shops and chair-less tea-houses.

The main Buddha statue, though ‘artilleried’ beyond recognition, tells the stone-silent Central Asian story that humans in every age build their culture with their own hands, and build it well. Surrounding the original 53 meter tall statue are other smaller statues and a natural system of caves where monks and pilgrims stayed and came to worship.

Human civilizations do not lose their ancient skill of community building, unless the skill is deliberately quenched or subdued.

Ahmed Rashid talked about Afghanistan being a ‘rentier’ state in the book Taliban, ‘rentier’ alluding to a state almost totally dependant on foreign help. This un-natural dependence has become so ingrained and extreme that Afghans joke about it. You can hear the regretful damage done to their proud Afghan spirit. “Nowadays, to construct our own latrines, we also have to submit project proposals to foreigners.”

Suddenly, after centuries of resilient survival under rather harsh conditions, Afghans can’t make latrines in which to relief themselves! Yes, Afghans are poor but latrines have always been hand-built at practically no cost, constructed out of free bricks made from the ample, free indigenous soil, the same earth-bound way the caves were hewn out of rock!

This self-effacing laugh at themselves is an unwilling protest that something important within them has been taken away.

Many of the Afghan youth I work with, emulating their adults, genuinely believe that ‘without foreign money and help, we cannot do anything. We just can’t!”

So, as ‘conventional wisdom’ would dictate, there were NO questions asked about how the proposed Peace Park would be built. Like for every other public Afghan development, proposals written in English (rather than in their equally beautiful Dari) would be handed to foreign donors and if ‘successfully’ approved, there would be funds for the Park’s construction and perhaps ‘extra dollars’ for a few personal pockets too.

Basically, if there’s no foreign money, there’ll be no local park.

So, the government-allocated Peace Park site remained its un-cultivable rocky, neglected self, for more than a year.


Bamiyan Peace Park in August 2008

Then, in July 2008, college youth involved in a peace workshop took an interest in the yet ‘un-seen and un-funded’ Park. On their behalf, I suggested to the Peace Committee that as this was just a small park, it should be a Park built entirely by the people of Bamiyan.

“Please, we have to be realistic!”

“Aren’t you aware that there’s not a single public structure in Bamiyan that is not foreign-stamped?”

“Er…we don’t have the capacity to be self-sufficient.”

“We can’t do it!”

I felt that a different kind of proposal needed to be heard by local and foreign committee members alike, that the dignity of Afghans whom I love needed space, needed room.

So, in Dari, I persuaded, “Please understand that I’m not antagonistic towards foreigners. I can’t be. I’m a foreigner myself. But we should try to make this Park a Park built by the people! How about mobilizing village councils to contribute in various ways? How about the private or civil sectors? ”

Thankfully, Dr Sarobi, the only female Governor in Afghanistan, despite her doubts, was willing to try. “Let’s invite the private sector to consider funding the building of this Park.”

In September 2008, Dr Sarobi officiated at the Park’s ground-breaking ceremony. Agricultural soil was donated by the naturalized Afghan-Japanese boss of a local hotel. 2 of the bigger local construction companies sent their graders for leveling the soil. Bamiyan volunteer youth came, wielding shovels to help with the leveling.

Winter set in.

I heard from City Mayor Zahir about a hopeful proposal submitted by a government directorate. Otherwise, there was no movement.

I gave in.

You see, the result-orientated foreigner in me hurried to seize an opportunity to get funds from the German Embassy. After all, the intention of assistance is usually good and benign. Why say ‘no’ to good-will?

But, what I did when I submitted a proposal to the German Embassy through the UN office in Bamiyan was this : I was nipping the budding resolve of my Afghan friends and of myself, to do this patiently, on our own.

My ‘pragmatism’ became the betrayer of our nascent hope.

‘Fortunately’, through providence or the lack of it, the German Embassy rejected the proposal.

Time slipped by and we all had our own individual challenges as the harsh winter deepened, and the thin topsoil that had been leveled at the Park grounds froze over.

But time also nurtured thoughts of a new spring and independence in our minds. A few youth gathered again in the spring of 2009 to prepare the soil for planting. The volunteer turnout was meager and on one occasion, was only a pathetic pair.

But there was a remnant of effort and a trace of determination.

The City Mayor’s municipality workers tilled the land and landscaped it.

We reminded the Environment Directorate to source for and plant grass seed. We took an official government letter requesting for tree saplings to the Agricultural Directorate, only to face a bureaucratic hold-up, “I can’t give you any saplings as the number of saplings needed is not specified in this letter.’

In short, reform demands patience and persistence.

And patience, perhaps especially when it is NOT rewarded, grows.

The grass and trees were planted and began to grow. And our courage grew with the greening of the Park.

Bamiyan Peace Park after

Bamiyan Peace Park October 2009

It was then that the youth’s appreciation of independence was ‘tested’. This time,I merely explained to the youth that an international NGO ( Non-Governmental Organization ) was willing to fund a part of the Park’s further development, including the possibility of building toilets for the Park, but that the NGO had an understandable regulation of placing a signboard to acknowledge their contribution. If the NGO helped, it might eventually appear like a foreign-built local Park after all.

After surprisingly quick discussions, all except one of the youth decided that they would submit a proposal on condition that the NGO waivered the ‘signboard regulation’.

I got back to the NGO’s project manager, a foreigner, who said, “No, sorry. We have our regulations. I’m very busy. We have the money. Just submit the proposal.”

Here’s another strange and humanly-disturbing irony about well-meaning help, rendered a crippling crutch by the assumed ‘right’ and ‘power’ of money, which inflates the helper with a semblance of philanthropy and deflates the helped with the embarrassment of inferiority.

So, the youth politely said ‘no’! “No, in that case, don’t apply for those foreign funds!” I myself was pleasantly surprised. No, I was overjoyed.

Sometimes, ‘no’ is better. Sometimes, ‘no’ gives room to play our flutes and give sound to our hearts.

The youth participated in the sale of a book and from the proceeds of the book sales, Bamiyan University students had an engraved marble plaque crafted and placed in the Park.

On the 1st of October 2009, Dr Sarobi inaugurated the opening of Bamiyan Peace Park as part of the International Peace Day celebrations. In her short speech, she said, “Firstly, I want to appreciate & thank all the volunteer youth who, with their own hands, have turned a place of stone into a park of beauty. Unfortunately, through years of war & conflict, we’ve lost some values. We’ve lost self-sufficiency and self-belief. Everyone waits for a foreign NGO to place a stone or brick before doing anything. If we work together, we can do a lot. Building this Peace Park is an example that if we set our own goals & not wait on others, we can build our own country and not be dependant on others.”

At the quiet opening ceremony, the predatory forces within the hearts of all men were seeking their rude expression; some of those who had hardly participated in the Park’s development claimed credit, some belittled the beautiful tune of the village flutist and others ridiculed the quivering voice of the young master of ceremony.

But there were those of us who held the grace of those who truly laboured for the Peace Park close to our hearts, workers who say ‘no’ to external appearances and empty rhetoric, and who, though often ignored or despised, would stand steady on their own two feet.

The Dari script on the plaque says, “Bamiyan Peace Park. Established 1388”

Bamiyan Peace Park 1388Bamiyan Peace Park Established 1388

Afghan peace youth plead reconciliation and timely troop withdrawal : Ordinary voices of peace ask for a Reconciliation of Civil Hearts

Afghan Youth and internationals trek for peace

Afghan youth and international trek for peace in the Great Afghan Outdoors

Watch a short excerpt of the ordinary Afghan voice of peace in the Great Afghan Outdoors of the Hindu Kush


We walked together for peace!

We gave voice to silence.

About 150 Afghan children and youth, together with more than 35 internationals from various countries, including honored staff from the American, Australian, German, Belgian and Japanese embassies, trekked for peace in the magnificent great Afghan outdoors of  the Hindu Kush Shah Fuladi mountain range.

Those who still had energy left made it to the 4200 metres above sea level pristine alpine lake! J

The youth delivered their peace speech ( text below ) before their countrymen and the guests, raising their ordinary voice of peace from the devastated but still beautiful land, from their struggling but still dignified hearts.

The ordinary voice of peace from Afghanistan

Reconciliation of Civil Hearts

سلام علیکم!   Salam ‘aleikum!

With all due honour to our international friends from the American, Australian, German, Dutch and Japanese embassies and from the UN family, the Chief of Staff of UN Afghanistan Peter Schmitz , and Head of UNAMA Bamiyan Heren Song, we welcome you and the possibility of peace to this forgotten but gorgeous place.

We thank you for your hearts of peace in joining us for our journey today.

We, the ordinary youth of Afghanistan, have a message for you, our guests and friends, and for Obama, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, Sarkozy, Kevin Rudd, Yves Leterme, Yukio Hatoyama, Ban Ki Moon and Ken Aide and all the distinguished leaders of our disconnected world.

We are the youth of the mountains who do not represent any political or religious views except for those views which make us truly human, capable of acting in love and truth, in good times as well as in tragedy.

We are tired of war and we desire peace.

We have great problems indeed but we also have courage because we have with us the great Afghan outdoors like this and we have within us an even greater desire for creative, non-violent solutions.

We desire reconciliation. It’s time to struggle for a reconciliation of civil hearts instead of fueling a clash of civilizations. We wish to converse as equal, fellow human beings, without the need for guns and bombs. So, we plead that you’ll facilitate our elders in calling for as many loya jirgas as is necessary to restore our recognition of and care for each other’s human worth.

We desire to patiently build our nation. So, while we appreciate your friendship and company, we desire just as much to trek on our own paths, build our own parks and choose which of our own mountains to climb.

We desire the dignity of working with our own hands and walking with our own legs. So, we ask for a halt to proud, agenda-driven help that makes us dependant beggars. We ask for assistance that builds factories, industries, roads and an economy that would put food in our simple but hospitable homes.

We desire justice and truth. So, we ask for your support in denying space to corruption, fraud, lies and deceptions and in quenching the abusive greed for power and money that are destroying our society and humanity as much as violence and war are.

Many of us are suffering at the expense of a few, so though the few rich and powerful are loud and dominant, their monopoly is neither moral nor democratic. We may be suffering, but suffering eyes can still see, not with the sight that sees only appearances, but with the insight that sees beyond words to raw but real meanings.

Like you, we are human beings who desire to love and be loved. Perhaps, we have deeper anger, hatred and fears than your citizens have but we believe that Man cannot overcome such giants with bloodshed. We learn to overcome them when we understand each other, so we ask for the nurturing of wide-scale, local and international humane relationships that would empathize with our shared human condition, restore trust, and tear down barriers.

We need to explore human relationships and non-violent options like we pursue science, for the sake of the original charter of the United Nations, a part of which we’ll read to remind ourselves, Ban Ki Moon and those of us working with the UN family, of our enormous generational responsibility.

“We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,.. And for these ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors…have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.”
Preamble, Charter of the United Nations

We wonder if Obama will listen as he claims he would. You may think us silly but we wonder if any international will ever listen to the ordinary Afghan voice, in making decisions that affect 30 million of us, often fatally.

We desire to have peace as peace truly means in the souls of men. America is the largest arms dealer in the world and the world’s superpowers have enough nuclear war-heads to destroy this beautiful place, Afghanistan and our whole earth 10 times over. Thus, after more than a century of the Great Game, we have our sincere doubts about superpowers bringing us true peace.

We can no longer remain silent to our conscience, as is appropriate to the freedom you enjoy in your native countries, in humbly disagreeing with the current US/NATO’s predominantly military approach to our country’s problems.

In our world today, words may sound kind, but actions prove that 90% of international effort and wealth in Afghanistan is spent on war, and our history and our deaths prove again and again that no human being wins from such an approach, so we ask to be spared the disappointment and grief of such discrepancies.

Your soldiers individually mean well but we are not willing, like the majority of ordinary Americans and Europeans today, that any of them should perish, just as we’re concerned that not one more of our countrymen should die a violent death.

The world should not move along the unilateral, one-track path of violence and militarism anymore. We cannot cope ; no human can. We should work together to walk along the multiple treks that lead us to beauty, to dreams and to those values, virtues and thoughtful conversations which every heart longs for.

So please, we ask that the world shifts her engagement with our sovereign country to a 90% civilian approach. We should have as many civil forums, as many civil negotiations, as many civil discussions and as many civil occasions for relationship-building as are imaginatively possible. We believe that these civil efforts cannot be done through either our local military or any foreign military because Mankind cannot build relations with weapons.

McChrystal said in his report to Obama that our Afghan government is riddled with corruption; with all due respect, he seems to have ignored the fact that, in our warlord country of masterful deceit and insatiable greed, our Afghan army and police, whose numbers he hopes to increase, are at least just as corrupt, if not much more. Please don’t go that way. We believe that neither foreign nor local military escalation would bring victory for anyone, as that would be going towards failure, if not a military failure, then a civilizational failure of our very souls.

We desire to recover those friendships captured by Khaled Husseini, the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, in his book  the ‘Kite Runner’, the kind of friendships in which we can say to one another and to all others, “ For you, a thousand times over  برای تو, هزار دفعه !”

We desire security as much as you do for your own countries. The Taliban had wreaked havoc in this valley too. And killed many of us. Our people fled from them across this very Hindu Kush mountain range. We do not accept their violent actions just as we do not accept the violent solutions the world has been counting on. We have become a terror to one another, in our inconsiderate actions and in our cowardly silence, and this must stop.

We hope to continue 8 and more years of security in Bamiyan by refusing violence and by refusing to take revenge. And we wish to refuse the ‘insurgent’ any further excuse to hurt us because of a foreign presence; brothers killing brothers, friends killing friends, humans killing one another.

Thus, while we are grateful for your help with our safety, we desire just as much that your noble military presence would leave us responsibly and leave us at an appropriate time soon.

We need to travel this history and this future on our own.

You need not fear. We, the ordinary youth of Afghanistan, will ask for your help again if our paths take us to un-manageable scenarios, even in open spaces as free and as quiet as this. For then, we expect nothing but what our humanity guides each of us to do, to help a brother, sister, friend or fellow human being in time of need.

Despite experiencing a difficult past betrayal, Hassan, the Hazara boy in Kite Runner wrote a letter to his Pushtoon friend Amir, which got to Amir only after Hassan’s death. In it, we find some of our hopes described.  “We dream that God will guide us to a better day. We dream that our sons will grow up to be good persons. We dream that ‘lawla’ لاله flowers ( tulips ) will bloom in the streets of Kabul again and rubab رباب music will play in the samovar houses and kites will fly in the blue skies. And we dream that some day you will return to Afghanistan to revisit. If you do, you’ll find an old faithful friend waiting for you. There is a way to be good again.”

From the bottom of our hearts,

شجاع باشید! Be courageous!

خوش باشید! Be happy!

سلامت باشید! And be at peace!

Our Journey to Smile, http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog

Afghan Youth Leap for Peace at Hindu Kush Mountain Lake

A leap for peace at an Afghan Hindu Kush mountain lake

صدای جوانان برای صلح در افغانستان

آشتی جامعه مدنی

ما جوانان از جنگ خسته شده ایم و صلح می خواهیم و آن صلح واقعی که در روح و جان بشریت است

ما جوانان خشونت را نمیخواهیم یعنی ما موافق نیستیم که راه حل مشکلات افغانستان جنگ باشد

ما می خواهیم با یک حوصله مندی تمام ، کشور خود را آباد کنیم و از دوستی شما هم  قدر دانی می کنیم و آرزو داریم که به راه خود قدم بزنیم و وطن خود را آباد کنیم و کوهای خود را به بالارفتن انتخاب نمایم

ما کرامت انسانی میخواهیم و می خواهیم که بدست خود کار کنیم و به پای خود قدم بزنیم

کمک کردن به همدیگر یک اصل بشریت است ما کمکی را می خواهیم که مارا به سوی یک آینده روشن جلب توجه کند و خود کفا شویم  یعنی فابریکه ها ساخته شود، صنعت ایجاد شود، سرکها ترمیم شود و یک اقتصاد درست در کشور ما پایه گذاری شود تا هر عضو از اعضای خوانواده غذای خود را تامین کرده بتواند

ما عدالت و راستی می خواهیم و حمایت شمارا می خواهیم، تا فساد اداری، فریب کاری، تقلب، دروغ و سوء استفاده ها از زور و پول نابود شود

ما آشتی و دوستی می خواهیم و آرزو داریم که به بزرگان ما همکاری شود تا لویه جرگه های آشتی ایجاد کند اتحاد وآشتی واقعی و فرهنگ صلح را نه تنها در بین جمعیت افغانستان بلکه در تمام جهان ترویج دهد

ما همدیگر را بپذیریم تا هدف اصلی سازمان ملل متحد که نجات نسلهای آینده از جنگ است وما هم می خواهیم از هر کمک واقعی پذیرای نمایم تا این هدف بر آورده شود و به صلح وآرامی با هم زنده گی کنیم

ما امنیت آرزو داریم همان قدر که شما امنیت را به کشور و جامعه خود می خواهید.  جنگجویان تمام افغانستان را خراب کردند و این دره فولادی مستثنی از این امر هم نبودند و مردم بیچاره را کشتند وتعداد باقی مانده این مردم از همین کوه بابا فرار کردند

ما خشونت جنگجویان را قبول نداریم خشونت جهان را هم قبول نداریم  ما امید واریم امنیت که درهمین هشت سال گذشته در بامیان ادامه داشت در تمام افغانستان نیز گسترش یابد  وهر کار خشونت آمیز و تند را قبول نداریم وما راضی نیستیم که یک عسکر خارجی در وطن ما کشته شود وهم راضی نیستیم که یک وطن دار ما کشته شود ما از کمک وحمایت شما خیلی ممنون هستیم وآرزو داریم که نیروهای نظامی شما به مسؤلیت خود و درزمان نزدیک و مناسب  این وطن را ترک گویند

ما مردم افغانستان ضرورت داریم که تاریخ گذشته خود را مطالعه کرده و آینده خودرا بسازیم

شما نگران نباشید. ما جوانان افغانستان اگر به صحنه ترسناک رسیدیم  کمک شمارا دوباره خواهد خواستیم و توقع داریم که  درآن وقت شما مارا ازروی انسانیت کمک کنید

International Day of Peace in Afghanistan, where peace asked to go home and war, like a cancer, ‎demanded to stay

shams with his friend

Shams, on the left, with his friend Abdulai

Please watch Shamsullah guess where my real home was, when he was well


“If I am dying, I want to go home.”

When a 14 year old Afghan boy coping with terminal cancer says this, we ought to pack up our bag of follies for the sake of his pain.

It was a short year back that Shamsullah’s dreams started ebbing away. His nose bled uncontrollably, suddenly, like a burst pipe.

The tumour which invaded and eventually over-ran his nose and neck, was like the raging war afflicting Afghanistan.

Shamsullah beheld the escalating tumour like he beheld the war but he couldn’t put his finger on it, not even when it had been buried with himself.

He hated its unwelcome appearance but couldn’t shirk it because it had soon become an ugly part of himself.

He wished it away but instead, had to quietly accept that he neither had the money nor the power to even ask if a cure was possible.

He detested its odour and its encroachment on his very breath but he couldn’t have possibly fired it away with the common Kalashnikov.

He could bomb it out of his world but that would take away the very reason why he wanted to go home.

He wanted to return to the comfort of love. He wanted to leave the condemnation of help-lessness.

Sham’s brother and uncle had brought him to a hospital in Kabul. They were told that treatment was only available in Pakistan or Iran. “There’s nothing we can do here.”

In Afghanistan, that’s a reality that is suffering repetitively. Multi-billion dollars are being extra-ordinarily and unreasonably spent on the war machinery while people are dying for ordinary and dubious reasons.

It is hard to explain to a child that this is the best that Mankind can offer, when Mankind is waging many continuous, costly wars.

His destitute family and equally destitute village over-heard his occasional complaints of nocturnal pain, the distressing pain signals that indicate our cracking human condition.

I believe that everyone who knew him genuinely wished they could help. But this is Afghanistan. Occasional help may be expected of foreigners but no help is expected of life.

I was first acquainted with Shams in the video exchange above, in which he was guessing where my real home was. Later, when I first saw him in his advanced illness, I was looking at impending death, the burial of life.

But Shams was sitting calmly on my mattress, resigned and gracious. Even when Afghans stare at death, they learn to remain strong.

When Shams said, “I can’t eat much. It doesn’t hurt that badly,” he was saying, “I don’t think I can get well. I don’t think we can beat this.” He had become a pale shadow of himself.

I told him, “From today, let’s agree that you have only one responsibility. Eat whatever you can muster yourself to eat. I know you didn’t like Kabul much, but we’d like you to go again.” I wanted to exhaust the options in this fateful country.

It wasn’t that Shamsullah’s spirit didn’t fight with the thief of his time. He was strong in his heart; I wanted to encourage him and as a physician, I’ve observed that courage itself is enabled by love. When we withhold love, courage suffers. Shams needed us, above all uncertainties, to love him and that was why he wanted to go home.

Home was where love had always been. One evening after it was clear that none in Kabul could help, I asked his mum to visit me and short of crying, I handed her a little cash for the journey to Pakistan.

We were aware that the Afghan / Pakistan crossing had its dangers. But we all have to cope somehow even when there are wars within ourselves and on the road.

Shams and his mum never made that trip. It seems that Shams had the intuition of endings on the morning he left us. He had asked to see his family and had asked for forgiveness for the trouble he had brought.

It wasn’t fair. And we mustn’t pretend that it was.

In Sham’s Afghan village is a kids’ cemetery for those who die before 14 years of life are completed. On the beautiful evening when I had gone there to ponder his passing, beside his stone-marked grave was wheat that was green and growing. Afghan graveyards are spilling over and crowding out life.

I remembered his gentle acceptance that living in a poor country riddled with conflict, often kills human endeavour.

I remembered how he perked up slightly after hearing some hope in my advice for him to keep strong with a good diet. He had looked into the distance and had come alongside our shared humanity by agreeing with the significant yes. The yes that says, “I’m with you in this struggle.”

I remembered his peace in asking to go home.

Unlike war, which, like a cancer, mercilessly demands to stay.

It keeps growing and feeding itself.

It kills its own house.

It dominates and threatens its victims to submission, and in the end, it extinguishes even the un-submitted soul.

It is an unsatisfied parasite that, while sucking out the marrow of life, doesn’t care that it too would perish with its victory over the host.

Acting as if war can bring enduring peace is like mistaking cancer as the healer.

Like cancer, Einstein said that ‘war can’t be humanized, it can only be abolished.’

Michael Jackson had sung, “Heal the world, make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race. There are people dying, if we care enough for the living…” Even if we were not Michael’s fans, we should like the song’s dream of a better world.

Karzai, in his International Day of Peace Speech, said “We Afghans, more than any other nation in the world, realize the value of peace. In a world where conflicts and unrest claim thousands of lives each day, our nation bears the heaviest burden. A one-day ceasefire may be symbolic, but it symbolizes peace as the greatest ever aspiration of mankind.”

I know that it’s a positive step in the right direction to call a ceasefire for a day in a year.

But truth must go beyond that to recognize that our war-torn world has been so mutilated by the cancer of wars that asking Shamsullah’s cancer to stop its destruction for one day would not have brought the healing he desired.

We must never lose sight of the greater aspiration by hiding the tumour for 24 hours.

What Shams needed, to overcome the deadly cancer, was a long-term care and commitment from fellow human beings and the applied knowledge of Man’s hearts and minds to help one another, together with an equitable economy based on human concern.

None of us can overcome death but we can overcome cancers, including the cancer of war, for the healing of our future and children like Shams.

If then, after we have done what we can but we still hit the end of the road, it would remain for us to be kinder friends by visiting Shams at his home, by greeting him in peace and by adding to the consolation of love and meaning at his place of birth, in his home of homes.

Shams sensed that while the cancer was winning the war against his body, another day and even another one ‘terrible night’ at home was safer.

For this International Day of Peace in Afghanistan, I’ll remember Sham’s life by recalling that he, like peace in his burdened country, had asked to go home, despite knowing that the cancer, like the Afghan war, was demanding to stay.

“If I am dying, I want to go home.”

war is a cancer

war is a cancer

Remembering Mark Twain with The War Prayer in Afghanistan

“The War Prayer,” a short story or prose poem by Mark Twain, was a scathing indictment of war, and particularly of blind patriotic and religious fervor as motivations for war. It was dictated by Mark [Samuel Clemens] in 1904 in advance of his death in 1910.

Outraged by American military intervention in the Philippines, Mark Twain wrote “The War Prayer”.

Emilio Aguinaldo, a Filipino revolutionary rebel leader, was fighting for the independence of the Philipines from Spain. In 1898, with the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Aguinaldo unofficially allied with the United States, returned to the Philippines and resumed hostilities against the Spaniards.

By June, the rebels had conquered nearly all Spanish-held ground within the Philippines with the exception of Manila. Aguinaldo thus declared independence from Spain and the First Philippine Republic was established. However, neither Spain nor the United States recognized Philippine independence. Spanish rule in the islands only officially ended with the 1898 Treaty of Paris, wherein Spain ceded the Philippines and other territories to the United States.

United States would extend its sovereignty over the Islands, and thus in place of the old Spanish master a new one would step in.

The United States refused to allow the Filipinos to participate in taking Manila from Spain. The United States Navy waited for American reinforcements and, in August 13, 1898, captured the city in what may have been a staged battle. On 4 February, 1899, an American sentry patrolling near the border between the Filipino and American lines shot a Filipino soldier, after which Filipino forces returned fire, thus igniting a second battle for the city. Aguinaldo sent a ranking member of his staff to Ellwell Otis, the U.S. military commander, with the message that the firing had been against his orders. According to Aguinaldo, Otis replied, “The fighting, having begun, must go on to the grim end.”

The Philippines declared war against the United States on June 2, 1899, with Pedro Paterno, President of Congress, issuing a Proclamation of War. The Philippine–American War ensued between 1899, and 1902. The war officially ended in 1902, with the Philippine leaders accepting, for the most part, that the Americans had won.

‘The War Prayer’ was left unpublished by Mark Twain at his death, largely due to pressure from his family, who feared that the story would be considered sacrilegious.

In a letter to his confidant Joseph Twichell, Mark wrote that he had “suppressed” the story for seven years, even though his conscience told him to publish it, because he was not “equal” to the task.

“I have told the truth in that… and only dead men can tell the truth in this world.” Mark Twain

Today in Afghanistan, every day, the conventional wisdom of militarism in 2009 finds a focus in a global Great Game, in which Truth is a rare find, even through the best strategists and interpreters.

A Global Great Game in which Love has long since died.

“The War Prayer in Afghanistan” is imagined as a ‘prayer’ that any Muslim / Christian / non-religious ‘warrior’ in Afghanistan may pray. It may also be a cry of their loved ones at home, wherever home may be.

This prayer is purely fictional, emulating the same spirit of Mark Twain when he wrote the original War Prayer (printed at the end of this post), one of the many differences being that the voice that prays here isn’t that of a ‘lunatic sent by God’ but of an ordinary, sane 21st century person.

The OR-s  in bold reflect minor differences in the terminologies that may be used by the different faiths; it is obvious that the vast majority of the prayer lines are mostly similar between the faiths.

the war prayer

Please watch 2 cherry-picking Afghan boys ‘pray’ for Afghanistan


The War Prayer in Afghanistan

It was a time of great and exalting excitement.  The country was up in arms, the war was on….

Have mercy on us, oh merciful and compassionate God, we are fearful and terrified!

We have to win!

We have to protect the women, children and civilians of Afghanistan. We have to protect the authority and government which You appoint, however corrupt they may be.

Most necessary of all, we have to destroy every mud corner that is the safe haven of the disguised insurgent ( oh, they all look alike  but You are omniscient and can help us to identify the true insurgent ) OR most merit-chalking of all, we have to destroy every armored vehicle that is the safe haven of the foreign trooper.

We have to remove every one of Your enemies.

Thank You, Almighty One, that You are our One and Only God, and that You are on our side. They, the enemies whom we and whom You and the whole world hate, are already defeated.

Yes, we are grateful and encouraged that civilization, guided by our higher moral obligations, has matured enough to view this as a holy war, a just war or at least, a good war.

We cannot thank you enough for the minds and abilities You have endowed us with to annihilate any enemy, that we have weapons that can do so remotely on a mass scale without un-necessarily endangering Your humble servants.

Yes, we exalt You for entrusting us with such wisdom, strategies and technologies in order to defend Your people!

We praise You that You are the real Master and President OR Warlord of our glorious one–and-only-cracy, and for this, we are prepared to sacrifice our lives! We are not afraid because we know that we will triumph, and we will not be moved till we win, so that these tortured people living under oppressive governments would finally be free.

We thank you that we not only have Your support, but also the votes OR allegiance of the enlightened world, fellow believers and countrymen  and many other true warriors of our time.

So, we plead forYour kindness in helping us to destroy our enemies. We know that You understand our sincere concerns and their evil secrets. Protect your nation and your people! Ensure our security!

We wish to uphold and defend Your gracious justice, so please help us to bomb these terrible people out of their dirty pants.

We wish to enforce Your upright love, so please help us to bullet these terrible people with ‘one clean kill’.

You are constantly aware of the agony and cries of all our mothers for their beloved sons and daughters, so spare us the permanent pain of death. Let our enemies be the ones who feel this grief for dead sons and daughters; they deserve it!

We are Your people and You have set our family, community and society apart from the heathens OR infidels, so we ask that, through us, You will establish Your Kingdom community OR the brotherhood with great power and force, for the betterment of the whole world.

Wonderful Creator, grant us our human right to life!

We have faith that, though You do not wish for any to perish, it is only the spiritual death of hell You are ultimately concerned about, so You wouldn’t mind if we kept the physical killing to the minimum. After all, Your Name is supreme and to be glorified at great sacrifice and cost. In fact, help us to be willing to protect Your people and kill our enemies, Your enemies, at all cost.

In these times of financial crisis, we believe that You are too big to fail, so supply us, O Lord, with the money and resources to remove or buy our enemies, so we would be secure, safe in Your refuge and sanctuary, to which You’ve given us the keys, from which all blessings and riches flow. In God we trust OR God is great!

These are times of terror and conflict ; thank you for guiding us in the right way of  countering terror OR fighting the occupier with Your righteous anger.

We know that though You’ve imbued us with the beautiful and ideal concept of love, in reality no system or institution can control human nature, so you have equipped us with sophisticated military tools that can deliver us from the wiles of human nature and that can truly defend and change communities.

Spare no enemy’s life in Your sacred call for justice and thank You for allowing us the freedom of ‘collateral damage’ OR ‘suicide sacrifices’ as we become Your instruments of peace, a peace that the world cannot understand. However many the casualties and martyrs, the world will know through Your revelation that we are Your ambassadors of reconciliation.

We lift our hearts up to Your Holiness that demands truth even if it compels us to’ coerce’ others beyond our comfort zones. Sanctify our lips as we proclaim suitable justifications for Your vengeance, for it is Your vengeance we carry.

Release these misled souls from their blindness! We know that Your ways are not our ways and You do not make laws as the world makes, so empower us, that we will forever run without growing weary of doing good and walk without fainting upon any measure of blood.

Send more warriors into the field Lord; WE will pray incessantly, as we daily wait upon your wondrous works, that You will raise THEM up and send THEM, and give them the honor and privilege of bravely laying down their lives for us.

Spread Your gentle firmness and Your meek dignity, Lord, in these glorious battles! Shock Your enemies with Your Awesome love! We claim Your victory! Protect us,Your willing slaves by choice!

Forgive us generously as we generously forgive those who trespass against us!

Have mercy on us, oh merciful and compassionate God, we are fearful and terrified!

It was believed afterward that the prayer was uttered by a sage, because there was much sense and morality in what was said.

The War Prayer

by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement.  The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.  It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came – next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams – visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!  Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory!  With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths.  The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:

God the all-terrible!
Thou who ordainest!
Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the “long” prayer.  None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language.  The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory…

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness.  With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting.  With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside – which the startled minister did – and took his place.  During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne – bearing a message from Almighty God!”  The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention.  “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import – that is to say, its full import.  For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of – except he pause and think.

“God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer.  Has he paused and taken thought?  Is it one prayer?  No, it is two – one uttered, the other not.  Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken.  Ponder this – keep it in mind.  If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time.  If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer – the uttered part of it.  I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it – that part which the pastor – and also you in your hearts – fervently prayed silently.  And ignorantly and unthinkingly?  God grant that it was so!  You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’  That is sufficient.  The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words.  Elaborations were not necessary.  When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory – must follow it, cannot help but follow it.  Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer.  He commandeth me to put it into words.  Listen!

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them!  With them – in spirit – we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.  O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!  We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him who is the Source of Love, and who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.  Amen.

(After a pause)  “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak!  The messenger of the Most High waits!”

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

A Crisis of Values, in Afghanistan and beyond ; The global financial crisis, American healthcare and the Afghan war‎

A sub-zero cold has already arrived, in the early Afghan autumn

It’s the impenetrable cold of the distance, the distance of the heavens

It’s the incongruent freeze of disparities, the disparities in all we’ve learnt

It is our hearts crying miserably, while warmth loses to force and mammon.

a crisis of values

Watch Faiz talk about a crisis of values in Afghanistan and beyond

Underlying the global financial crisis, the local American healthcare challenge and the international Afghan war dilemma is a global crisis of values.

“It’s human nature, unless somebody can find a way to change human nature, we will have more crises.” Alan Greenspan, about the financial crisis.

Whereas we cannot change human nature, for the betterment of humanity, can’t we re-think our values?

This is not a self-righteous shout from an ivory- tower heart. This is a self-critical call from a grieving heart.

If there is any trace of pride, it would be pride in the human dignity I’ve found in Afghans who are coping un-demandingly with a mess, in which they are dying. Dying people are seldom haughty.

These are also not unique thoughts because we all instinctively recognize that this crisis of our ‘hearts and minds’ is carried by fellow human beings ; the US/NATO and Taliban leadership recognized this crisis of ‘winning hearts and minds’ and issued new codes of conduct.

These are ordinary non-partisan thoughts that arise out of an involved humanitarian concern for my Afghan friends, as well as for American and international colleagues.

“Voice of Conscience : I want to declare to the world, although I may have forfeited the regard of many friends in the West and I must bow my head low; but even for their friendship or love I must not suppress the voice of conscience.  There is something within me impelling me to cry out my agony. I have known humanity. Such a man knows exactly what it is. I do not mind how you describe it. That voice within tells me, “You have to stand against the whole world although you may have to stand alone. You have to stare in the face the whole world although the world may look at you with bloodshot eyes. Do not fear. Trust the little voice residing within your heart.” Ghandi

So, here goes my little voice.

The world has a crisis of values that needs to be cogently addressed if all human beings are to have decent and dignified human lives.

“What we face is above all a moral issue…” Ted Kennedy

I speak of it as a hope for the future because in the harsh, mad reality of today, not all human beings have decent and dignified human lives. In fact, some hardly live. I know. I live among Afghans in Afghanistan.

Our Crisis of Values

We practice excessive greed for Money, increasingly for dirty, monopolistic money.

In our crazy pursuit of wealth, we seldom think of the harm we cause, or are likely to cause, to others.” Ghandi

The global financial crisis.

Those too-big-to-fail monopolies are still enjoying bonuses paid for by taxpayers.

The rich are systematically made richer, and they see that as their entitlement, their unbridled right to have even more.

The wild, free-market that is protected for the pharmaceutical, insurance and other profiteers has prompted Michael Moore to call capitalism ‘evil’. When I work in the fields with my Afghan farmer friends and am aware that the farming isn’t even subsistence level for some of them, I can see how Michael is not exaggerating.

If ‘dirty’ fraud is suspected, point to the bottom-less bottom line, and we get moral approval, with a pat on the back.

We practice excessive greed for Power, increasingly for militant, dominating power

Our politicians lie and would say and do just about anything to win the vote. And we? We vote for them.

Our practice of such greed for militant power makes“ the U.S. army place too much emphasis on combat while paying lip service to working with civilian agencies and Afghans. The real problem is that almost all of these U.S. army generals are ‘War Fighters’, “ writes Henthorne, an American and the senior adviser to NATO’s Civil-Military Co-operation Centre of Excellence in the Netherlands.

It’s become a real-life video game similar to the board game of Risk. Roll out the military-industrial complex, fight and win! At all cost.

Militarism seems to be the ONLY alternative to dealing with ‘terror’; what happened to the inventive brilliance of Man in going to the moon or Thomas Edison’s spirit of trying 1000 different ways to give us light?

‘Terrorism’ is an expression of angry, hateful enmity in a vacuum of relationships. We all know instinctively that we CANNOT remove enmity through killing, especially killing en-masse, but we kill anyway, as we uncreatively believe that there are NO other ‘good’, ‘necessary’ and ‘winnable’ alternatives.

There is a certain high-school teenager pride in announcing that America is, once again, the number one weapons dealer in the world. Super-powerful mass distribution of destruction, hooray!

If war crimes are suspected, we declare the high morality of our armies, objectively investigate ourselves or rescind from the International Criminal Court, just in case.

We disregard human life.

Death means nothing, as long as we’re not the ones dying.

Death is no respecter of persons, but we prefer to, even in the Geneva Convention and in peace circles, differentiate military from civilian deaths. A dead person leaves his corpse, and in war often a mutilated one, and corpses do not have stamps which say military or civilian. As a doctor, I’ve been in morgues, where life is gone from life and all is silent, but where we still retain respectful regard for the corpses. What has silenced this affirming human regard?

Nowadays, after we’ve made corpses of the ‘evil’ or ‘innocent’ others, we have to argue about the number of insurgents or civilians we ‘successfully’ killed, squabbling and claiming truth over their dead bodies.

In May of 2009, Unknown News estimated that at least 753,118 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimates. Cut it by half, if we disbelive statistics. Try saying “ I wished you had a decent and dignified life but I regret that you couldn’t have it ” 376,559 times over.

In the light of this almost complete disregard for life, we can see why many believe torture is relatively acceptable, with Dick as their chief, sweetened by Bible verses.

We shouldn’t predominantly feel angry witnessing this disregard. We should feel immensely sad.

We disregard human relationships.

There is an ever growing opinion, even if it is difficult to accept, that the climate of distrust, of fear and threat, that exists between The West and The Rest –as Roger Scruton puts it in his insightful book by the same title- is due more to non-existent relations or to reluctant will to understand beyond the proper cultural or religious schemes, than to real and seemingly insurmountable cultural and religious differences. It is due to wrong patterns of relations, based mainly on arrogance, challenges and reciprocal malfeasance; and also to literature, interpretations and experience of respective cultural and religious codices, that are exclusive rather than inclusive. H.E. Archbishop Celestino Migliore

Do you personally know any ordinary Afghan living in Afghanistan, whose average life-span is 43?

Besides conducting civil and global wars, what other methods of international relationship-building do we focus or spend disproportionate billions on?

We are uncaring.

“From the American perspective, we build you a school whether you want one or not,” Henthorne explained. “You may need something else, but we don’t care.”

We fail the ‘do-unto-others-what-we-want-them-to-do-to-us’ test.

Where is the Good Samaritan-love for humanity or the brotherhood of Muslim peace?

Practically, it seems that we are only meant to imagine or dream about the Merciful and Compassionate God or love for your enemies or turning the other cheek. In deadly contrast, unequal vengeance is love, a love for justice and Enduring Freedom, and rendered incapable of questioning for fear of treason, unequal vengeance is our love for country and for God.

Please pray tell us, Rick Warren the blesser at Obama’s inauguration, or the Grand Mufti of Egypt, where in our Purpose Driven Life is this human concern?

We are untruthful and self-deceiving.

“Multiple-personality disorder is a coping mechanism,” he said, speaking about the whole generation of men who grew up in jihad. “A young man who lost his father, his home, he looks to become the cleverest, the most criminal, the lion. In the jungle, there are no values but self-preservation. There’s no law. And this character learns to lie even to himself.” Dr. Azam Dadfar, the Afghan minister of higher education and one of the few psychiatrists in the country trained in psychoanalysis, Karzai in His Labyrinth by Elizabeth Rubin

We would rather strategize based on myths and mysteries.

I have to agree with Henthorne again, after 7 years of living with Afghans and dreaming now in their Dari language, that we understand very little. “We claim we have tons of culture classes for our soldiers and even for our civilians, but we really don’t have a clue,” Henthorne said.

We are rigidly absolute.

We and our methods are the only right ones, and we insist that we are right all the time! We have lost the ability to listen and empathize. I cringe when I see well-meaning foreigners ‘talk down’ to locals the same way the more educated locals ‘despise’ the foreigner.

Why have we lost the human dignity to say, “We could be very wrong.” ?

We are un-necessarily fearful.

In an instance too many, our elite in government and media hold onto and propagate such fear that we would kill others or watch the killing in silence, just so that we will somehow, someday, feel safe, for ourselves and on our kingly own.

What can we practically do or are we doomed?

In a letter to the New York Times in 1945, Einstein quoted recent words of Franklin Roosevelt: ‘We are faced with the pre-eminent fact that if civilization is to survive we must cultivate the science of human relationship – the ability of peoples of all kinds to live together and work together in the same world, at peace.’ Well, Einstein continued, ‘we have learned, and paid an awful price to learn, that living and working together can be done in one way only – under law. Unless it prevails, and unless by common struggle we are capable of new ways of thinking, mankind is doomed.’

A strategy based on values isn’t weak; we just haven’t struggled together enough and we’re no longer inclined to ‘new ways of thinking’.

A strategy based on values is a strength closer to our human selves and therefore has all the force of our natural laws.

A. Set systemic limits on money and power

1. Establish a United Nations Body/Watchdog of Financial Regulators who would creatively regulate the free-market, mainly to limit the monopolies

A BBC World Service poll has found that most people want their government to take more control over the regulation and running of world economies.

Presently, in our not too democratic world, individuals and superpower countries are calling whatever shots they want. They shouldn’t be allowed to dictate the markets alone ; they should be part of a world-wide body. And all countries must have an equal vote.

Because we should refuse to believe the un-democratic thought that the Wall Streeter has more human worth than the Afghan shepherd boy.

2. United Nations must recover the purpose in its charter for the cessation of wars.

“We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,.. And for these ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors…have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.”
Preamble, Charter of the United Nations.

So must America, being the superpower leader of the day.

But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy ….. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Congress 1821.

Those who would have America return to the most fundamental, the most essential, of her founding values with regard to foreign policy should see Afghanistan as the starting point for a renewal of those values. John Nichols The Nation

B. Promote the science of human relationships on a wide scale

“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” Ghandi

“I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” Abraham Lincoln

“The big thing that the US has learnt [since 9/11] is that however we define the problem of US-Muslim relations, the solution is not to be found in the exercise of hard power.” Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University.

Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted in the recent Joint Forces Quarterly: “We hurt ourselves more [with Muslim nations] when our words don’t align with our actions….Our messages lack credibility because we haven’t invested enough in building trust and relationships, and we haven’t always delivered on promises. Each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are.”

Wide scale relationships will help establish a majority public opinion of the wishes of ordinary Mankind, which would then socially establish humanity’s shared values, and thus persuade the more extreme elements of human civilization.

C. Engage in community/grassroots, general public, non-violent actions on a wide scale

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” Mother Teresa.

Restoring our warmth

We should confront these crises in the face and reform our values, and encourage a Reformation, an Enlightenment or the Change whose promise and hope swept Obama to power.

This global loss of values is now difficult to hide or disguise. It has become an intolerable strain. It makes us miserably angry .We can no longer cope.

Our conscience calls for a rescue of our moral fiber and therefore the very fiber of our civilizations.

When he became President, Obama had spoken of the need to restore America’s moral fiber. But it is the moral fiber of the whole world that needs a transformation.

Presidents or Prime Ministers and their teams alone cannot do that. The general public has to reclaim the moral fiber that can only be forged by ‘all’, a governance of the people by the people!

When the leadership and the public do not defend the basic values of morality, we become desperately discontented. We turn cold in our Afghan autumn of discontent.

How can we cope? How can we cope with the ‘cold-hearted’, ‘cold-blooded’ thought of saying to the destitute laborer with no bread to bring home to his waiting children, or the sick person dying of a treatable cancer, or the inconsolable mother of a dead foreign soldier or Afghan, “We’re sorry about this but our power, money, success and safety mean much more to us.”?

We can no longer cope because our shared inner values are originally ‘warm-hearted’ and ‘warm-blooded’ and can recognize the destructiveness of abusive power and greed, the pain of morbidity, and the grief of  a horrendous death.

What makes human beings angry is that these weaknesses in our morality are called free-market, democratic, fair and free. Gross lies, selfishness and violence take away love, truth and humanity and make us miserably angry.

They don’t sit well at all on our conscience; the self-absorption, the hypocrisy and the pride. We feel instinctively, “Life shouldn’t be this way, or at least, people shouldn’t be this way.”

We’re losing ourselves at all levels of society because, in these crises, even the defenders and pillars of a society’s values, principally the religious leaders (except for the few ‘voices in the wilderness’), submit to the warped values of the rich and powerful, hands down and mouths shut. Ironically, some of these ‘spiritually-inclined’ people have sadly become Mankind’s most sacrificial and patriotic profiteers, inquisitors and warriors.

This is not a clash of ‘civilizations’ finding unfortunate focus in a Global Great Game, in the fading, hammered waste of Afghanistan.

This is a crisis of values, finding unsustainable frustration in a Global Great Self-Deception, in the floundering, hammered waste of our hearts.

If we do not act conscionably now, this crisis may implode coldly like a dying star and leave a hurtling, black hole, a moral vacuum with no definitions. Devoid of life. Very dead.

If that happens, we should at least try retaining a vestige of civility towards the elite, because we know that even the superpowerful cannot alter such a profound moral death. Certainly not through billions of assets, dollars or otherwise. Certainly not through political partisanship, ‘bi’ or otherwise. Certainly not through more wars, of necessity or otherwise. No human is too- big- to- fail dying, once at death’s door.

Neither the elite nor the ordinary person should ignore the ringing call of conscience to restore our values. If we ignore that voice within us, we do so, in Mullen’s words, at the peril of ‘hurting ourselves’. Even if we don’t ‘hurt ourselves’, we could lethally ‘hurt many, many others’.

We then ‘lose that essential thing about ourselves’ that makes us humane and civil.

The Change we desperately need in this crisis of values has to begin with us, the ordinary people, individually and corporately.

We each need to break those barriers of world-wide human relationships, and choose and vote for the shared human values from those warm places of our hearts, where cold force and mammon cannot enter.

Perhaps then, together, for humanity, in love and truth and with creative civility and courage, we can paint the stars of the decent and dignified Afghan autumn night, the very same stars that inspire our common dreams. And find human warmth once again.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word”.

Martin Luther King, Jr

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.
Albert Einstein

human warmth in an Afghan autumn

human warmth in a cold Afghan autumn

Serious Citizenship

the Afghan smile

The Afghan smile

Serious Citizenship
We’re in the midst of creating peace

Tribune Media Services

September 10, 2009

“Most of the time, we are grievously feeling that we’re not getting anywhere and that in the ongoing Afghan tragedy, ‘peace’ or ‘humanity’ is a rather impractical, ridiculous thought. But there’s a remnant of the human spirit left in the Afghan smile and that helps to keep me going.” — Hakim, a humanitarian aid worker in Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan

Let’s talk for a moment about serious citizenship and its opposite, the stagnant, seemingly intractable culture of war, which floats in hopelessness and cynicism and slowly (or not so slowly) eats our children’s future.

What percentage of the world’s population sees this as a personal — that is to say, a citizenship — matter, to be transmuted by their efforts? What is the number necessary to create a counter “critical mass,” sufficient to shift the political tide? What would this critical mass of human connection look like? Are we actually in the midst of it?

“Peace is not something which exists independently of us, any more than war does,” says the Dalai Lama at gasummit.org. “Those who are responsible for creating and keeping the peace are members of our own human family.”

These words are deceptively simple, as is almost everything written about the complex, global social structure that we generically call “peace.” We’re in the midst of creating peace: a new human or trans-human structure, comparable in its complexity to the molecular complexity that suddenly mutated into cellular life nearly 4 billion years ago.

The Dalai Lama’s words were addressed to serious citizens indeed: the attendees and others interested in the 2009 Global Alliance Summit for Ministries and Departments for Peace, which will be held in Costa Rica Sept. 17-21. This is the global movement to demand that all governments recognize peace and nonviolent conflict resolution as not only legitimate but crucial processes, and actively encourage and pursue them by creating cabinet- or ministry-level offices at the highest level devoted to that end.

While there are movements in dozens of countries calling for the establishment of ministries or departments of peace, Costa Rica recently became only the third country that has actually done so. The others are Nepal and the Solomon Islands, nations tiny enough for the cynics not to notice, perhaps, but immense among the community of nations in their courage and vision. If we are searching for evidence that humanity has a future, this is part of it.

Some readers may recognize that the date the summit concludes, Sept. 21, is also the U.N.-designated International Day of Peace, established in 1981 to commemorate the yearning and the possibility of an end to the human self-mutilation process euphemistically called war. The day’s hope has been compressed like a diamond into the expression “May Peace Prevail on Earth,” which adorns the peace poles that symbolize the international peace movement.

Celebration of this day has slowly gained momentum over the decades. Last year, as many as 200 million people worldwide took part in organized festivities on this day, according to internationaldayofpeace.org. This year the day’s theme is nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

The organization called Voices for Creative Nonviolence is planning a different sort of citizen action in the coming weeks. Noting that universal health care and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan bear similar price tags — the former fiercely debated and controversial to the point of political stalemate, the latter the beneficiary of craven bipartisan acquiescence — Voices co-coordinator Jeff Leys writes on Common Dreams: “The choice is clear: healthcare or warfare; the Common Good or Common Destruction.”

Leys points out that Congress will soon approve about $130 billion to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for fiscal year 2010. To draw attention to this and other silent outrages that keep war the national default setting, Voices for Creative Nonviolence and a number of other groups will engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the White House on Oct. 5. This will be the beginning of “a renewed and revitalized effort to completely end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Leys writes.

All of which brings me back to Hakim, who recently e-mailed me from the other side of war — “Here in Afghanistan, I agonize with how the ordinary human being ALWAYS loses” — and reminded me that peace is at its heart something as common and simple and universal as a smile.

Hakim described himself as an M.D. born and trained in Singapore who began working with Afghan refugees in Quetta, Pakistan in 2002, then accompanied some of them back to their homeland in 2004.

He calls his website ourjourneytosmile.com. His aspirations may sound naïve anywhere but in war-torn Central Asia: “We are a group of volunteer youth and college students in Afghanistan who, together with international ‎volunteers, wish to recover humanity’s smile (peace, reconciliation, humane love, dignity) in Afghanistan and ‎beyond.‎”

This is the smile that comes from a deep place, indeed, and arrives unbidden when we gaze into the eyes of a newborn being: our future.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. You can respond to this column at koehlercw@gmail.com.

“Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing the power to make great decisions for good and evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” — Albert Einstein