A Plea for Peace from Afghanistan

11/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

This talk was delivered on Sept. 25, in Band-e Amir, Afghanistan's first national park, in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Central Afghanistan, Bamiyan Province, in connection with the United Nations International Day of Peace four days earlier.

I post it here to let the great hope for peace radiate far and wide. The speech was written by a peacemaker named Hakim (Teck Young Wee), who explains:

Dear friends of peace in a world of wars,

Please watch a short excerpt of the ordinary Afghan voice of peace in the Great Afghan Outdoors of the Hindu Kush mountain range.

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 pristine alpine lake 4,200 metres above sea level!

The youth delivered their peace speech "Reconciliation of Civil Hearts" ( 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.

RECONCILIATION OF CIVIL HEARTS
Hakim (Teck Young Wee), on behalf of all the Afghan youth of Our Journey to Smile in Bamiyan, Afghanistan

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 Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, Nicolas 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 President 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 warheads 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.

Gen. 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 eight 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