Quick, what images come to mind when someone says Afghanistan? How about Kabul?
Is it chaos, bombings, impossibly stuck political situation, warlords, the Taliban, women without rights, a culture where “they” know only war and tribal conflict?
What images come to mind with the words Afghan Peace Volunteers? How about The Duvet Project?
This is not an attempt at playing cute, but an attempt to point out that dramatically different images are available from those that might understandably overwhelm the usual news offerings. That’s why I encourage you to link to the Web site of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a Chicago-based organization that is largely the brainchild of Kathy Kelly, a peace activist who goes beyond all of the normal boundaries of what we mean by that term. For decades, her brand of peacemaking has engaged those under the siege of war. She was, through the 1990s decade of crippling sanctions against Iraq and through much of the next decade of invasion and dismantling of the country, a close up witness to the insanity.
She believes that those who wish alternatives to violence need to be with those who are experiencing the violence. So, beginning with a campout on one of the borders with Iraq during the earliest stages of the first President Bush’s “Desert Storm,” she became a presence in the war zone.
She was in Baghdad living with some of the most marginalized during “Shock and Awe.” She spent a following summer in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, living amid the heat and devastation with poor families.
Since then she has become a regular commuter to Afghanistan, helping to establish the Afghan Peace Volunteers and, with others, attempting to figure out non-violent ways beyond the seemingly intractable violence. Part of that consideration is a challenge to U.S. presumptions about the resort to war making, from the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan to the current use of drones. Her model of peacemaking is built on a quiet persistence, a conviction that has taken her to the margins and the people who don’t make headlines.
The Voices Web site is loaded with stories, perspectives and first-hand accounts of a sort very different from normal news fare. Give it a look.