Thursday, September 25, 2008

International Day of Peace: Temporary Ceasefire in Afghanistan

What chance does peace have against the realities of war and violence in today's world? Sunday, September 21st marked the annual anniversary of the International Day of Peace as declared by the U.N. And while for most people in the U.S., the Day of Peace might not have had any dramatic effects on everyday life - there were some demonstrations (like Pinwheels for Peace), and the usual lectures and local events - in Afghanistan the Day of Peace had a profound impact nation-wide.

The U.S., NATO, the Afghan Government and the Taliban all agreed to put down their weapons for a day in observance of the Day of Peace. For 24 hours, there was to be no violence, shootings, raids, or attacks of any kind in a country that has been engaged in a nearly constant, bloody struggle.

The day was widely celebrated with sports, a polio vaccination campaign (taking the opportunity of a ceasefire to vaccinate 1.8 million children in an area prone to violence), and marches. One street was renamed "Peace Avenue," and Afghan orphans marched with Afghanistan's first Olympic medalist through town.

The day, while largely successful according to Afghan police and US military, still saw one attack by Taliban militants who killed two guards. However, in a year where over 4,500 people have already died (that's about 17 a day), the Day of Peace clearly made a substantial difference - take that Rush Limbaugh. Afghanistan's observance of the Day of Peace, at least for me, is a powerful indicator of the practical power of nonviolence. If all the actors in one of the most war-torn countries in the world can agree to renounce the use of force for 24 hours, why can't others? Why not 48 hours, or 72? A week of peace? A month?

Relating back to our initial discussion on the possibility of a nonviolent society or a nonviolent world, I think the events of the Day of Peace in Afghanistan serve as a fantastic example of the real, tangible possibility of nonviolence. The country not only refrained from violence, but also its people used the opportunity to embrace positive peace with demonstrations and medical aid. Can you imagine the things that could be accomplished if the entire world could agree to 24 hours of peace?

*photos from the Associated Press - see second hyperlink

1 comment:

Luella said...

This is an awe-inspiring demonstration of the seeds of nonviolence. Gandhi began his Salt March campaign with just a small group of people, which became tens of thousands. Nonviolence has to start somewhere, and it is great to see in 2008 that it can reign even amidst so much violence. I hope there are Afghanis who are as inspired by this news as we are.