Peace and Justice News April Issue Women and Violence (March 13)

Speaker Series Reports

Voices for Creative Nonviolence: A Talk by Susan Clarkson on the UK Peace Delegation to Afghanistan  

Last month, we welcomed peace activist and former nun Susan Clarkson as our Speaker Series guest at St. John’s Church, Edinburgh.

Susan Clarkson is not you average peacemaker. Being legally blind has not deterred her from courageous efforts to pursue peace. A member of the Oxford Catholic Worker, which provides shelter to destitute asylum seekers, she also went to prison for cutting through fence at Aldermaston – where new UK nuclear weapons are being developed. Susan travelled to Afghanistan with Voices for Creative Nonviolence in December 2012. She shared her incredible experience with us and gave a moving update on the work of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV).

The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers is an Afghan youth group committed to building non-violent, non-military and egalitarian ways of life for Afghanistan. Susan listed their various different activities, from a duvet project to keep families warm throughout the bitter Afghan winter, to a school for the blind, to teaching children Maths, English, Dari and ‘life lessons’ on how to live together peacefully. Education and lack of employment are two major problems in Afghanistan. The AYPV aim to create peace and build on Afghan society, with the little that they have.

Community meetings organised by AYPV in Kabul sometimes lead to everyday gripes over family members not pulling their weight with the household chores. At other times, the groups discuss attitudes toward women or living within a mixed community. One AYVP member, who fondly nicknamed Susan ‘Grandma’, wrote a petition against the statement that women are second-class citizens and passed it around his local community. The AYVP, some University students and others still in school, continue to push societal and cultural boundaries everyday. In doing so, they expose themselves to grave danger. This does not stop the AYPV, because they feel so strongly that women and men are equal and should mix together and that peace is the way forward. These courageous young people would like to say to their government, “Stop being corrupt. Stop the violence.”

The children were keen to talk to the peace delegation about their hopes, fears and their country. As Susan said, “they have a lot of hopes, but also a lot of fears… and one fear is being forgotten.” On the 21st of every month the AYPV link via Skype to people in other countries. Maintaining this connection with those outside of Afghanistan is vital for the Afghan people who fear neglect by the international community. The group challenged their guests by noting that hundreds of thousands marched against the war in Iraq in London in 2003 and asked why the same did not happen in 2001 for Afghanistan. Susan described her anguish over such heartfelt questions and called on the Speaker Series’ audience to take a few moments out of their day and make contact with the AYPV.

One of the numerous concerns for the people of Afghanistan is what the future will hold. Susan predicts a “very bleak” future and added that the AYPV do not expect to see peace during their lifetime. The burden of fear is one that no child should have to bear. Voices for Creative Nonviolence and EPJC encourage you to share Susan’s story. Please take time to contact these inspiring young people to let them know we have heard about their peace efforts and we care.

For more information or to contact the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, visit ourjourneytosmile.com. To learn more about Creative Voices for Nonviolence please visit vcnv.org.
Last month, we welcomed peace activist and former nun Susan Clarkson as our Speaker Series guest at St. John’s Church, Edinburgh. Susan Clarkson is not your average peacemaker. Being legally blind has not deterred her from courageous efforts to pursue peace. A member of the Oxford Catholic Worker, which provides shelter to destitute asylum seekers, she also went to prison for cutting through fences at Aldermaston – where new UK nuclear weapons are being developed. Susan travelled to Afghanistan with Voices for Creative Nonviolence in December 2012. She shared her incredible experience with us and gave a moving update on the work of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV).

The Afghan Peace Volunteers are an Afghan youth group committed to building non-violent, non-military and egalitarian ways of life for Afghanistan. Susan listed their various different activities, from a duvet project to keep families warm throughout the bitter Afghan winter, to a school for the blind, to teaching children Maths, English, Dari and ‘life lessons’ on how to live together peacefully. Education and lack of employment are two major problems in Afghanistan. The APV aim to create peace and build on Afghan society, with the little that they have.

Community meetings organised by APV in Kabul sometimes lead to everyday gripes over family members not pulling their weight with the household chores. At other times the groups discuss attitudes toward women or living within a mixed community. One APV member, who fondly nicknamed Susan ‘Grandma’, wrote a petition against the statement that women are second-class citizens and passed it around his local community. The APV, some University students and others still in school, continue to push societal and cultural boundaries everyday. In doing so, they expose themselves to grave danger. This does not stop the APV, because they feel so strongly that women and men are equal and should mix together and that peace is the way forward. These courageous young people would like to say to their government, “Stop being corrupt. Stop the violence.”

The children were keen to talk to the peace delegation about their hopes, fears and their country. As Susan said, “they have a lot of hopes, but also a lot of fears… and one fear is being forgotten.” On the 21st of every month the APV link via Skype to people in other countries. Maintaining this connection with those outside of Afghanistan is vital for the Afghan people who fear neglect by the international community. The group challenged their guests by noting that hundreds of thousands marched against the war in Iraq in London in 2003 and asked why the same did not happen in 2001 for Afghanistan. Susan described her anguish over such heartfelt questions and called on the Speaker Series’ audience to take a few moments out of their day and make contact with the APV.

One of the numerous concerns for the people of Afghanistan is what the future will hold. Susan predicts a “very bleak” future and added that the APV do not expect to see peace during their lifetime. The burden of fear is one that no child should have to bear. Voices for Creative Nonviolence and EPJC encourage you to share Susan’s story. Please take time to contact these inspiring young people to let them know we have heard about their peace efforts and we care.

For more information or to contact the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, visit ourjourneytosmile.com. To learn more about Creative Voices for Nonviolence please visit vcnv.org.

Reported by Kara Brown

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