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The path to peace

Story by Andy Brodzeller

Above: Marquette's Patrick Kennelly (back row, second from the right) with the rest of a peacemaking delegation in Afghanistan. Below: Planting trees with school children.

After 30 years of war, dreams of hope and peace can be fleeting for Afghans. But pockets of nonviolence can be found between the bombed-out tanks, crumbling buildings and former mine fields.

Patrick Kennelly, associate director of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking, spent a week this past spring in Kabul, Afghanistan, meeting with and learning about Afghans promoting nonviolence as a path to peace. The trip was organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence and the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.

"Since its founding three years ago, members from the Center for Peacemaking have been traveling the globe to gain a better understanding of how people and communities are using nonviolent methods to transform conflict," Kennelly says. "This trip allowed me to learn first-hand the methods of nonviolence being applied in Afghanistan."

One effort Kennelly learned about was organized by journalists. Under their tutelage, a group of Afghans in their twenties launched a campaign of public speeches, declarations and photo exhibits expressing their desire for peace. At a Kabul school, a group of approximately 100 primary-aged school children and elders gathered for a forum on education opportunities and then planted two fruit and nut trees. In addition to producing nutritious food, the trees will help clean the air, which, because of decades of war and poor sewage and sanitation systems, is among the most polluted in the world.

Kennelly was particularly impressed with one group of Afghans who used arts and songs to help teach illiterate people about human rights, forgiveness and peace. "Throughout the week I was amazed at the thoughtfulness and results of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, "he says. "These peacemakers clearly understood that an essential part of peacemaking and nonviolence is to respond to injustice with dignity."

Afghanistan faces many serious problems inadequate health care, environmental degradation, deficient education, and lack of clean water, to name a few. "It's a difficult situation, and many people do not have hope for improvement," Kennelly says. "However, among some of these young adults there is a sense that the current way of living and using violence to resolve conflicts leaves no hope for the future. By working nonviolently for peace, they believe there is a chance of transforming the conflict and creating a better life for them and the country."

Encouraged by the actions he witnessed amid the challenges in Afghanistan, Kennelly has shared his experience with students at the Center for Peacemaking and has connected Marquette students with their peers in Afghanistan using Skype. While Kennelly knows and understands that nonviolence is not always the most popular or accepted action, he believes a Marquette education and the activities of the Center for Peacemaking will help train the next generation of peacemakers. To read more about Kennelly's trip visit the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking blog.

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