|With ongoing suicide attacks and tribal retribution, in the midst of a vengeful preemptive invasion and long-term military occupation, there’s still a light of creative nonviolence that shines bright in Afghanistan. Still, meaning, the creative nonviolence of Pathan leader and Muslim follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, as seen in Amrullah and others like him. Believing that creative nonviolence is the kind of language that even the deaf can hear and blind can see, his is another successful story of the transformative power of nonviolence at the Street Kids School.
Nonviolence Always Practiced but Forgotten by Some
Started by the Afghan Peace Volunteers at the Borderfee Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Street Kids School is a community established with the intention of learning about and practicing nonviolence and peaceful cooperation. It’s also similar to Gandhi’s ashram, and Abdul Khan’s “Servants of God.” To be sure, and as Abdul Khan taught, “Nonviolence was followed fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet Mohammad all the time he was in Mecca…But we had so far forgotten it that when Gandhi placed it before us, we thought he was sponsoring a novel creed.
Known as the “Frontier Gandhi,” Ghaffar Khan taught that violence may appear to do good, but the good is only temporary and the evil it does is permanent. After opening a school in 1910 in his rural village, which also included rural development, education, public health, and the emancipation of women, the British occupiers and tribal insurgents were astonished at how many of Peshawar’s proud but impoverished people, who were earlier divided by a violent code of vendetta binding from generation to generation, had embraced code of creative nonviolence and peaceful coexistence.
Oaths to Nonviolence Instead of War
With the reputation of a former fighter, Amrullah, age 11, and others like him have also embraced the power of peaceful action. Asked why he doesn’t fight, he says, “They have their way. I have my way, and my way is nonviolent.” Students gain literacy and math skills too, supplementing their lessons at government schools. To say the least, weaving nonviolence into later school lessons is a far cry from when the Carter and Administration funded and trained the Mujahadeen, and when the CIA schooled a whole generation of children on textbooks teaching war and vengeful tactics against the Soviets.
Whether or not a new army of nonviolent soldiers dedicated to pursuing peace and village service will be raised is not known. Either way, Abdul Khan’s pledge that read, in part: “I am a servant of God…, I promise to serve humanity in the name of God. I promise to refrain from violence and from taking revenge. I promise to forgive those who oppress me or treat me with cruelty. I promise to devote at least two hours a day to social work.” Hope and pray, too, that the school isn’t attacked or shut down-as the British authorities ended up closing Ghaffar Khan’s schools.
Myths of Nonviolence
As for Amrullah, who is a third-year student, his future looks much brighter. Not only is he participating in the Bridge Program which introduces students to 17 volunteer teams at the center, but they learn organic gardening and duvet projects-women’s income-generating project involving sewing and distributing wool-stuffed blankets. After working most of his life in the streets renting glasses and other items to families, he also hopes to volunteer at the center. What’s more, Amrullah sees first-hand how violence and those who fight end up in reality defeating themselves and hurting many innocent people.
In the meantime, Save the Children estimates there are 2.2 million Afghan children who still work in the streets of Afghanistan. Fortunately for them and other children around the world, some have discovered that the power of nonviolence, self-sacrifice, and forgiveness are the exclusive possessions of no one race or religion. And neither do they know no national boundaries. Indeed, Ghaffar Khan and his Peace Brigades refuted three common myths: that nonviolence is a weapon of the weak, that it works only against “civilized” adversaries, and that it is not part of Islam.
Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John’s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.WN.com. You can read more of Dallas’ writings at www.beverlydarling.com and www.WN.com//dallasdarling.)
(1) www.truthout.org. “Stepping Stones to Change: Teaching Nonviolence in Afghanistan,” by Carolyn Coe. December 27, 2017.
(2) Powers, Roger S. and William B. Vogele. Protest, Power, And Change: An Encyclopedia of Nonviolent Action from ACT-UP to Women’s Suffrage. New York, New York,Garland Publishing, Inc., 1997., p. 284.
(3) www.truthout.org. “Stepping Stones to Change: Teaching Nonviolence in Afghanistan .”
(4) Powers, Roger S. and William B. Vogele. Protest, Power, And Change: An Encyclopedia of Nonviolent Action from ACT-UP to Women’s Suffrage.