Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Learning a nonviolent lifestyle in Kabul by John Dear (Christian Peacemaker)

Older Kabul man smelling a flower

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has nominated John Dear for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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...the following diary notes are being sent from Kabul, Afghanistan, where we have limited electrical power and internet connection.  I offer them to share my heartbreaking, extraordinary experience so far in war-torn Afghanistan.

Dec. 3: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The flight from Atlanta to Dubai lasted almost 14 hours, and I'm exhausted but excited to be going to Kabul to meet the Afghan Peace Volunteers, a diverse community of students ages 15 to 27 who practice peace and nonviolence. I made it through customs without any trouble, collected my luggage, changed some money and caught a taxicab across Dubai to the other terminal, where I now have an eight-hour wait for my 4:20 a.m. flight to Kabul. In the distance, I see the famous skyscrapers of this wealthy city, a kind of Mid-East Las Vegas and oil center. But my thoughts are set on impoverished, war-torn Afghanistan and the hope of its peacemaking youth who invited me to visit them.
Dec. 4: Kabul
We set off in the dark over the resorts and the sea toward the unknown. I was wide awake and excited, even though I hardly slept for two days. At 6 a.m., orange light appeared along the horizon. Then all of a sudden, a giant ball of bright orange light popped up, shedding light below over hundreds of miles of majestic mountains.
Sunrise over Afghanistan! The enormous mountains went on forever, and we flew for almost an hour before the small valley of Kabul appeared below. So my first impression of Afghanistan was staggering, majestic beauty, the likes of which I've never seen. Five hundred miles of the Alps. Snow-covered mountains as far as the eye can see.
I immediately thought of Jesus' commandment, "Love your enemies," which has been so much on my mind and heart these last few months as I've prepared for this trip. There, he connects love for enemies with the sunrise: "Love your enemies, then you will be sons and daughters of your heavenly God who makes the sun rise on the good and the bad." What a consolation!
I thought, too, of Gandhi's declaration: "A nonviolent person sees the whole world as a family, and so he fears no one and no one fears him." I want to embody that Gandhian spirit of nonviolence on this trip, to see everyone I meet as my very sister and brother.
I would like to look at Kabul and the Afghan people through the eyes of the God of peace, the eyes of the nonviolent Jesus, with the vision of love. As the plane approached, I felt only love for these suffering people, who are loved unconditionally, infinitely, nonviolently by the God of peace. What a waste that we live in fear and hatred of one another, that we allow terror, war, drones, greed and poverty to continue, that we don't end this global violence, turn from centuries of war, institutionalize justice, equality and nonviolent conflict resolution, and live together in peace.
Lonely Planet ranks Afghanistan 173 out of 178 nations in terms of wealth, marking it one of the poorest nations on earth. It is also considered the most corrupt nation on earth and has the second-highest infant mortality rate. A recent U.N. report states that chronic malnourishment in Afghanistan is now on par with the worst places in Africa. There are about 31 million people in Afghanistan, and 68 percent of them are under 25.
Five million people live in Kabul. From the air, it looks like a city of low brown buildings surrounded by brown walls and brown roads with no trees and no water. But as the plane approached the runway, the towering mountains around us disappeared, and we entered a heavy yellow/brown layer of pollution. Kabul, one of the poorest places on the planet, is also one of the most polluted. One can barely breathe here, another legacy of war.
I made it through customs again, caught a bus out of the airport, and was met by the smiling faces of the young Peace Volunteers and, of course, Hakim, the charismatic 43-year-old medical doctor who is the friend and mentor of the Afghan Peace Volunteers and one of the world's great peacemakers.
We piled into a cab and took off across the city. What a hair-raising experience! Thousands of cars speeding at 65 mph. No lights, no stop signs, and no rules. Everyone yelling and speeding and cutting in front of one another. And children walking right through it all!
Sure enough, someone cut in front of our cab. Our driver exploded in rage and took off after him through the sea of speeding cars. Suddenly, I was in "The Bourne Supremacy." They sped next to each other, yelled and grimaced-- and then, as if on cue, they both turned their cars right into one another and -- crash! We smashed into the other car. The left side-view mirror was torn off, and the whole left side of the cab was damaged. But we were hit harder, so the taxi lurched forward and hit a bike, throwing the biker off into the air, and then ran over the bike. We stopped, everyone yelled at each other, the biker got up, shook off the dust, picked up his flattened bike, then everyone took off again into the sea of angry traffic.
It was then, as everyone caught their breath and recovered from the shock, that Hakim turned to me and said with a smile, "Welcome to Afghanistan!"

Read rest of Part I at the original site:

Why I am Going to Afghanistan

Other items on & or by John Dear:

From Afghanistan people: We do not want war 

Dear on Drones

Pax Christi

John Dear's New Book: "Lazarus, Come Forth!" John Dear's ground-breaking new book, "Lazarus Come Forth!," explores the story of the raising of Lazarus in the Gospel of John, chapter 11, and suggests that Lazarus represents "humanity" stuck in the culture of death, and that Jesus represents "the God of life" calling humanity out of the tombs, out of the culture of violence and war, into "the new life of resurrection peace." This book invites us to carry on Jesus' liberating work by obeying his commandments--to take away the stone that keeps us trapped in our violent culture of war, to call each other out of the tombs, to unbind one another and to set each other free to live in peace and nonviolence. 

John Dear S.J. is a Jesuit Priest, Peace Activist, Organizer, Lecturer, Retreat leader, and author/editor of 28 books on peace and nonviolence, including Living Peace, published by Doubleday. 

Wounded Afghan Children

The two photos above can be found:


  1. Connie, Thanks so very much for sharing it.

  2. What a joy to share anything by or about this amazing loving peacemaker! Thanx for coming by...