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Parched, and marching for peace

In early June, I am standing outside of a home in Kabul, Afghanistan, watching a large drilling machine parked on what was once a lovely garden, now a muddy patch. Soon workers arrive for another noisy, dusty day of digging for water. The well dried up a week ago. As of today, the household, home to several members of the group Afghan Peace Volunteers, has no water.

Across Kabul, numerous households face similar water shortages. With an average annual rainfall of just fourteen inches, Kabul's water table has been falling each year. The current population, estimated around 4.5 million, is expected to reach 9 million by 2050. The estimated groundwater potential is enough to supply only 2 million inhabitants with water.

Rural families in drought-stricken areas watch their crops fail and their livestock die of dehydration. In desperation, they flee to urban areas, including Kabul, where they often must live in squalid sprawling refugee camps. In the city, an already inadequate sewage and sanitation system cannot support the soaring population rise.

Ordinary Afghans could be forgiven for feeling paralyzed and defeated by these realities. Yet I find they are remarkably resilient, as they continue to reject war and call for peace.

On May 13, a single-file procession of Pashto men started off on a 400-mile trek along dusty roads from Helmand to Kabul, to call for the Afghan government and the warring parties to end the war. They are walking during Ramadan month (May 15 to June 14), when observant Muslims fast from food and water between sunrise and sundown, becoming ever more mindful of people who lack water and food.

The marchers are asking the Afghan government and militants to stop fighting. Along the way, they are being met by throngs of people in cities and towns, expressing solidarity. Scarred by war, facing drought and impoverishment, the Afghan people are digging deep into their rich cultural and historical resources to take a lead in efforts to build a better world.

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Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

Editorial on 06/12/2018

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