First Anniversary of the Borderfree Community Center

Last week, the Afghan Peace Volunteers celebrated the first anniversary of the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Center. Check out the address from Dr. Hakim on August 7th, 2015, and a video from the APVs.

A year ago, at the inauguration of Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre, the first of its kind in Afghanistan, I had said that love can open every border.

I believe in that love, but as wars rage on in Afghanistan and many places of the world today, it seems that instead of borders being broken, our hearts are being broken.

Many of us feel broken.

War breaks us.

But we can rely on that love because love has many strengths: Love heals. Love is courage. Love is action.

Love heals. Many years ago, I was working in a hospital when I met a 15 year old girl who was dying from cancer. Her father and mother were separated and seeking divorce. The young girl, sensing that her days on earth were ending, asked the nurses to call her estranged parents to her bedside. Her parents came separately to see her. Separately, she told each of them, “I love you and wish for you to be reconciled. Please be friends again.” The young girl passed away and her parents didn’t reconcile. But I believe that all three of them found healing in the girl’s last wish. The girl did not find healing in the medicines and tablets we doctors gave her. She found healing from the love within herself. We too can find that healing from the love within us.

Another aspect of love is that love is courage.

Malalai Yousafsai wanted to go to school, but one day, the Taliban boarded the bus she was on, and shot her in her forehead. Malalai survived. When she was asked by a journalist for her response if the Taliban came again with the intention of killing her, she said, “I’ll tell him how important education is, and that I even want education for your children as well. And I would tell him, ‘that’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want’.” Malalai met Obama and told him to end the use of drones. Last year, Malalai became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malalai shows us that we are stronger and more courageous when we love and forgive than when we take revenge or kill. We are stronger and more courageous when we hold love than when we hold a weapon. And I know you have that courageous love too, however young you are now, just as Malalai was only 15 when she was shot by the Taliban.

Another story of the courageous love of a young person is the story of Edward Snowden. Edward worked for the NSA. He discovered that the NSA has programs which endanger the civil liberties of all human beings. Because he cared for the welfare of others more than his own, he found courage to stand before the superpowers, and to reveal the NSA programs which he felt were harmful to us.

He knew that if the NSA wanted ‘to get you, they’ll get you in time’. He found courage because he could no longer ‘get up everyday, go to work, collect his large paycheck and go to sleep at night after watching his shows’. He realized that his work would make oppression worse for the next generations.

So, he had to flee his home country and leave his family and girlfriend. The good news is that he has received support from millions of people and his girlfriend has joined him in Russia.

Lastly, remember that love is action. Yes, we may find love in words but words fade away with time. What lasts is love in action. No matter how bad and hopeless we feel when we wake up daily in Afghanistan, we can get out of our seats and houses and the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre, and do something for another human being, like helping street kids, comforting a widow or the needy, befriending someone from another ethnic group.

In these small daily actions, we can find a meaning of life that can outlast words, outlast our own lives, and outlast the Centre. It won’t matter if others don’t notice our acts of love. I believe that when our small acts of love are brought together under the umbrella of the human family, they form the unseen, sub-atomic power that can change everything.

In the past year, many of you have demonstrated this love. You have set up a school for 90 street kids. You made and distributed duvets to 3000 poor families last winter. You have reached out in friendship across ethnic barriers in the Borderfree National Dance team. You’re going to inaugurate a green garden in Kabul soon. You’ve created a space at the Centre where there’s no war or weapons.

You are my heroes of love. To me, you are the girl who loved her parents, the Malalai Yousafzais and the Edward Snowdens and you deserve more than just the symbolic Nobel Peace Prize.

Each year, when we celebrate the anniversaries of the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre, I hope we can celebrate such love, because, love heals, love is courage and love is action that will outlast all of us.

Thank you, and happy birthday!