The Words of the Angelucci Family

Peace Education in Afghanistan

Marilyn Angelucci
September 2007

In a war-torn country like Afghanistan, the most effective way to help is through peace education. After twenty-five years of war, the people's minds have been inundated with suffering and loss. The young Afghan people in the country have been living in an environment of conflict for their entire lives. Even so every day there is another bomb blast, kidnapping or suicide bomb attack. But the hearts of the young people are still pure and hopeful. What they need is someone to encourage them and remind them that the way of peace is the only true way to live.

How can we change this endless cycle of conflict? How can we give the young people hope? How can we encourage them to think in a way that can stop this endless cycle of violence and develop a culture of peace? This was the main concern of the Universal Peace Federation when we made our plan for action in Afghanistan. With these goals in mind, UPF started Peace Education Seminars in venues throughout Kabul and the neighboring cities. For the past two years, UPF Afghanistan has educated more than three thousand individuals in the UPF peace principles.

To give a little background, in Afghanistan the public schools are very poorly equipped. Some are even run in tents. With such a lack of resources, the Ministry of Education makes it easy for individuals to establish privately run educational centers for students to attend after school hours. Through these, they do extra study for school or study other subjects, such as the English language or computer. There is a real thirst for education in the hearts of Afghan youth.

These education centers are set up in any available space, perhaps even someone's home. They are also very basic in terms of equipment; some do not even have chairs. Even so, children pay the one dollar a month fee and flock to these centers. In Afghanistan, boys go to school in the morning and the girls in the afternoon, so the education centers are always busy from morning to night. The children cram into the rooms forty at a time. One center may cater to a thousand children. This is the kind of place where we hold our seminars.

We first invited our contacts, who included education center directors, to our center and taught our program to them. Then the education center directors began to invite us to come to their centers and teach their students. They would then recommend us to other places. So it has expanded from there.

Although in the beginning we both taught the seminars, my husband Umberto is doing this alone now. I am working to support our family so that he is free to continue. It is not easy for him because he has to create all the momentum himself; he has to do everything to arrange and teach the program. He also has to find the motivation to continue day after day. But he does it.

Usually we give five presentations, one a week for five weeks. He uses a projector to show the PowerPoint slides. These are in English, so he has an interpreter. There are a few different people who interpret for him. They are getting a very good education in our principles. One of them sometimes gets particularly inspired and sometimes says to Umberto, "Oh that's amazing," and forgets he is supposed to be translating it for the audience! But the interpreters do very well in their job, because as Umberto gives the core content, they frame the ideas in the context of the Afghan culture, even giving examples to support it.

The seminar consists of five different lectures from the International Education Foundation character education material. We begin with Principles of a Meaningful Life and Resolution of Conflict. These lectures particularly inspire the audience because of the problem of corruption in the country, which is one of the major stumbling blocks in nation building. When we explain clearly and systematically that selfishness is the root of all the conflicts in the world, they can understand this deeply from their own life experiences. They also feel inspired and empowered to break this chain of selfishness in their generation. We continue with the Family and Preparing Youth for Marriage and end the education with a presentation on the Value of Service.

After holding five meetings with a presentation and discussion, the participants that have been faithful to all five sessions will attend the graduation, make the peace blessing promise and receive the Ambassador for Peace or Youth Ambassador for Peace Certificate, depending on the age of the group. Usually the leader of an organization first chooses the young leaders of the group to attend, and then a following in seminar is held for other interested members.

We have had such a great response. The young people feel hope and inspiration to realize that their traditional morals and values are being taught in a new and contemporary format. Everyone recognizes that the teachings are based on their traditional religious beliefs but is inspired to be reminded and encouraged to apply them actively in daily life.

Fitting in God's providence

When it was planned for volunteers to go out to all the nations, we were happy to hear that ambassadors for peace from Korea, Japan and the U.S. would visit Afghanistan. Unfortunately, at the same time, twenty-three Korean Christian aid workers had been kidnapped in an Afghan province. The country was in a security crisis, and an international committee was doing whatever it could to secure the release of the hostages.

Because of this emergency, the Korean and Japanese governments were not issuing visas to their citizens. Therefore, ambassadors for peace from those providential countries could not come.

But by the grace of God and their sheer determination, two of our faithful Japanese ambassadors for peace had applied for their visas just before the cutoff and were able to come. The daughter of Afghanistan's Abel national messiah, Jin Ae Mitchem, also braved the trip.

With our three ambassadors for peace representatives, and through our peace education network, Afghanistan was able to take part in the volunteer program. We created a slide presentation explaining the background of the peace tour series, which included testimonies about the True Family and excerpts from the Peace Message. The presentation also explained the ambassador for peace movement.

We visited each of our faithful educational centers who had a foundation of the peace principles and gave the Peace Message to hundreds of young people at each event. Each event ended with the peace blessing (with our trademark glasses of orange juice!), which was included as one of the peace education presentations. In this way, we gave the Peace Message and blessing to thousands of people, young and old alike, in over a dozen different locations with the assistance of our peace ambassadors from abroad.

The day that our first two ambassadors for peace arrived in Kabul, two of the Korean hostages were released for medical reasons. Immediately after our ambassadors for peace left the country and we finished the first phase of our peace tour, we heard that an agreement had been made and the Korean hostages would be released. We were shocked to see the direct correlation between the release of the hostages and our work for peace. The spirit world is looking for the conditions to bring peace to our war-ravaged lands. The World Peace Tour is the greatest condition we can make in this day and age.

In Afghanistan our family and only a few ambassadors for peace all did our best and will continue to fulfill the great goals given to us by our True Parents. Whatever happens we are determined that Afghanistan will be included in the Abel UN and be on the list of nations that have fulfilled the desire of our True Parents.

Living in Afghanistan

People often ask me, "What is it like to live in Afghanistan? Isn't it dangerous?" I never know what to say because I don't want people to worry about our family. Living in Afghanistan is truly exciting, to say the least. Some days we have picnics at a lake in the countryside and enjoy our life at the UN swimming pool, and other days we are confined to the house because of a kidnapping down the street from our house. One thing is sure, each day brings unexpected events.

We live in a great community of high-minded people. Many of our friends and neighbors are good people who work for NGOs. They are like members of our own movement in their dedication. I can call one of them up and say, "I don't feel happy. Can I come over and talk?" and they ask you over. There are hundreds of aid workers in the capital; sometimes it seems the whole country is run by NGOs. A good number come from Christian organizations, and some are of such deep Christian faith that they have been working in the area for the last twenty years; they've lasted through the Communist era, the Mujahideen time and even the Taliban regime. But they have not come to Afghanistan to preach or convert people; they came to teach good values, apply the teachings of Jesus and relieve people's suffering. That is their witness.

So although we don't have other members to work with, we have our faithful friends that encourage us and create a wonderful supportive community. Our children are attending a high-level international school run on Christian values, with amazing teachers and resources. We feel the environment here in Afghanistan, with this community, gives our boys a value-based society that is helpful in raising teenagers in this day and age.

Of course we don't have water or electricity every day. In the winter, we have electricity four hours a night, which does put a damper on things. We have ways to compensate with a generator or transformer, but our bedtime is quite early under the circumstances. Also in the winter, we use wood stoves and confine our living to two rooms in our house. It's too expensive and difficult to keep the whole house warm, so we manage with less space. Consequently, there are few secrets in our family and we spend lots of family time together, which we all cherish.

So how can I complain when Afghanistan has given us so many blessings? When I'm asked, "Is it difficult to live in Afghanistan?" I usually say that the blessings outweigh the difficulties and invite the people asking to come and visit to find out for themselves. Afghanistan has the ability to change your life and help you to see your life from a new perspective, God's perspective, and that is a great gift. 

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