By Matin Royeen
Introduction: Today is the first day of the year 2021, celebrated by many in different parts of the world. At the beginning of each year, we express our best wishes to members of family, friends, and colleagues and pray for worldwide peace, good health, and prosperity for all. I also join the peace-yearning people of my homeland in a moment of prayers for a viable peace in Afghanistan.
I must admit that the year 2020 was not a good year. Besides evidence of direct, indirect, and cultural violence in some parts of the world, humanity was hit by Covid-19 pandemic with extraordinary impact on health, financial status, and psychosocial aspects of life. According to some statistics, 83 million people have the virus that resulted in 1.81 million deaths globally, and in the United States, 19.8 million people have tested positive with about 343000 deaths. In the last three days of 2020, about ten thousand people lost their lives due to this pandemic in the United States, according to CNN news. India, Brazil, Russia, and France are other countries with a high rate of positive cases and deaths.
The International Monetary Fund estimates the global financial impact of Covid19 to be around 28 trillion, one of the worst crises since the Great Depression. In the United States, this pandemic will result in net losses of 3.2 to 4.8 trillion in the next two years. Covid-19 has driven millions to poverty around the world.
The loss of human life and not being able to hold the hands of loved ones during their last moments of breathing, and the psychological toll of this pandemic on health professionals and first responders will be felt for a long time. I believe we will experience the aftershocks of this pandemic in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after it is contained. With the discovery and distribution of the Vaccine in well-to-do countries, there is new hope that by the Fall of 2021 life will become normal. In the meantime, there are these ethical questions of how/when those countries that cannot afford, will administer the vaccine.
The New Year is the Beginning of Hope. Growing up in Kabul, I remember our elders saying that the “World Lives on Hope.” This statement is so true and confirmed by psychologists that the moment we lose hope, the reason for Living Fades Away. Despite the hardship and trauma of 2020, we see some hopeful signs for 2021. First, the new Biden administration in the United States will hopefully bring a sense of civility in domestic and international politics. Second, Covid-19 will hopefully come under control. Third, the prospects of peace in our beloved country of Afghanistan looks promising, despite the long road ahead.
Peace Requires Greater Sacrifices. Afghanistan has been at war for over four decades. The Afghan nation, the leadership, the Taliban, and the world community involved in Afghanistan, are working hard for peace. I support the uniform statements of Afghan leaders that peace- making requires sacrifices on the part of the government, political leaders and all people. Using the motto of my elders about hope in Afghanistan, I would like share my hopes from the relevant parties involved in this cycle of violence in our homeland,
My Hope for the 34 million Suffering Afghans. You are a very brave and resilient people. You have been enduring one of the greatest tragedies that has continued for four decades. Each family of yours has at least, lost a member to this insidious war and violence. I hope that you have come to terms with this loss and trauma and are willing to forgive the other on Behalf of a Lasting Peace.
My Hope for Drs. Ghani and Abdullah: Afghanistan has had many war heroes throughout history. It is time for the Afghan leadership to genuinely embrace reconciliation by becoming peace heroes. This moment is awaiting you. Both of you have this historic opportunity to forge a trusted relationship and find that common purpose for peace beyond yourselves. You have this heavy burden on your shoulders and your actions will become eternally enshrined in the history pages of the Afghan nation. Yes, both have stated about the necessary sacrifices required for peace-making. Are you ready and willing to deliver on that promise on Behalf of a Lasting Peace for the people of Afghanistan?
My Hope for the Taliban: The majority of you are part of the 34 million noble people of Afghanistan that also have suffered from the trauma of the past violence. The answer to your trauma is only reconciliation, not violence and revenge. On behalf of those beautiful Islamic virtues of forgiveness, kindness, justice, and fulfillment for peace, are you ready and willing to make Truce with your Afghan brothers and sisters? I hope that your Islamic Morality towards a just society will brighten the dark shadows of hate and injustice. Are you willing to make this sacrifice for Lasting Peace on Behalf of the People of Afghanistan?
My Hope for the Political and General Leadership with Power and Influence: You have followers around different parts of the country. Your words and actions will have an important impact on peace and war. Like other leaders, you will be judged by the merit of your actions in the chapters of Afghan history. You have a choice to assert/share Resonance Leadership with your followers over Dissonance Leadership. Some of you have benefited a great deal materially from your positions. This is time to share your blessings with those Afghan brothers and sisters in need. Both Violence and Covid-19 have caused enormous suffering among people. Are you willing to help your sphere of influence find a Common Purpose Towards Peace and Reconciliation in the country?
My Hope for the United States, NATO, and the European Union: In the past twenty years, you have made many contributions and sacrifices on behalf of the Afghan people. The Afghan nation is very grateful for your assistance. The year 2021 will provide a historic opportunity for President-elect Biden and the international partners by strengthening their cooperation and realigning some weaknesses of the peace agreement initiated by President Trump’s administration. In search of a viable peace in the country,I believe the following adjustments are necessary; First, a Ceasefire is absolutely essential for stopping the violence by establishing Negative Peace. Second, a formal Regional Conference parallel to the Afghan Intra dialogue is necessary for lasting peace in Afghanistan. Your Collective Collaborative Commitment by undertaking this initiative with Afghanistan’s neighbors is a prerequisite for permanent peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Third, planning for Peacebuilding takes vision, time, and patience. Afghanistan can serve as a very useful hub connecting Central Asia to South Asia. Additionally, Afghanistan is rich with natural resources and needs your technical help on how to optimize these resources in international markets that will result in economic self-sufficiency for the people. Are you willing to take these bold steps towards a lasting peace and economic prosperity on behalf of the silent majority of Afghans?
My Hope For the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan: The fate and welfare of your people is intrinsically linked to the peace and security in Afghanistan. This is the moment of looking at the mirror and facing the truth about peace and reconciliation with your brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. Currently, you are all sharing the same boat of destiny on stormy waters of an unknown future.. Are you willing to take collective responsibility for navigating this boat away from the turbulent waves into the serene beaches of tranquility?
I believe 2021 is full of promise for all. In order to reach the promised land, the great Mahatma Gandhi has reminded us to use morality and character in our conduct, principles and conscience in our politics, and sacrifice and justice on our road map. I pray for peace in every chamber of your human heart.
Dr. Matin Royeen is an Afghan-American educator living in Chicago. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org