The Words of Children Living with War
The following are the words of children compiled by members of the steering committee of Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice. They come from children in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Canada. All of these children are living in the midst of war.
We thank the Rebuilding Alliance (and especially intern Bryce Druzin) for bringing us many of these messages from partner organizations like Other Voice - Sderat, Al Basma Club for the Disabled in Gaza, the Rachel Corrie Sports Initiative and the UNRWA School for Girls in Gaza, and the children at the Al Aqaba Kindergarten in the West Bank.
Other messages from children were gathered through personal interviews by Deborah Ellis, an author whose award-winning work includes the Breadwinner trilogy, novels that portray the life of a young Afghan girl, pretending to be a boy so that she can feed her family. In Ellis' Three Wishes, Off to War, and Children of War, she brings us directly into the daily lives, hopes, dreams and fears of Palestinian, Israeli, and Iraqi children, plus she shares the voices of American and Canadian children whose parents are stationed in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
We encourage you to read these words and if you'd like to respond, please submit a comment. We will gather those comments and as possible and appropriate, share them with the children.
These and more were shared during a public worship service on March 21st, 2010 at 2pm at Lytton Plaza in Palo Alto California. The gathering was hosted by the Palo Alto Friends Meeting and Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice. Together, we heard their words, prayed for peace, and committed ourselves to continuing our work to bring about a world where children won't have to be afraid to sleep at night or face the terrors of trying to live through another day at war.
Click each of the links to read the words of children at war.
Love is How We'll Ask for Peace
" Our Journey to Smile" is a blog site for the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, a group of youth in Afghanistan speaking out for an end to war. Click here to hear more of what they have to say to us.
Abdulai, a 13 year old Afghan boy says:
My dad and grand-dad were killed in the war and this morning I went to their graves to remember them.
We the people of the world should restore the sacred value of life.
We should revive true spirituality and recover our love.
I grieve for every person killed in the Iraq war because that grief has also broken my heart.
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Children of Al Aqaba Village in West Bank
The following are all from children in Al Aqaba Village in the West Bank, Area C
The most beautiful day of my life when I went to the sea of Jaffa and the zoo in Tel Aviv.
I wish to be founded a school contains several facilities such as library, lab and playing field.
Azmy Ziad Faiad
The first day in kindergarten is the most beautiful day of my life because I formed a lot of friends.
I wish to have a big house that contains the appropriate conditions of life.
Gozlan Mamoun Dabak
The most beautiful day of my life when I participated in the peace camp because I got knowledge about my heritage .
I wish to establish public park in Al Aqaba village to enjoy when I play with my friend and remove the training camps of Israeli soldier.
Haitham Saleh Abdallah
The most beautiful day of my life when I got good marks in my final exams.
I wish to return to Al Aqaba village and live in it with my family.
The most beautiful day of my life when I joined in Al Aqaba soccer team.
I wish to travel around the world to gained experience and new skills in soccer game.
NOTE: These letters were gathered by the Rebuilding Alliance which noted that this village is currently being overrun by 300-400 Israeli soldiers, despite a High Court order for them to leave.
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Nor Abo ShamalaI went to Al Quttan Center in Gaza to participate in a Palestinian folklore song. Also, I enjoyed playing. And I read stories like Romeo and Juliette and the Magician Brush. Then I returned home happily. I hope to be a successful journalist and I wish to see all Gaza children living in peace and realizing their rights.
Amina – 8 Years Old in Afghanistan
This story was related to an interfaith peace delegation in Afghanistan and is recorded by delegation member Craig Wiesner.
I was outside in the kitchen making tea. The kitchen is just outside the house, separate. Everyone else was inside waiting for tea. I heard a rumbling and then suddenly everything turned dark. When I woke up, I was covered with dust and rocks… The entire house was gone, destroyed. I heard one voice crying out, it was my uncle, he was still alive, buried… Everyone nearby was afraid that more bombs were coming so no one came out to help for hours. Finally, some people came and helped get my uncle out of there. By then… well you see what he is like now. Crazy.
My mother, my father, my sisters, my brothers, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, all dead. We weren’t Taliban. We weren’t fighters. We didn’t do anything wrong. Why did you (the United States) do this to us?
I’m all alone now, except for my uncle, but look at him. I can’t understand why anyone would do this to us. I hate you. I hate America.
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Matthew – 11 Year Old in Canada
I’m in grade 5 and my father is a sergeant. Canada has always been one of the world’s main peacekeeping countries and we’ve helped out Israel, Croatia, Bosnia, Egypt... lots of places. We’ve even helped to stop wars before they started. No one wants another World War One or Two again.
The Taliban is causing a lot of trouble in Afghanistan and we’re trying to stop them, through being there with our tanks and through aggressive negotiations.
Dad had a rough time in Afghanistan. He was right in all the heavy fighting. We knew he could get hurt or killed. Mom in particular was really stressed. She kept hearing on the news and from her friends about all the fighting, and that made her jumpy and upset. Me too. Dad was close to dying a few times. We knew he was in trouble and Mom and I didn’t handle it very well at times.
She was stressed so she’d yell a lot and I was stressed and I’d yell back. The whole thing was really a mess. We were both worried about Dad and there was nothing we could do about that. We couldn’t go over there and make him come home with us. We were scared and frustrated and angry and we yelled at each other because we didn’t know what else we could do.
In one really bad attack at a school, Dad got shrapnel in his shoulder, really close to a vein. He could have died from blood loss. Two of his commanding officers died in Afghanistan. Lots of other soldiers died there too. Lots from Petewawa (our town).
Dad seems a lot quieter now than he used to be. I kind of missed him while he was gone, and I kind of didn’t, because he would yell at me a lot when he was around and I got tired of that. But he’s been quieter since he got home. I think he saw real things wrong in Afghanistan, so the things that I do don’t seem like such a big deal any more.
I don’t think I’ll join the military. I just don’t want to be part of a war. I would stand up for my country, but I hope there’s a way of doing that without being part of the military. My ambition is to become a teacher.
My advice is to try not to focus on the bad things. Keep your mind on the good things. You’ll get through it easier.
NOTE: This letter is based on an interview Deborah Ellis had with Matthew for the book Off to War.
Abbadar – 12 Years Old in Jordan (refugee from Iraq)
My brother was killed eight months ago in Baghdad. He was 17. No one knows who did it. His body was found on a rubbish pile. That’s how we know he is dead. We left both of my older brothers behind in Iraq when we came to Jordan. Young men aren’t allowed into Jordan because they’re afraid young men will become terrorists. They let me in because I’m a child.
My other brother is still alive in Iraq, but he’s homeless. He works in a bakery and the boss lets him sleep in the storeroom. He calls us when he can and asks my father to send money. That makes my father cry, because he doesn’t have any.
At one time my father made a very good salary in Iraq. He was a 747 jumbo jet engineer. He’s very smart and knows how to make airplanes fly. But under sanctions, Saddam cut all salaries and my father was earning only a little bit of money for doing the same work. It wasn’t enough money to live on so our lives were very hard. Then he and my mother had a bad feeling that war was coming. It was going to go hard on Iraq. It cost them all the money they had to get visas for the three of us and we got here just before the bombing started.
This year Jordan let us into their public schools. The class I like best is the one where we learn English. If I learn enough English, maybe we can go to America. It might be better for my father’s heart if we went to America. His heart is bad and it got worse when we learned the news about my brother. He’s not able to work, so he has too much time to miss my brothers and to miss our old life.
So now, instead of being an important man with an important job, my father stays home and cries a lot because he doesn’t see how it will get any better.
NOTE: This is based on an interview by Deborah Ellis with Abbadar from the book Children of War.
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Maryam – 11 Years Old in Bethany
I live in a town outside Jerusalem called Bethany, a beautiful old city, in Palestinian territory. It is full of shops, churches, and mosques with wide streets and many buildings. There are many many Israeli soldiers. They walk on the sidewalks and drive around in trucks and tanks. They fly their helicopters over my city and shoot people. They try to make us believe this is their city and not ours. I see a lot of soldiers at my school. They are always there. I can feel them watching me, and I wish they would look in another direction.
When there is a curfew, everything shuts down. You can’t even look out the window or the soldiers will shoot at you. It is like the whole city is in jail, only their jail is in their homes. The soldiers never tell us why they are making us stay inside. They just tell us to go inside and stay there.
I sleep in the school I go to. I live there. My mother died when I was five. She was killed in a car accident. She was 39. My aunt is kind to me, and so is my grandmother, but I still miss my mother. She used to sing to me. There are other girls at my school who lost their mothers, or both parents. We sleep in the same room. Most days at school are the same, we get up at seven and do chores, and then we eat breakfast, then go to school. Religion is my favorite subject because it is easy and it teaches me new things about what kind of person to be.
The teachers are very strict at my school. I get punished a lot for being noisy. I want to be a doctor when I grow up but first I have to finish school. That seems like a very long time from now.
My aunt says that we shouldn’t let boys tell us we can’t do things just because we’re girls. There are Palestinian women who are martyrs now who do the suicide bombings. They are very brave. It must be very difficult for their families.
I have only one wish. I wish I could go to heaven. Maybe in heaven there’s happiness after we die. Maybe then.
NOTE: This is based on an interview with Maryam that Deborah Ellis had for her book, Three Wishes (Palestinian and Israeli Children).
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Wardah Chowdhry...PakistanMy name is Wardah Chowdhry and I live in Pakistan. I am 15 years old and I am in class 9th. I am soo scared of bomb blasts and wars in my country.
A lot of blasts are taking place all over Pakistan, in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Gujranwala. There are bombs blowing up as I am writing this email. Today these blasts are happening in my neighborhood in Allama Iqbal town market where I was shopping yesterday. I remember another blast happened in same market on August 13th when people were buying things to celebrate the independence day of Pakistan. Today two blasts happened in R. A Town, where my old grandpa and my cousins live along with my uncles and aunts.
Today is March 12th and it is my sister's 20th birthday. I would have liked to buy a cake and a gift to celebrate her birthday but it is not safe to go out. My uncles keep calling my mom to make sure we stay at home. They are more worried about us because my dad died three years ago
Let me share some detail information just about blasts happened on March 12th in Lahore.
These are the facts about what happened on March 12th 2010 in Lahore
There was a blast in Lahore Cantt in R. A Bazaar at 12:48. It happened at a bus stand and 125 people were injured and 60 people died, And then after 3 minutes at 12:51 2nd blast was heard.. That was in the same area in Lahore Cantt but near a Mosque and 15 people were injured and 10 died. That was a big scary blast.
After this everyone was scared, the day passed slowly because we could not do anything fun. My sister in law said that these bomb blasts are coming very close to our home.
We turned the televisions on and heard about more bomb blasts in my town. We didn't hear this blast because it was a little blast and it happened in a busy market. Seven more blasts were heared from our home in the same town and markets. Near homes and Edih Relief Center. Our windows were shattering and we all sat in one room terrified. The sounds of ambulances, fire engines and police car noise adds to our fears. There were 11 blasts on March 12 in Lahore. It makes me wonder where can I be safe? I can go to America because my aunt sponsored me and I am a US citizen now but my momâ€TMs visa is not approved yet and I can not think of leaving her behind. I hope we get her visa before we are hurt or dead but what about other families who have no place to go? Is America safe for a Muslim girl? Is any place safe for all of us?
I wonder is this a Muslim country..????? Will my country ever be safe again????? 11 blasts in one day.. All in LAHORE..!!! Can u believe..???? After today everyone is scared... because now you are not safe in your homes either...!! EVERYONE every single person is scared.. After so many blasts in the markets who would like to go to the markets...???? And blasts near and inside the Mosques.. Who would go to the Mosques now...????? People say that Muslims are doing this.. but Muslims can't do this because it is against Islam. It is 1:30 am and I am unable to sleep. Today was the scariest day of my life..!!!!
I wish I could fall asleep because I am very tired, I also wish to wake up in the morning and have everything normal again, when we were all HAPPY... our country should be in PEACE... no more TERRORISM.. Everyone just doing their own work and no one SCARED ANYMORE.. Kids laughing and playing with their friends and going to school to become whatever they thought of becoming.
I HOPE AND PRAY THAT THIS WOULD HAPPEN.. I BELIEVE IN MY GOD..
As I write these lines I was disturbed by a "Color Red" alert followed by a shocking "Boom". A Thai worker was killed in our friend's greenhouse. I have a awful feeling that we are in for a Horriffic weekend.
When will it ever end???