Epilogue

Faiz and I at the New Year celebrations

Just wanted to wrap up my return home with some thankyous and some final thoughts. This blog will continue to be a repository for events as they happen, including opportunities to hear more about the trip. But for the moment, as the trip is over, so are the reports.

Firstly, let me say thankyou to everyone who has made this trip possible – from financial contributions to prayers and messages of support. I’ve been overwhelmed by the love that has been shown by people responding to these emails, and have passed on your letters and gestures of support to the AYPVs.

A particular public thankyou to my wife Julie, and to my kids, for partnering with me in this trip. As many of you would know it’s far harder to be the one left behind than the one leaving. I can’t imagine how hard it was for Julie, but I’m deeply grateful to have had this experience.

There will be reportbacks happening over the next few weeks and months, and I’ll keep the blog updated with the times and places they will be happening. If you’d like me to come and speak to your church/community group/kitchen table then please let me know.

A few people have asked me “where to from here?” Two things stand out for me as outcomes of this trip.

One is personalising what has largely till now been an ideological battle. Thomas Merton (Trappist monk who provided much of the wisdom behind the Christian peace movement in the 1960s) once wrote to Jim Forest (head of Catholic Peace Fellowship) when he was feeling despondent about their efforts to end the Vietnam War. He urged Jim to focus not on the results, but on the rightness, the value of the work itself. “Gradually,” he said, “you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end…it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.” This trip has taught me that love is not abstract, but very, very personal. I was glad to be able to spend so much of it with the Youth Volunteers, to build friendships with them, and to put faces and names to a war zone we normally only read about. I look forward to keeping up with them via the wonders of the internet.

The second is that it has cemented my faith in nonviolence as the only way forward for the world. Of course, the standard objection to any advocacy of nonviolence in situations of war is something like, “Well that’s all very well for you, you’re living in Australia. Try living nonviolence in a war zone and you’ll quickly change your mind.” Sometimes I’m tempted to believe them.

But the AYPVs have proven that it’s possible. Their service to us is more than just providing embodied nonviolent resistance to the corruption and violence in their country – it’s the imagination to see an entirely new way forward, to open up horizons of creativity rarely glimpsed before. They’re living proof that not only is it possible to live nonviolence in the midst of war, but that it is a vastly superior way to live – for those living it, and for those with whom those living it come in contact.

There are challenges, for sure – even this week violent protests across Afghanistan have killed UN workers and others. But everyday, people also get on with their lives – they plant crops, they prune vines, they assist lambs to be born, they forgive and reconcile. Love is winning, but it can always use some help. 🙂

This year I’ll continue doing nonviolent resistance to the war effort back here in Australia, and working on expanding the Bonhoeffer Peace Collective, a Christian discipleship movement. We would love more people to join us, in all manner of roles, even if you’re just wanting to explore it. We’ll be particularly focussing on July as a month of action against the war. I’ll also be part of organising a speaking tour for the three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominated head of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and organiser of the Afghan delegation, Kathy Kelly. She will be in Australia for Pace e Bene in October/November of this year. Watch the Pace e Bene Australia website for more details.

For those interested in following up my media engagements, I had a piece published in the ABC online opinion section “Unleashed” last week, so if you’re interested check it out here.

I also (somehow) managed to have a video question to Kevin Rudd aired on ABC1’s Q&A program last Monday (my question is about 17 minutes in). The panel’s response was fairly predictable, but I hope that people at least had an opportunity to hear an alternative view from me. Unfortunately they cut off the end of my question (which was kind of the point of it!), the full version of which you can see below.

As far as radio goes, I’ll be interviewed on Melbourne’s 3CR (855AM) on Thursday 7th April at 7:30am; I have recorded an interview on LightFM (89.9FM) for a couple of weeks’ time, and am supposed to have an interview on ABC Radio’s Life Matters program at some stage soon.

*Update* Here’s a followup interview I did with 3CR for their drivetime program last Wednesday 13th:

As the Global Days of Listening expand in each region, there are needs for people to assist with organising. After the enthusiastic response from Aussies to the last Global Day of Listening Doug Mackey is keen to set up a hub for the calls here. I would urge you to consider whether this might be a role you could play in the expansion of love across the world. If you’d be interested, particularly in being a contact person in Australia (or in learning more) please contact me or Doug Mackey at the Global Day of Listening website.

As always you can follow the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers at their website. They make new videos every couple of weeks, so check back often.

Finally, if you’re in Melbourne, there will be a silent peace march and forum in on Palm Sunday, April 17th from 12:30pm till 4pm, starting at the State Library. Would love to see you there.

Thanks so much for all you have done and continue to do for peace and justice in the world, in your work, in your families, and with your friends. May we continue to be inspired by the Youth Volunteers, and so many others working under difficult conditions for love and reconciliation. Thankyou for sharing this journey with me, and I look forward to many more.

Grace and peace,

Simon

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