Manufacturing Hope for
By Ansar Rahel
This past August a group of Japanese, Chinese and Afghan musicians
all converged upon the Aschiana children’s center in Kabul
to perform in one amazing event. Hundreds of Afghan children crowded
into the backyard of Aschiana to sing and dance to a wide array
The event was sponsored by Japan, Mobile Mini Circus for Children
and Takamol theatre, per the sponsors I spoke with. And by all accounts—it
was a monumental success. The goal was to perform for Afghan children,
promote a sense of harmony and develop joint artistic programs in
the future. But aside from the usual boring conference, this event
really engaged the young Afghan children and actually got them to
sing together, perform together and work together. This was absolutely
encouraging to see in a city where children have such few opportunities
to genuinely enjoy themselves.
The day started with children being corralled into a dusty backyard
in front of a wooden stage with a large tent. Japanese musicians
then began to sing and encourage the audience to clap and sing as
well. The Afghan children, ranging in age from about five to ten,
were shy at first but later began to clap loudly. A Japanese woman,
elaborately dressed in colorful Afghan attire, danced in a circle
while all the children watched in amazement. Some kids clearly didn’t
know what to make of it.
But then a group of young Afghan children got on stage and sang
in Japanese. These children had just returned from visiting Japan
for 15 days during a cultural development program sponsored by the
Japanese government. They impressed even their Japanese mentors
by singing nearly perfect Japanese. To the audience this was a great
working example of how children can learn from other cultures in
a cooperative manner.
The event ended with a truly Afghan style Atan. “Truly Afghan
style” means uninhibited, energetic and true to form. Everyone
joined in a final Atan as ice cream was distributed to crowds of
Put simply, the reason why this event was so successful was because
of its plain delivery. In essence, the event was the point: children
should learn and have fun at the same time in a pleasant atmosphere.
This is what separated this event from long, drawn out conferences
with endless “assessments” and profiles. Instead of
talking about what children need, the performers did a remarkable
job of actively engaging everyone. This is what separates active
versus passive learning.
In the end, I was left yearning for more such events. Only hope
in action can keep the flames of faith alive, especially for children.