The Offices of Campus Ministry and Global Studies hosted a live Skype session Oct. 21 with the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) at SJC Long Island’s Muriel and Virginia Pless Auditorium. Students and staff members gathered to enjoy an Afghan-style breakfast and speak with the Afghan youths.
The APVs are a grassroots group of about 55 multi-ethnic college students and adults, unaffiliated with any political group or religion, seeking to promote green energy, equality and non-violence. The group first came together in 2008 wherein Dr. Wee Teck Young (Hakim) served as one of many mentors and friends to the volunteers. Dr. Hakim had stayed in the area after working at a refugee camp and wanted to create a place where young people could spend time learning and off the streets. By the end of each month, the volunteers give the kids a bag of rice and kerosene to replace what they would have made working instead of studying.
“When you hear things like that, it really puts things into perspective and makes you realize how much you take for granted,” said Pat Tracy, director of Campus Ministry at SJC Long Island.
The group’s efforts continued to expand – and in 2010, the APVs held their first Global Listening Day. The volunteers are known for wearing blue scarves to symbolize that all people equal under the sky above us. Girls and young women are also invited to the community center, where they feel safe enough to remove their burkas.
Global Listening Day helped the APVs connect with people around the world in to spread their message. Many people think about war and terror at the mention of Afghanistan, but Tracy remarked that “the young people in Afghanistan (want) the world to know that they want peace in their world and their country, and that they want (others) to get to know them and humanize them.”
The conversation helped SJC Long Island students and staff gain a new perspective of what it’s like to live in Afghanistan – as compared to living in the United States. 2016 marks the 15th anniversary of the Afghanistan War, which means that “the young people you are speaking to have never lived without war,” Susan Perretti, a volunteer of the APVs and someone who has facilitated in St. Joseph’s communication with the group for the past three years, told the SJC Long Island students.
It truly was a humbling experience to speak to those youth who are working so hard to create a better future for loved ones. Tracy recalled that one of the most impacting questions was when one youth asked “no matter who’s president, what do you want them to do with foreign policy?” This really brings things into perspective because many of us only take into account what happens nationwide, but don’t give a second thought to our impact worldwide.
The APVs look to continue to spread their message and create a better future, communicating with a new college on the 21st day of each month. To listen in or participate in their future conversations, visit http://globaldaysoflistening.org.