posted on Oct. 23: McMaster faculty promote peace in war-torn country through grant


Among professor Graeme MacQueen's memories, one stands out. It was 1995 and he was in Herat, a province in the west of Afghanistan, talking to the head of Herat's army.

The general, who had played an important role in resisting the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan, spoke quietly. “When I was fighting the Soviet Union all I had to do was snap my fingers and the West would give me a surface-to-air missile. Now, when we are trying to rebuild the country, I cannot get them to give me a pencil for a child.”

MacQueen and his colleagues at the Centre for Peace Studies, notably
physician and McMaster medical researcher Seddiq Weera, have announced that the centre has received a grant of $117,000 from the Canadian
International Development Agency (CIDA) for the project, “Media and
Peace Education in Afghanistan.”

The grant which is being provided through CIDA's International
Humanitarian Assistance Division, Peacebuilding Fund, will assist
Afghans simultaneously with education, health and peace-building.

MacQueen noted, “Everywhere I went I found the same problem: on the
pretext that Afghans still had not learned to live at peace and were not yet ready for education and development, Western governments refused to give anything but emergency aid, and were parsimonious even with this. But Afghans, and UN agencies as well, were saying the need was for education and jobs, without which the longed-for peace would not come.”

Sitting east of Iran and west of Pakistan, Afghanistan is a country that bears the scars of over 20 years of war. Landmines are scattered
throughout the countryside, infant and maternal mortality rates are
among the worst in the world and levels of grief and depression are

“The Centre for Peace Studies project will aim, through workshops,
stories and radio plays to foster awareness of the effects of
psychological stress and grief and their role in maintaining conflict
within Afghanistan. As well, it will support indigenous Afghan peace-
building efforts,” said MacQueen.

Besides working closely with Afghan organizations dedicated to peace,
the project team will co-operate with the Swedish Committee for
Afghanistan and the BBC.

Both project leaders worked on the centre's earlier project, “The Health of Children in War Zones,” funded by Health Canada. This undertaking developed innovative methods of combining health initiatives with peace-building initiatives.

The Centre for Peace Studies is a member of the Office of
Interdisciplinary Studies in the Faculty of Humanities.