The following article was written by peace activist, Nematullah Ahangosh, who was also a leader and organizer of this innovative summer program. Nematullah teaches English for children in IDP camps through the Jesuit Refugee Service and has overcome his own experiences of poverty and child labor to now give back to others.
Two ROYA students, Faizullah and Abdullah, were participants in the Rainbow Summer Program, recently held in Kabul. Faizullah is quoted in the article. Promoting ethnic harmony, tolerance, and national unity is among many of the goals of the ROYA Mentorship Program. We appreciate Nematullah and his peers for organizing and leading a much-needed program for Afghan youth.
Rainbow Summer Program launched in Kabul
The very first cultural diversity summer program in Afghanistan was held for high school students in Kabul. Organized and run by young Afghan volunteers, the mission of the Rainbow Summer Program is to nurture cultural diversity and the tolerance of diversity through authentic projects including dialogue and conversation. It is designed for high school students to give them the opportunity to get to know, discuss and explore their ideas on the topic of cultural diversity.
After decades of war in Afghanistan, dozens of Afghan youth and high school students gathered to create and experience a diverse and multi-cultural Afghanistan. During the five days of the unique summer program, participants were able to discover and explore their ethnic cultures and sub-cultures through dialogues, group work, conversation and immersive games. It was a very rewarding gathering for all participants and leaders.
Thirty students were selected to attend this program. Students shared their culture through wearing different clothes, sharing a great variety of foods, singing folk songs, dancing and music. “To look back at the history of Afghanistan, there is no history of such a summer camp before,” said Alisina, one of the organizers of the Rainbow Summer Program.
During the program, students discussed different topics considered positive points in Afghan culture including: marriage between ethnic groups; the impact of social media; and the impact of education. Meanwhile, they discussed how war and conflict has caused children of one ethnic group to attend schools which are exclusive to their own ethnicity and they are unwilling to attend other schools.
“I learned two salient things from this camp. Knowing about Afghanistan’s different cultures and being motivated to improve the level of my education,” said Faizullah, one of the participants. He feels that it is an egregious failure for those who don’t know each other, especially each other’s cultures. He also said, “I was very lucky to attend Rainbow because I didn’t know about the wide diversity of cultures that we have in Afghanistan. I thought very negatively about our other cultures. Now I know I need to improve my knowledge about, for example, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara and Pashtun cultures. Hopefully, as a result of this Rainbow Summer Program more Afghans will learn about the richness of our cultures.”
The Rainbow Summer Program is not a part of the education system in Afghanistan, but the participants would like to make the program sustainable. During the program, the students asked us many times if we could repeat the program next year because they had never had the opportunity to be educated in such a fun and well-informed manner in their own schools. This program helped them to learn a myriad of lessons.
Manizhe is in ninth grade and also studies English in an IDP camp with other children. She and her family returned to Afghanistan from Iran two years ago. She said, “Afghans like me are not treated well in Iran. Iranians often said that Afghans are bad people, but now I know that it was a false idea because in this program I met amazing people who belong to different regions, diverse religions and cultural backgrounds and I learned about my own culture.”
The program succeeded to enrich participants’ understanding of cultural diversity, promoted tolerance and a pluralistic approach towards various cultures, and provided a more scientific view of the diverse cultures in Afghanistan.
Last but not least, the inspired participants of this summer program were motivated to join peace movements in Kabul. Almost all of the camp’s participants joined the Afghan Peace Volunteers to contribute to peace-building and to continue educational work in building harmonious multi-cultural communities in Afghanistan. They will be part of creating a green, equal and nonviolent Afghanistan through many peace movements and peace projects together with the Afghan Peace Volunteers.
See slideshow with additional photos below: