Each new life represents hope for the future.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) is said to have made the following comment in a radio broadcast during World War II: “There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.”
Sadly, many children in the world today still cannot sleep peacefully in their cradles.
An international conference to rebuild war-torn Afghanistan was held in Tokyo on July 8. In Afghanistan, one in four children dies under the age of 5. Partly for this reason, the average life expectancy of Afghans is only 44.6 years. Both figures are among the worst in the world.
Afghanistan has a long history of being subjected to military rule by world powers. Until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, it had almost been forgotten by the rest of the world. After the attacks, war flared in Afghanistan. But soon, international attention shifted to Iraq. As interest waned, war devastated landlocked Afghanistan and its people.
Terror attacks became routine, corruption became rampant and the drug trade flourished. A universal system of education, which forms the basis for building a nation, has only shaky ground in which to take root.
The reality is a far cry from the words of President Barack Obama, who had pledged to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan: “These long wars will come to a responsible end.”
I once quoted a speech by Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who made a film in Afghanistan: “If during the last 25 years the powers had poured books on these people’s heads instead of bombs … If they had planted wheat under their feet instead of mines, (millions of Afghans would not have been forced toward death and refuge.)”
Poverty and ignorance become a breeding ground for terrorism and violence. In other words, to change society, gentle support is more important than the use of weapons and force. While the goal is still far away, I want to believe that, someday, the war-torn land will be transformed into green fields. Until then, we should continue to offer our help.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 10
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