Mark Isaacs
The Kabul Peace House
Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne, 2019
ISBN-13: 978- 

The Kabul Peace House

 

"The Kabul Peace House is the story of a group of young men and women who dare to believe that their country could actually live in peace. They are led by Insaan, a peace activist who has committed his life to nonviolence and has started a share house where young people are taught the ways of nonviolence and peace, as well as reaching out to street children and running a community centre."

What if love and peace really could change the world? Does that sound hopelessly naive? What if you were in Afghanistan, one of the most war-torn countries on the planet? If you told people living there that love and peace is what the country needs, you may well be advised that it’s a nice ideal but that you need to start living in the real world.

Such idealism is often the product of youthful fantasy. In Kabul though, the capital city of Afghanistan, a small group of young people have been committing themselves to this ideal for almost two decades. 

The Kabul Peace House is the story of a group of young men and women who dare to believe that their country could actually live in peace. They are led by Insaan, a peace activist who has committed his life to nonviolence and has started a share house where young people are taught the ways of nonviolence and peace, as well as reaching out to street children and running a community centre.

The story is told with passion by journalist, Mark Isaacs, who has written other books designed to facilitate action for peace and justice.

Like any good journalist, Isaacs listens to the stories told by the locals about why they are so audacious to envision what a peaceful Afghanistan could look like. For a country that has been invaded by the former Soviet Union, harboured the Taliban (including Osama Bin Laden), was bombed relentlessly after 9/11, and gave birth to ISIS, imagining peace is a tall order indeed.

What Isaacs finds though is that these people, and Insaan in particular, not only believe in their vision, they have the temerity to live it out. Like the 12 disciples, their little group consists of the most unlikely of colleagues and friends. Having Pashtuns in the same group as Hazaras or Tajiks is like having tax collectors working with zealots, or Jews working with Samaritans. It was hopelessly idealistic, yet it happened, and it is still happening.

It is incredibly difficult to imagine what the constant disappointment and loss of dreams must do to the mental state of people living in a country that is known for its conflict. So the fact that this community remains as committed as ever to nonviolence shows the depth of conviction and resilience these young people have.

The book is based on countless hours of interviews. The result is that Isaacs is able to delve deeply into the thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams of the people he has come to know. The way he reflects on and articulates the dreams of these young people is testament to his capacity as a journalist and as someone who cares deeply about what he has taken on with this book. You will come away from this story feeling like you know people like Insaan and some of his friends; people like Muslimyor, Hafizullah, and Horse.

The Kabul Peace House is above all a story of hope amidst what is seemingly a hopeless situation. It is a story of deep resilience and enormous commitment, and it is the story of youthful idealism in a world of cynicism; a reminder that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

You can support the work of the Kabul Peace House by doing any of the following
• Donate at https://www.erc.org.au/afghan_project
• Write a letter (Letters for Peace, Edmund Rice Centre, 15 Henley Road, Homebush West NSW, Australia, 2140
• Write an email to [email protected]
• Host an event - Letter writing events, book talks, anything creative

This review was first published on The Melbourne Anglican.