The Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster University has been working on activities that go far beyond educating students about conflict and its management. Over the past year, its Afghan Project has been carrying on three significant campaigns to assist the people of Afghanistan in direct ways.
Its initial effort was the development of healing stories for Afghan children that describe the plight of a village family whose lives are disrupted by the war. The stories describe the family's emotional anguish as they flee from their home and cope with the death or injury of relatives. These stories, written by team members from several disciplines at McMaster and based on sound psychotherapeutic principles, are now in book form and have been translated into Dari and Pushto. CIDA has provided initial funding, and the Afghan Ministry of Education is seeking funds to publish a larger supply for distribution throughout the schools.Peacebuilding Training
The Afghan Project's second primary activity is to foster peacebuilding skills in Afghanistan. Jack Santa Barbara and Joanna Santa Barbara, along with Dr. Seddiq Weera, an Afghan-Canadian co-directing the project along with Professor Graeme MacQueen and peace researcher Johan Galtung, have been conducting demonstration workshops in Kabul on conflict resolution. In October they plan to offer follow-up workshops to train about 100 Afghans to conduct training on various aspects of conflict transformation and reconciliation. The Ministries of Education and Higher Education have asked the McMaster team to train members of their own staff in these techniques, and they expect to respond to that request, which will require them to engage with some of the real unresolved enmities that continue to plague the war-ravaged society and hamper governmental effectiveness.
The third aspect of the Afghan Project will draw upon the services of psychiatrists from McMaster and University of Toronto. The Santa Barbaras visited a psychiatric hospital in Kabul last May and found very primitive conditions and a staff eager for training. The Canadian psychiatrists will provide training and consult in the improvement of psychiatric services. Arrangements are now being made for visits in October.