PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - More than 2,000 Afghan citizens attended the Voice of Peace Shura, held in the Chamkani district of Paktya province, June 10, despite attempts by militants to disrupt this gathering.

The Voice of Peace Shura, planned by local village citizens and district sub-governors, was a chance to meet and talk about reconciliation and how to bring peace and tribal unity to this part of the country.

Attendees gathered under the sun in the makeshift amphitheater, which was a field with a stage built literally hours before the shura began. As they listened to the speakers, they drank water from strategically placed water stations put out by Afghan National Security Forces early in the morning.

Soldiers from both the Afghan National Army's 203rd Corps and the local commando company were there to provide security against insurgents' threats.

"All the people of Afghanistan are tired of the war, and they want peace and stability in their country," said Matjhas Khan, a representative from the Chamkani district. "If there is a feud between our families, our tribes, our villages, then we should sit and solve that, and then there will be peace in Afghanistan."

Defined as consultation in Arabic, the word Shura is also supported by the 42nd chapter of the Qu'ran, encouraging believers of Islam to conduct their affairs "by mutual consultation" as needed.

At the Voice of Peace Shura, attendees from northern Paktya province had the opportunity to do just that.

"We welcome the chance to have these jirgas," Khan said. "We want them to happen, so we can have peace. For 30 years our people have been blinded. They have lost parts of their body, and Afghanistan and it has been a disaster. We need to keep having (shuras) and keep talking so we can find a solution and find peace and stability in our region."

Khan went on to question why the insurgents would feel threatened by a peace shura and try to keep people away rather than attending it themselves.

"The people are our brothers, our sons, our friends," he said. "They are upset with us, upset with the government and we have to bring them in. We have to ask them why they are upset with us. If they are originally from Afghanistan, why are they not going to fight for the peace of Afghanistan and why do they not come to sit at the table to find the solutions for the peace."

Afghan Capt. Mohammed Raza Noori, commander of the local commando company, hopes to have more shuras in the future to provide insurgents the opportunities to help Afghanistan become a peaceful nation.

"We need more shuras, especially in places where there is no security, no stability," Noori said. "If you have these, there is hope for peace. If we can have more, the people will see that the government of Afghanistan is trying to bring them peace. A shura like this one should be held in every province, like in Khost and Kandahar and Kunar, because in these provinces there is not stability; these provinces border with Pakistan."

If Afghan leaders are given the opportunity to come together and work out their difficulties, that consensus can spread, Noori said.

"If we hold these shuras with the elders, scholars and the mullahs coming and all village elders there representing their village, they can all talk about the problems and then come up with the solution. Then the elders can speak in their own community for stability."

Getting everyone together at the table is the first step, showing that Afghan democracy can work.

As the discussion began, the Afghan people realized that they have to figure out the way ahead. The fact that the discussion has begun is the key.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16