One penny at a time

A look at the international news makes even the strong of heart blanch, what with a continuing, and deepening financial crisis decimating economies, and conflicts ruling the day. There seems to be little respite from continuous trouble.

Put the financial crisis aside, with its greed and lack of integrity and standards, and you’re left with reports of conflicts that have gone on far too long. In particular, there is news from Afghanistan and Pakistan’— areas to which a current government has devoted resources and which a government soon to take power has declared to be the center of a war on terrorism that has been underway since 2001.

News last week brought tales of continued American strikes inside tribal regions of Pakistan and terror attacks on sites and people in Mumbai. The attackers are allegedly members of a radical Islamic group from Kashmir, originally funded by the Pakistani intelligence service and since, purportedly, condemned by the Pakistan government.

The place is in turmoil and it seems aggressive attention to the area will accelerate. It would be a shame if our understanding of the region and its peoples remains as dismal and fear-driven as it has generally been since 9/11. Since then, public perception, policy and action have too often been driven by misconceptions about the Islamic world. Since 9/11 too many of us have succumbed to a simpleminded and paranoid view of a religion and the people who practice it when, in reality, the Islamic world is as diverse, as reasonable and as peaceful as any other.

If we continue, as nations and as individuals, to be driven by gross exaggerations and misguided generalizations, our troubles will not cease.

But, there is a glimmer of hope amidst the contentiousness, the misunderstandings, the fear-fueled hate.

Read this week’s SUN and two articles tell a different story, tales of a different kind of intersection of cultures’— a story of the crossing of false boundaries and construction of a bridge based on the fact that, regardless of race, age, gender and religious belief, most of us are very much alike. We see the sun rise and set, we know not the measure of our days, we value the same things, desire the same basic securities. Those among us who do not are a scarce minority, and their acts, however horrible and dramatic, do not represent the majority — here, or in Pakistan.

Read our Focus Feature this week. Pagosa has a Sister Village in Pakistan, near the Kashmir hotspot. Pagosans donated money that allowed a training center to be established in Gurez — a center where people can learn and pursue an occupation that can make their lives better. Pagosans will have the opportunity through the same organizations that made this possible to donate toward construction of a primary school in the area — one that could break tradition, allow its students to experience a new way of learning. This is how to link hands and defeat those who advocate terror as a remedy for social ills.

Read the article about the program at the elementary school here: children are collecting pennies, with the proceeds sent to a program that funds education in Pakistan — a program that purchases supplies, builds schools, pays teachers, helps those who need and want to move on, to move up.

Thankfully, there are other than violent ways to solve problems — gentle ways, productive ways, positive ways. Let those who advocate terror and harm come to their deserved ends. But let those who desire peace, regardless of their nationality, gender or religion, find each other, wherever they are, and create a better world — one sewing machine and one penny at a time.

Karl Isberg