Saturday, March 11, 2006
My fascination with Afghanistan began in the 1970’s. Centuries ago Kabul was a cradle of civilization where Buddhists, Christians and Muslims mixed in every day life. Universities of higher learning existed in Kabul before Cartier sailed up the St Lawrence River. Tolerance and education is a small footnote in the timeline of Afghanistan. Its geographical location was an intersection where cultures have collided for over two thousand years.
Contrary to what some Afghan historians would have us believe, Afghanistan was not converted to Islam the moment the Prophet breathed the word. Conversion was a slow and brutal process that took a 1,000 years. So its history is interesting because it involves the unravelling of a highly sophisticated civilization. Kabul the once tolerant society existed before our ancestors had yet heard any word of Christianity.
A clash of cultures occurs today not through geography but through our communication technologies. There is a question of whether Canadians should be there or not. The answer for me depends on the mission. If we are there to fight a “War on Terrorism” then the mission is ill designed. If we are in Afghanistan with a small hope of creating the opportunity where tolerance can gain a small foothold then the mission is a noble one. A difficult mission that may succeed or fail. Our intentions define our nature. What is our intent?