by Paul Walsh
Manifesto of Peace
RESPECT ALL LIFE
REJECT ALL VIOLENCE
SHARE WITH OTHERS
LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND
PRESERVE THE PLANET
CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNITY
Earlier this year we decided that Khelo Rugby would attempt to unite our small Khelo communities in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan with a shared sporting experience as part of the United Nations Global Peace Games. Though separated by borders and 1000s of miles apart we hoped that seeing other children playing and coming together for the same cause would help foster the spirit contained in the Manifesto of Peace for our Khelo Rugby children.
The United Nations International Day of Peace falls on 21 September and in order to support this initiative the UN has for several years promoted the idea of organisations holding Peace Games. These Peace Games are intended to enable children and young people to come together and learn a little more about what Peace means and share a fun and sporting experience that declares their support for the ‘Manifesto of Peace’. In advance of the Games organisers are encouraged to discuss with children what they feel the term peace means to them.
Though the title Global Peace Games may sound rather grand and the idea of being part of a Global event a little intimidating, the event itself needs to be low cost (self funded) and held at a grass roots level so it can relate to all the youngsters that participate (and be affordable to folks like Khelo Rugby!) The Peace Games are more normally associated with football and were in fact founded in 2001 by the NGO Play Soccer (http://www.playsoccer-nonprofit.org).
Once registered we received a message of support from Wilfiried Lemke who is the UN Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace and a message from the President of Fifa. We did tweet the CEO of the International Rugby Board to see if he would also like to send a message but he was obviously a little busy that day or more likely thought we were a bit mad. Saying this it would be nice to see the global rugby community come together with some shared campaign in this way and perhaps in 2014 the IRB might be persuaded to be involved, it only takes a short letter which acts as the message of support – #TryForPeace.
So with our registration in place and clutching our messages Khelo Rugby set out to share and promote our own Peace Games. First out of the blocks was Kolkata with a 12 team tournament held in Kidderpore at Nawab Ali Park on Sunday 22 September. And very exciting for us that Amirul was able to bring a team all the way from Saraswatipur to play in the tournament. This was the first time most of the Saraswatipur children had ever been away from their village and great that they were able to do this with a visit to their Khelo brothers and sisters in Kolkata. 12 teams, 120 odd children, biryani, bananas and more than 100 signatures on the Manifesto of Peace – all the ingredients for a great day of sport and fun. And though it’s not about the winning we did have some winners with the Cup going to the super quick children of Salt Lake Dhapa, winning out over the other super quick children of Saraswatipur.
Just two days later and it was the turn of Fort Abbas in Pakistan to fly the flag for Peace. And what an incredible effort! While sticking to the remit of a grass roots tournament Wazeeri and his team of young volunteers did a super job in delivering the message of “try for peace” to 100s of children. 20 Schools from across the local area took part in a mega-sized day of rugby action. To support them Wazeeri had organised 20 team managers, 10 coaches, 8 touch judges, 4 referees and 15 tournament marshals.
And as the sun set on the desert location the Pashtoon Fighters had the skill and stamina to win out over Government Primary School 270 in a very close 5-0 match. Government Middle School 263 placed third. As children and volunteers made their way home all involved were able to reflect on an incredible effort to promote the message of peace and come together through rugby.
The Afghanistan leg of our Peace Games will happen a little later this month with our own Zaffar in charge of organising. We are very much looking forward to seeing the event Zaffar puts on and I know many of our children and the Khelo Coaches in India and Pakistan are excited to see the Afghan children in action. Zaffar will be writing about his Peace Games as soon as they are completed!
It was a tremendous effort to make the Peace Games in Kolkata and Fort Abbas such a success. Special thanks go to Hari in Kolkata and Wazeeri in Fort Abbas who really led by example and who I know are both really committed to the children and the message that the games attempted to deliver. HUGE thanks to to all the volunteers who took part and made the days events to remember.
For me it was great to see how powerful sport can be and how it can bring together young people under a common message. This isn’t in itself life changing stuff, but by each of us taking a small step, in what is surely the right direction, we can make a difference.
JAI HO FOR PEACE