A note on the importance of mutual understanding

Back in July PARSA was contacted by a unique Pittsburgh restaurant called Conflict Kitchen whose mandate is to serve food from countries that the U.S. is in conflict with. They serve food from the selected conflict country and set up informative, interactive activities that are designed to foster a mutual understanding between their diners and the residents of the country whose food CK is serving.

When Conflict Kitchen contacted us to see if we would be interested in helping them create an activity for kids, we loved their vision and were happy to participate. The result was a small booklet distributed to CK diners with short stories and anecdotes we recorded with kids from Shamsa Village Orphanage – check out our blog entry about it here.

Recently Conflict Kitchen came under criticism for their decision to highlight Afghanistan as a conflict country. In an opinion piece published in a local newspaper, a writer wrote that they felt CK was “promoting politics rather than dialogue” and that because the U.S. was not in direct conflict with the people of Afghanistan or the Afghan government, she felt that it “would be an insult to the thousands of Afghans and my own countrymen and women who have been lost in that conflict” to participate in CK’s Afghan program.

Conflict Kitchen wrote me and asked for our opinion on the controversy. My response is below:

In 2002 when the attack on the World Trade Center occurred, warfare changed for humanity on the global scale, and in particular for the citizens of Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan is a national war against terrorists that are both Afghan and “outsiders” such as Al Qaeda.

As Ms. Murtazashvili stated, when the U.S. joined this war, we joined Afghan leaders and citizens who want a democratic system of governance. We went to war alongside the national Afghan government to fight against fundamentalists and terrorists.

Warfare against terrorism tears countries apart. As we can see in Syria and Iraq this is the unfortunate war of the future, and Afghanistan has been one of its most high-profile battlefields. Thus although the U.S. government is not in conflict with the majority of the Afghan people or with the Afghan government, it is in conflict with terrorists who operate on Afghan soil. Consequently many Americans see Afghanistan as a country that they are in conflict with.

The wars of the future – the war on terrorism at the forefront – are a global issue, and it is imperative that friendly countries begin to build mutual understanding between their citizens. Bringing the citizens of the world together in this way is how global terrorism will fail. Thus whether a U.S. conflict with the people or government of a foreign country is direct or perceived to be so by American citizens, projects that build this mutual understanding are invaluable. This is what makes the Conflict Kitchen vision so important for a future that sees the citizens of the world united in peace.