Muslim Peace Fellowship
Ramadan 2001/1422


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Peace worker returns from Afghan food aid mission

Because of his nonviolent service in the Vietnam war, Doug Hostetter could go on a bicycle where no American soldier could go in a tank. On a mission to Afghanistan in this past month, Hostetter says he encountered the same cast he did in Saigon in the 60s of obnoxious journalists, corrupt officials, paternalistic aid workers, folks with a military bearing, and a civilian population suffering enormously…

November 13, 2001 - Relief worker and Evanston, Illinois resident Doug Hostetter describes vividly how Russian and Northern Alliance officials control the dramatic border river crossing between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

“There was only one small pontoon ferry that crossed the river in the area where the Northern Alliance controls the Afghan side of the river,” Hostetter recounts. “The ferry could handle only one 10 to 15 ton truck at a time and this is the only land route from the North into Northern Alliance territory of Afghanistan!”

Part of the aid shipment Hostetter and his delegation shepherded into Afghanistan included nineteen truckloads of wheat.

Hostetter and his team say they were delayed as military shipments took precedence and Russian border guards flaunted their indifference. Then, Hostetter found out their food shipment was further delayed because “US TV networks bribed either the Russians or the Tajiks to get their vehicles in front of our 19 truck loads of wheat which were waiting since the week before.”

“It was especially hard to see so much corruption from the Northern Alliance officials, since we were there to help people in their territory,” laments Hostetter. “It reminded me so much of the Saigon government during the Vietnam war. There are all of the same cast of characters, the obnoxious journalists, the imperialist aid workers and the folks with obvious military bearing that pass themselves off as journalist or anthropologists or aid workers.”

Doug Hostetter is “Clash of Civilizations” author Samuel Huntington’s worst nightmare.

Hostetter left his Evanston, Illinois home on October 22 bound for Dushanbe, Tajikistan. His mission: to deliver food aid for a month for 3,300 Afghan families as a representative of both Muslim and Christian groups, supported by the donations of American Jewish, Muslim, and Christian congregations, and others alike.

“I was privileged to represent Quaker and Mennonite communities in this emergency effort,” says Hostetter, “but I also carried with me the contributions from the Muslim Peace Fellowship, the Jerrahi Mosque in Chestnut Ridge, New York, and family and friends of all ethnic and religious backgrounds.”

Hostetter was part of a five-person delegation organized by Suraya Sadeed, the Afghan-American founder and director of Help The Afghan Children, Inc. (HTACI). HTACI has been working in all regions of Afghanistan since 1994, serving children and families in education, health care, vocational training, and relief.

“[Afghanistan] is an amazing country with wonderful friendly and warm people who have been victimized by war for 22 years,” reports Hostetter. “We were led to wonderful people with whom we were able to work amazingly well … it felt very clearly that God had been with us despite the difficulties of war, drought and poverty.”

Hostetter represented the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), as well as the Muslim Peace Fellowship (MPF), all of which contributed significant funds for the emergency effort to get food to desperately needy children and families before the onset of winter.

“I am deeply aware that there is a very diverse community of Americans who do not believe that the people of Afghanistan are our enemy,” said Hostetter. “I know from my previous work…that love and compassion are the only viable responses to poverty, war, and terrorism.”

Hostetter has been no stranger to war zones, having put his nonviolent ideals to action in war zones from Vietnam to Iraq, Bosnia and Palestine/Israel.

During the Vietnam war, Hostetter chose to fulfill his alternative community service as a Mennonite pacifist in the Vietnamese village of Tamky, about 150km below the DMZ.

In Tamky, Hostetter worked on relief and literacy projects.

“It was difficult being an American,” says Hostetter of his arrival in Vietnam. “I was the only American they had had met who was not a combat soldier, intelligence agent, or government aid official.”

Hostetter refused to live in a U.S. military compound, living instead in a Catholic high school dormitory.

“The bicycle with two flat tires,” Hostetter recounts, “that one was usually mine. It was very difficult at first; kids would throw stones. But, eventually, my protection came from the Vietnamese knowing and understanding what I was doing.”

Toward the end of his service in Vietnam, a marine colonel at a nearby base summoned him to his office.

The colonel told Hostetter he was “very hard on the morale of the American soldiers.”

“Because of my nonviolent action,” Hostetter remembers, “I could go on a bicycle where no American soldier could go in a tank.”

“Violence is so, so counterproductive to dealing with terrorism,” says Hostetter. “Every bomb dropped to kill a communist [in Vietnam] that killed women, children, or the old made the people side with our enemy.”

“The longer we fought the war, the more people hated us. The more people we killed, the more enemies we created. I’m just heartbroken to see the United States using B-52s and B-1s to combat terrorism.”

“I ask the forgiveness of the Afghan people for that,” says Hostetter. “A suffering child is a suffering child is a suffering child.”

Mas'ood Cajee is a member of the Muslim Peace Fellowship.


Copyright ©2001 Muslim Peace Fellowship. All rights reserved.
Muslim Peace Fellowship
Rabia Harris, Coordinator,
The Muslim Peace Fellowship is part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation network