Violence is most corrupt when it attacks humanity in its institutions of hope and peace.
Whether the victims are writing students in an Oregon community college or poetry students in a school called Bacha Khan in Pakistan, communities grieve in ways that can connect us.
The Mainstream reached out to Bacha Khan University after it suffered a school shooting on Jan. 20, 2016, 111 days after UCC’s attack. Bacha Khan’s attack left 21 dead, including students, teachers and staff.
The university, located at Charsadda in northwestern Pakistan, was named after Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a friend of Ghandi and a peace activist who trained thousands and was a leader of non-violent action.
On the day that four extremist militants scaled Bacha Khan’s walls, the students were scheduled to participate in a poetry session on the theme of peace, in Khan’s memory.
Kindra Elizabeth Neely, a UCC Art major, shared her thoughts on the attack and connecting with the Bacha Khan community.
“We had so many people reach out to us from Sandy Hook and from other communities who had suffered the same thing. I think, in turn, we should extend that same kindness to others,” Neely said.
In many ways, tragedies like these transcend culture and national borders.
Like the Umpqua Nine (the UCC students who died in Snyder 15), the victims of Bacha Khan were students with bright futures. Their teachers also worked to promote peace and education in their region and were dedicated to protecting their students. Unlike at UCC, their faculty were armed, an ironic requirement for a school which was founded on ideals of peace.
Candlelight vigils and moments of silence were held in Pakistan and around the world in the days following the Bacha Khan attacks. The same expressions of grief and community came from Oct. 1.
Similarly, both schools used songs and music videos to heal. From the hymn “Amazing Grace” to “Roseburg Strong” by Brody Janson to “Among the Nine” by Caeli Barnhart, the students of UCC turned to music to help define community and transform the pain.
So did the Pakistanis. One of the several music videos posted on Bacha Khan’s official Facebook site in the days following the attack, titled “GunahGar Ym,” was followed by comments and tag lines of “We will rise again.” The performance was by Bacha Khan students Salman Khan and Hasib Anwar.
Khan and Anwar shared their goals with The Mainstream: “Just spread love and humanity. We are trying to do the same by music.”
Mohammed Junaid Mandoori, a Pakistani youth activist for peace and interfaith harmony in the region, is working to accomplish these ideals. In an online dialogue with the Mainstream, Junaid emphasized that youth and students across the globe represent the future and must stand together in solidarity for peace.
“They have a central and pivotal role to play to create the peaceful future and be the change themselves,” Junaid wrote.
Basit Khan, a student of Sociology at Bacha Khan, works with Junaid to promote religious tolerance and safe education spaces. In 2011, they founded an organization and peace campaign called Mardanwal Khalaq that was recently nominated for the Nelson Mandela-Graca Machel Innovation Award.
“A peaceful environment and education challenge students to question authority, develop curiosity and self-motivation to change the world,” Junaid and Basit Khan write in an article responding to the Bacha Khan attacks. “Education focuses on the similarities between peoples of all nations and celebrates the differences. Peace is Education and Education is Peace.”
The complex issues underlying terror and violence against educational institutions represent challenges which go beyond isolated communities but, at the same time, are very intimate. The multifaceted challenge of technology, for example, is one of the themes brought up by both Bacha Khan and UCC students.
“The promised age of technological advancement has also brought with itself an age of ‘global terrorism’,” Junaid and Basit Khan write.
Neely also feels that online technology should be used wisely, to make genuine connections across the world, rather than promoting superficial connections. She spoke of the importance of developing genuine relationships with others, including individuals who are struggling or ostracized and vulnerable to radicalization.
“I think it’s important that we get over these shallow impressions and we start really digging down and making personal connections to every person who we meet,” Neely said. “That helps them and helps us as individuals.”
“I believe together we can do it,” Junaid wrote to The Mainstream.
Here is the article that Junaid wrote in response to the Bacha Khan attacks:
Revised February 9th, 2016 – added link and fixed spelling errors
“People around the world need to realize that our world is a global village. Acts of ‘organized terrorism’ are not isolated acts of violence in a particular country but have causes and consequences linked to other countries of the world.” -Junaid and Basit Khan