Unification News for September 2005

Afghans Have A Taste Of Peace Through IPSF

Referring to the UN International Year of Sport 2005, Kofi Anan said, "Sport is a universal language that can bring people together, no matter what their origin, background, religious beliefs or economic status." The world is looking to the value of sport to help the world to come together and develop on a new level. The Interreligious Peace Sports Festival with over 1,200 participants took place in South Korea from July 23rd to August 1st has the same intention. Bringing 54 nations together from 11 different religious backgrounds the festival had the goal to transcend cultural barriers and form deep bonds of friendship and cooperation. This year the countries included in the competition included such war torn countries as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Laos and Sri Lanka. There were many barriers to overcome but finally the first Afghan delegation to the Interreligious Peace Sports Festival in Korea arrived. Three young representatives from the Afghan National Olympic Committee arrived to participate in the sports festival whose goal is to promote peace and corporation.

Only Abdul Latif Wahidi had been out of the country for competitions before to Saudi Arabia and to Islamabad for the Safe Games. But for the other two, Abdul Raquib Samidi and Zabbehullah Solangi, they had only ventured out of Afghanistan as refugees during the time of the Taliban. It was all new and exciting and this opportunity gave them an experience that they could never had imagined. The international scope of the event was something the Afghans could never had imagined in the past. It gave them a new outlook on the world.

Zabbehullah is only seventeen. Although one of the youngest in the competition he did well in the tennis contest. Coming from the Afghan mountains of Solang his family is poor. Now he was here in Korea ready to face the challenge. In the competitions he was able to make it to the quarter finals but was defeated by Yi Ming Wu a Taiwanese Confucianist contestant who finally took the gold. It was tough luck for Zabe to met Wu at such an early stage of the competition but he felt it was all worth it.

When Zabe was only eight years old a rocket hit his house in Kabul and killed his little sister. After that his family went to Iran as refugees where he was introduced to the "King’s game", tennis. He taught himself the game with an old broken racket that was given to him by one of the member of a tennis club where he worked to help support his family. He trained himself and when he returned to Afghanistan the Olympic Committee took him under their wing and helped him develop his talents. His desire has always been to win an award on the international level.

Because of the political and economic situation in Afghanistan sports is not high on the national priority list, there are many more crucial issues in the war torn country that need attention. But these Afghan sportsmen realize that they can help their country through their sport. They want to change the image many have of Afghanistan through their excellence in their field. Although they weren’t able to gain a medal during this festival they did receive an award for good sportsmanship. Zabbehullah was awarded the Sportsmanship Award from the Muslim participants for his dedication to the spirit of IPSF. Because of his effort to go beyond his own nation, culture and religion and make friends and forge relationships of cooperation Zabe was given the award.

At IPSF 2005 the vision of the UN International year of sports was realized in the hearts of all those involved. As Kofi Anan said sports became their universal language and they came together overcoming barriers and building bridges. The Afghan participants went home tasting the spirit of peace through the harmonious interaction of all the athletes and staff giving them a vision of the bright future that is ahead of them.

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