Afghanistan: Meeting with President Hamid Karzai
Umberto Angelucci and Taj Hamad
June 24, 2006
Meeting with H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan
“God is Great, merciful and compassionate! If you only believe, miracles can happen.” These are the words of Mr. Umberto Angelucci, who organized the World Peace Tour in Afghanistan.
When the original schedule was sent out for the World Peace Tour, Afghanistan was included as one of the countries to be visited by Mother Moon, but because of security concerns, Dr. Christopher Kim, chair of UPF-Asia, was given responsibility to conduct the event. On June 22 he arrived in Kabul, accompanied by Mr. Taj Hamad, Deputy Secretary General for Interreligious and International Affairs of UPF, and Dr. Robert Kittel, leader of UPF-India.
The day before, they heard that two planes had tried to land at the airport but turned back because of machine gun fire from the ground. To some people’s eyes, this was the kind of place where people put on body armor before they land. The student escorting them through the airport told of his uncle who was traveling to attend a conference, was pulled off the plane and killed. Wild, untamed, snow-capped mountains dominated the scenery at the airport, and surrounded by men in beards and turbans, the two arrivals took off their coats and ties.
In the earlier part of June, Vice President M. Karim Khalili spoke at the World Peace Summit in Seoul. Because of the security situation in Afghanistan at this time and the sensitive religious issues, it would not have been possible to hold the event without his support.
Among the 300 people attending the program at the Kabul Serena Hotel in the heart of Kabul was the Vice President, representatives from the President’s office, the daughter of King Amanullah, current and former ministers, members of Parliament, governors, religious leaders, the mayor of Kabul, journalists, and professors. With so many top level guests, the biggest concern was how to give them the hospitality that they deserved.
The program started with the recitation of the Holy Qur’an by Qair Barakatullah Saleem, a renowned Islamic scholar. Following this, a girls’ choir sang, and Yalda Aryana Azadi recited a poem. All graced the stage, dressed in colorful Afghan traditional costumes.
To welcome the audience, Vice President Khalili spoke briefly, praising the work of UPF, especially in the field of interreligious dialogue. He called such interaction essential to creating peace in Afghanistan. The Ambassador for Peace Award was given to two distinguished members of the community, Dr. Mohammad Sakhi Noorzad, Mayor of Kabul, and Adbul Rahman Mohammadi, President of the Sports Federation of Disabled People of Afghanistan.
Dr. Kim gave a slide presentation about the work of UPF in Asia. The audience was amazed at the number of heads of state and dignitaries supporting the peace tour and the generous donations given by Mother Moon to relief projects in the region.
The Keynote Address was presented by Mr. Hamad. Dressed in his traditional white Sudanese turban and robe, Mr. Hamad captivated the audience by his words of wisdom made especially understandable by quotes from the Qur’an which he added to the original speech to clarify the contents.
The world peace blessing followed. Mr. Sayed Ishaq Gailani, chairman of a political party and member of the lower house, accompanied by his wife, Fatana Gailani, a well-known social activist, were the representative couple together with the Angelucci family for the blessing prayer. The crowd responded with a joyfully spirit to the toast and rededication of marriage vows. In the Afghan marriage ceremony, a similar toast is offered by the newly-married couple; therefore, the audience felt familiar with the tradition and participated wholeheartedly.
A carpet that was handmade by disabled people was presented as a gift for Father and Mother Moon. The program concluded with a recitation from the Qur’an by Mrs. Maryam Meshkat, a kindergarten teacher, and three cheers led by Dr. Chi Hoon Hwang.
“Throughout the audience, we could see the enlightened faces of dedicated leaders of Afghanistan who had participated in the event from beginning to end,” reported Mr. Angelucci. “We could see the faces of past enemies sitting side by side, studying the message of peace given to them from the heart of True Parents. Who could imagine that this day could come, especially in a country which has known only war for the past twenty years and even today suffers violence daily? It was truly a miracle!”
An Italian, Mr. Angelucci’s dedication to the Afghan people is legendary. During one of the bombings, his wife Marilyn and their children went out of the country, but he stayed. People begged him to leave but he refused to go unless his Afghan brother would also be allowed to go with him. He says he prayed to God and God told him He was concerned for his safety. Still, Mr. Angelucci refused to leave.
“I was apprehensive when I went to Afghanistan,” Mr. Hamad said afterwards. “Looking at the people with their long beards, I thought about all the things I heard in the media. But we found the people gentle, hospitable and loving. We met with the mayor of Kabul, a simple, wonderful man. The blind man, Mr. Saleem, who recited from the Qur’an looked tough, but when he opened his mouth to speak his voice melted people’s hearts. A group of children sang, and you wanted to hug them. The program closed with a woman giving a recitation from the Qur’an. Traditionally, women’s voices were not supposed to be heard in public, and it is not customary for a woman to read the Qur’an in an Arabic Muslim country. However, her recitation was so wonderful and impressive; it was beyond comparison with any other recitation I heard in the Arabic world.”
The following day, Vice President Khalili arranged for the visiting delegation from Universal Peace Federation to meet President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul. Although it was Friday, the day of prayer and rest for the Muslim world, President Karzai graciously agreed to greet them.
Dr. Kim was accompanied by Mr. Hamad, Dr. Kittel, Dr. Hwang, Mr. and Mrs. Angelucci, Mrs. Keiko Kawai, Mr. Anwar Hakimi and Mr. Toshiyuki Matsufuji. President Karzai greeted the group warmly. He asked questions about UPF’s work, and Dr. Kim described the growing global peace network and spoke of Father and Mother Moon’s unending dedication to the worldwide peace process.
The delegation then presented the Leadership and Good Governance Award to President Karzai, which he received proudly. “Creating peace in Afghanistan is a dangerous and complicated process which President Karzai has taken on his shoulders with total devotion,” according to Mr. Angelucci. “His supporters are strong but his opponents often have a powerful voice. At this sensitive time of political turmoil in Afghanistan, he and his staff appreciated this gesture of encouragement.”