“Aaghaz-e-Dosti” (the literal meaning of which in Hindi/Urdu is ‘beginning of friendship’) is a citizen’s initiative that works against all odds to create havens of peace and friendship between the two traditionally rival communities. They have been working at this relentlessly for the past four years. The team is comprised of students and young professionals, mostly women, from both sides of the border, who volunteer their time. Other chapters of this organization are present in many cities from both countries.
India and Pakistan, are two South Asian enemy brothers and neighbours that share a common history, common language and, a much more common cultural background. It’s tragic that even after 70 years of independence of both the nations, they still have enormous issues going on between them.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti is focused on citizen diplomacy and works primarily through peace education aimed at familiarising people about the ‘other‘; countering stereotypes of a homogenised and negative image of the other; educating on issues of conflict and the existence of diverse views; and developing critical thinking and faith in dialogue and peace building for conflict resolution.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti also condemns issues of violence, ceasefire violations, killing of soldiers, and discrimination meted out to victims of conflicts. They believe that the voice for peace and sanity often goes unrepresented in mainstream media. Aaghaz-e- Dosti has been constantly writing to the governments on both sides about incidents of ceasefire violations, decisions made about talks, and execution of decisions made in government meetings. Through continuous letter writing and appeals to both governments for improving the relations, there have been changes in decisions and steps towards the demands that have been submitted by Aaghaz-e-Dosti to the authorities.
One of the major initiatives of Aaghaz-e- Dosti is the annual Indo-Pak Peace Calendar. Every year, Aaghaz-e-Dosti launches an Indo-Pak peace calendar that has paintings, which they call ‘expressions of hope’ from students of both countries. It also carries messages from renowned personalities working for Indo-Pak peace. The calendar is launched in both countries. It has been also been presented to high dignitaries on both sides.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti works very hard to create friendship stepping stones across a steady stream of misunderstanding and hatred. This human bridge is hope in the making for a new era of trust and understanding between these two nations.
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