Kids Send Huge Love Letter Across Tense Border
Nickelodeon - 15 April 2006
Leave it to kids to send a message of peace and hope across the border between two countries that have a long history of being enemies.
Indian and Pakistani kids have launched a giant letter-writing campaign to one another. They have strung together thousands of paintings and notes bearing good wishes to make "the world's largest love letter."
The huge letter, which is made of tarpaulin and measures 86,400 square feet, started in India where it grew and grew as it traveled around the country. It was on display this past week in a sports stadium across the border in Pakistan.
The two counties have been at odds for decades. They have been fighting over, among other things, their religious differences and a region called Kashmir, which both countries claim is theirs. Indian and Pakistan also both possess nuclear weapons, which make the tensions between them potentially disastrous.
But you wouldn't know it from what the Indian kids wrote to their counterparts across the border.
"Dear children of Pakistan, let's join our hearts in friendship. Together we can make a better world," the letter begins. And it is accompanied by thousands of signatures and sentiments of good will, such as this one from Sathya Murti: "To my brothers and sisters in Pakistan - all we need is 'real' friendship, if it is 'real' it will last through anything."
"I think it is the best gift from India," said Pakistani student Aaliya Durrani, who was one of the kids at the stadium, writing back to the kids in India. "I hope that we can get more and more signatures and letters to show how much love we have for our Indian brothers and sisters."
The letter-writing campaign was the idea of two American humanitarians working in India, John Silliphant and Mark Peters. But they said it was the kids who really took the idea and ran with it. Within two days, they had collected 3,000 letters and then the project took on a life of its own. It has turned into a media sensation in the both countries and became a symbol of hope for peace between them.
"Kids just want to be friends and if you empower them to form those connections and you do it on a massive scale, you create so many connections that when they grow up, a new world will take over. There is no doubt about it," said Silliphant.
The letter is designed to encourage long-lasting connections that just might make Silliphant's predictions come true. The outer edge of the letter is composed of 196 6ft by 6ft segments that each have a school name from India and will go to a school in Pakistan. The schools will then set up school-to-school pen-pal programs. A large center segment of the tarpaulin will eventually be sent to victims of last year's earthquake in northern Pakistan for use in making shelters.
What started out small has practically become a movement. The founders call it Friends Without Borders. They have set up a website (www.friendswithoutborders.org), garnered a lot of media coverage in the two countries and will be the subject of a documentary film. "It is really bringing change and is empowering the children as the change-makers," said Silliphant. The kids agree.
"This letter shows how much love there can be between the two countries if we could only learn to choose friendship over enmity and peace over war," said Nosheen Sadiq of Pakistan. "We should tell people in India that we are willing to do so."
Silliphant says it's that willingness and the ability to see the goodness in others that makes kids the perfect ambassadors of peace in this troubled world.
"It really is going to change the world because you have such an extraordinary outpouring of goodwill," said Silliphant. "I don't think the world has seen anything like it."