A peace initiative started by a school in Lucknow 16 years ago involving the exchange of letters by school kids in the city with their Pakistani counterparts from six schools hit all the right notes recently with the children expressing their desire for normal ties between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Under its project, Aao Dosti Karein (Come, Let us be Friends), initiated by City Montessori School in 2001, senior students wrote letters on specially designed letterheads of the project carrying the flags of both countries and messages like ‘May Peace Prevail in India’ and ‘May Peace Prevail in Pakistan’.
These letters were addressed to the students of Pakistan and were filled with description of similarities between the people on both sides of the border and offers of friendship. About 350 letters were written by CMS students and mailed to six prominent Pakistani Schools - Karachi High School, Karachi; Abbottabad Public School, Abbottabad; Agha Khan Higher Secondary Secondary School, Karachi; and Habib Public School, Karachi, Foundation Public School, Karachi in December, last year when Indo-Pak tensions were high.
The Pakistani side has been equally forthcoming in reciprocating the gesture and has sent delightful messages of friendship and love which would warm the heart of even the fiercest critic of Pakistan.
“I know there have been hostile relations between us since the partition but I do not wish that the future generations get affected by the enmity. The problems that both the countries are suffering from are mostly the same like poverty and illiteracy. I wish that from now on there should be no killings at the Indo-Pak border. I sincerely wish that we work towards unity and be friends,” Shikhar Sinha of CMS Aliganj, wrote in his letter to a Pakistani student.
Karachi High School responded with the replies of its students which were received by City Montessori School last week. In the cover letter, Ms Sana Habib, Keystage 4 Coordinator of Karachi High School wrote, “We are very pleased to receive the letters of friendship of your students. There is no doubt, that in this climate of animosity and mutual distrust, projects like this one are invaluable. Our students were delighted to read and respond to these letters. It helped spark a discussion on the similarities among people of the sub-continent and bring history and culture into the context of our day-to-day existence. They were able to understand that the sharing of differences, whether cultural or religious, can be a mutually beneficial process.”
The Pakistani students’ responses were equally warm and friendly and conveyed the feeling that they wanted friendship with India and its people, most of them even going to the extent of writing ‘Jai Hind’ along with ‘Pakistan Zindabad’. One of them, Faraz Suleiman, a student of class 11 from Karachi High School ends his letter with ‘Jai Shri Krishna’. Till now such sentiments, especially from a Pakistani citizen, were unheard of. The letters of the students of Pakistan show how much they are in love with the places in India, Indian cuisine, bollywood actors etc.
Founder-manager of City Montessori School, Jagdish Gandhi said Aao Dosti Karein project was initiated by CMS in 2001, two years after the Kargil conflict when Indo-Pak tensions were still high. Over the years, it grew with more than six reputed schools of Pakistan participating in the project and thousands of letters were exchanged.
However, since 2013, there was a lull in the project and despite several efforts by CMS to revive it, there was no response from the other side. Last December, in the midst of prevailing tensions, CMS students again started afresh and wrote some letters to the students of six schools of Pakistan. This time they received replies of students of Karachi High School, Pakistan along with a beautiful letter of the Principal of the school.