Emergency is an Italian NGO active since 1994 in several parts of the world. Their mission is to provide relief and medical assistance to victims of war, landmines and poverty, and also to promote a culture of peace. One of the places where they have been working is Afghanistan, where they have been since 1999.
On Saturday 10 April, three Italian employees have been taken into custody by the Afghan police and the local secret services, with the accusation of an alleged plot to assassinate the governor of Helmand Province. Since then, there have been no contacts with them.
The position of the Italian government has been very confused. It took them four days before deciding to take official diplomatical steps to ask for the liberation of the Italian humanitarian workers. At first, several politicians raised doubts on Emergency which, according to them, was actively working in support of Taliban organizations.
The confusion arises because Italian military troups have been engaged in a war against "terrorism" in Afghanistan for the past few years, which is hypocritically defined as a mission of peace. Once again, stethoscopes and gauze are not considered as effective as guns in the difficult task of bringing peace, despite the Italian Constitution is quite clear on this subject:
Italy rejects war as an instrument of aggression against the freedom of other peoples and as a means of settling international disputes.
What is more interesting than these mere political machinations, is the debate that was spurred by the events. According to Gino Strada, the founder of Emergency, the current definition of "terrorism" is wrong, as it is always used by a part against their opponents. His definition is simpler, albeit crude: terrorists are all those who use violence.
I find this definition very effective, as it is completely neutral and impartial. You don't have to belong to a specific side in a conflict to be on the "right" side: you can simply be against whoever uses violence. Strada cites Albert Einstein, who said:
War cannot be humanized. It can only be abolished.
Sometimes even very thorny issues such as conflict can be looked at with a bit more clarity if the right terms are used. Is the choice of words enough to bring peace in the world? I would fool myself if I believed it to be enough. In the meantime, Emergency in Afghanistan has cured 2.5 million people, independently of which side they belong to.