- In the Strength of the Lord
- Suffering, hope, and entrapment: Resilience and cultural values in Afghanistan
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Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — My Message Is C. My Message Is C. Gigi Devine Murfitt With. In My Message is C. Through Gabe's C. Leadership that is encouraging and compassionate. Endurance in hard times. Attitude that enables you to achieve your goals. Respect for others and yours In My Message is C. Respect for others and yourself. Gabe's message of hope shows how you can live a purposeful, successful life, even when facing great adversities. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published April 13th by Gabriels Foundation of Hope.
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Overcrowded schools lacked sufficient chairs, desks, heating and ventilation, drinking water, and toilets. Classes held in tents exposed students to cold, rain, heat, and dust Fig. Students walked to school on dusty, muddy, or polluted roads, arriving dirty and exhausted; in cities, they faced heavy traffic, harassment by badmash [ruffians], verbal abuse from bus conductors, and the perceived threat of kidnappers [ adamdozd ].
Examples of school classroom conditions: overcrowding class squeezed into stairwell and overspill in outdoor tents. Children also criticised the quality of educational provision. Course materials, books, and basic teaching supplies were absent or in short supply. We need food. Whoever provides us with these… we need him. Powerful people get all the money, the poor stay poor. Caregiver year-old male war veteran.
Issues of governance and social justice permeated the day-to-day lives of respondents. Political instability and corruption were linked to the inadequate provision of electricity, water, clinics, roads, and schools. Hard work and effort are useless in our country. The distribution of responses from students and caregivers was strikingly similar Fig. Women more often identified intervention by a relative, while men looked to personal or government action. Two key reasons — a dearth of education and social justice — underpinned the statements of those who felt powerless to overcome life stressors.
For men, illiteracy was seen as an insurmountable constraint on better employment and income opportunities. The only way to make life better is to be hopeful. If a person has hope, then he or she can work and acquire knowledge to make their life better. They underpin a discourse which counterbalances narratives of suffering and despair Fig. Cultural understandings of distress and resilience in Afghanistan: suffering, hope, and entrapment. Strong religious conviction- iman — was clearly a source of individual strength in the face of misfortune, and one which crossed generations.
A year-old tenant farmer, supporting a household of ten, expressed the centrality of this in verse:. Iman was a central component of an imagined future, one which depended upon the beneficence of God, who would reward those who demonstrated iman , and punish those who did not.
I want God to give me a son. Family unity and harmony were articulated as the ability to achieve consensus in decision-making, peacefully resolve disputes, and share a household without conflict. The importance of these values across generations is clear in the following statements:. Caregiver grandfather, age My father is tormenting my mother and my sisters. Student girl, age Successful economic activity depended upon maintaining co-operative family relationships across generations. Strong wahdat and ittifaq maximised employment opportunities and access to credit, effective decision-making regarding the allocation of wealth and property, and arranged marriages.
Loss of family unity and harmony had profound consequences for material and psychosocial wellbeing:. It was just a verbal quarrel, but it upset my family. This really upset me. Caregiver sister, age I want my children to grow up, and my daughters to get married. I hope God keeps my children on the path of the righteous.
I want them to have good health and serve their father and mother. Service to family meant fulfilling obligations to contribute to the household economy, obedience to parents, and a duty to eventually support them. Respondents referred to koshesh when asked to describe how they might overcome particular stressors — finding a steady job, or balancing the demands of work and school. I want Allah to cherish my year-old son and give him a high-ranking position to solve our problems.
My son should study and work hard to make our life better after his graduation from school… if my children get high-ranking positions this will change my life… I pray to Allah to solve our problems, to improve our economic position, to give us a house of our own. There were many such testimonies to the value of koshesh in fighting both war-related and economic adversity. Along with education, akhlaq was essential for a successful future.
My husband is a good person, but when it comes to money, he gets emotional and fights. Ultimately, adherence to cultural values was a path to respect and social recognition. I want to marry someone with a good character who is also mashour. The desire for social respectability was closely tied to the deeply-rooted need to maintain personal and family honour. Last year my husband kicked me out of our house.
While the desire to maintain key cultural values underpinned expressions of fortitude and hope, our data make clear that this also generated feelings of entrapment, friction within families, and personal distress. Three forms of entrapment were manifested in conflicts affecting everyday life and cross-generational interactions. One stemmed from individual or collective inability to demonstrate cultural values and meet social obligations, primarily as a consequence of economic hardship.
Another existed where individual aspirations to achieve social and cultural milestones came into conflict with expectations inherent in the values of morality, service, and family unity. Finally, cultural dictates surrounding marriage decisions, the social position of women, and the dynamics of collective households were sources of suffering per se.
Adults often expressed their material poverty in terms of being unable to fulfil social obligation s , with consequent loss of honour. The inability to own a home, provide a stable income for the household, and arrange preferred marriages for children, were common sources of distress, shame, and depression. Poverty also undermined family unity; it prevented families from reinforcing their relationships with relatives through the exchange of food and gifts, or attendance at important family gatherings. Our relatives verbally abused us, so we moved away from them five years ago. I was proposing to arrange a marriage between a girl of theirs and my brother, and they insulted us a lot.
They said we were poor and had no business asking for one of their girls. So we moved away, it still upsets me when I remember what happened. Asking for financial assistance from peers, compelling women and children to work outside the home, and begging or incurring debts, were also economically-induced sources of shame. A year-old uncle summarised the situation as follows:. Students worried about curtailment of their education due to poverty or cultural directives.
Both boys and girls placed an extremely high premium on attaining academic qualifications, seen as leading to salaried positions as teachers, doctors, or engineers. Drawings by a year old boy taking art classes at school. However, such personal ambitions were often squeezed out by pressing economic needs and the cultural demand to maintain family unity:. Whenever I see other boys my age going off to school I get upset, because I had to leave it behind to support my family. Caregiver brother, age When we marry them off, their owners will feed them. When I was in 4th grade, my paternal grandmother and my unmarried aunt told my dad to stop me from going to school.
I wanted to have an education, now I have this wish for her. I worry about my future. During the wars my education was interrupted and now I am behind in school. Kabul has security problems these days, my father says the situation is very bad here. Frustrated aspirations led to conflict, distress, and despair that could be deeply injurious to health:.
Because we have economic problems, my father forced me to quit school. So I swallowed rat poison after that, and I was in hospital for a week. Marriage arrangements were often a source of conflict within and between families — and a form of entrapment. My uncle beats my mother. This is sometimes what happens among people, if the father is away from home, the uncle beats younger members of the family or the women. An example of the severe consequences such violence has on women comes from a year old mother, placed into an arranged marriage from childhood:. The reason I tried to kill myself was that my husband and my mother-in-law and father-in-law were constantly beating me, severely beating me.
In the end I had a boy, and they stopped beating me. A perceptive critique was voiced regarding the links between cultural ambitions, achievable with economic success, and the perpetuation of social injustice for women:. Life can get better by having good morals, patience and education… and having money… but unfortunately having a lot of money is bringing misery to my mother, because my father will use it to marry a second wife. Our data speak to three dimensions of everyday life in Afghanistan.
They present poignant testimonies of everyday adversity and cross-generational suffering. They demonstrate that hope and fortitude is founded on the expression of fundamental cultural values that give order and promise to life. They reveal sources of entrapment, as families struggle to adhere to their values in the face of pronounced structural inequalities injurious to well-being. These three dimensions address key issues in the current literature on social suffering and resilience in conflict-affected areas, as discussed below.
In contemporary Afghanistan, material poverty lies at the root of social suffering , and drives a multi-faceted discourse around it. Economic insecurity produces complex tensions within families: it is a central driver of psychological distress, physical pain, domestic violence, and community conflicts. It is also a key impediment to the achievement of social and cultural ambitions. Afghans articulate mental and physical ill-health as both a cause and a result of material poverty, as poverty morphs into multiple experiences of suffering, both individual and collective.
This exemplifies what Kleinman called the violences of everyday life — present in multiple and insidious forms, at the level of personal experiences, cultural norms, and routine social coercion Kleinman, : Drawing from both child and adult narratives, our data exemplify how local understandings of well-being are more closely tied to everyday experiences of structural violence than to past experiences of war, and how everyday suffering cascades from one generation to the next, the result of close interdependence between family members and shared experiences of adversity.
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In Afghanistan, the bedrock of this hope is the production and maintenance of a set of long-lived cultural values. While hope, fatalism, and perseverance are complex facets of religious discourse, our data indicate that professions of powerlessness do not equate to a sense of hopelessness and a loss of faith.
By and large, Afghan families suffer great material poverty, but not a poverty of aspirations: on the contrary, hard work and education are seen as the gateway to economic security and social respectability. Our data make clear that Afghan children internalise the importance of scholastic success, of service to elders, and conformity to cultural codes governing morality.
Among Afghans, social hope cascades across generations, spurred on by promises of international assistance, reconstruction, and education. Cultural values, however, are sources of entrapment as well as resilience, given the structural impediments to their realisation: poverty, ineffective governance, social injustice, and ongoing militarized conflict. At an individual and family level, strain arises due to an incompatibility between the desire to maintain personal or collective values and the bald economic demands of survival. Paradoxically, the ability to demonstrate adherence to cultural values may reproduce inherent social injustices, perpetuated for women by the dominance of men in politics, economics, and social relations, and for youth by the power of elders in decision-making.
In this sense, culture is not just an anchor of resilience, but also an anvil of pain. On one hand, the profession and maintenance of cultural values is central to the construction of social identity, order, and hope. On the other, inability to conform to cultural dictates is source of great psychosocial distress. Failure or frustration in attaining social and cultural milestones lies at the root of social suffering and mental ill-health, as articulated in local idioms of stress, anxiety, and depression, or conflicts that are debilitating and life-threatening.
Culture becomes a double-edge sword, as argued for religion by Wessells and Strang , in being both a source of violence as well as a resource for social functioning. Our data show the frustration and loss of self-worth experienced by Afghan men unable to provide adequate support for their families.
Women and children report this as a serious driver of strain and violence in the family. In particular, culture and religion provide strength and solace in environments where military and civil institutions fail to provide social justice Aggarwal, In Afghanistan, community psychosocial support interventions are burgeoning De Berry, on the back of large-scale investment in public health and education. Yet in the absence of a functioning economy and equitable access to basic resources, efforts to promote cultural values can entrap those in a position of vulnerability and powerlessness, while efforts to promote child education arguably raise hope and expectations to the point of illusion and assured frustration.
In conflict zones, these issues need fleshing out with both qualitative and quantitative work, to understand how resilience is specifically constructed in contexts of violence, economic deprivation, and social oppression Panter-Brick, Our data indicate that interventions focusing on everyday social ecology — strengthening family and wider social networks — need to go hand in hand with interventions focusing on everyday material ecology — altering daily economic stressors that are the nexus of social suffering. They also indicate that the quality of education provision must be improved to further goals of social justice and psychosocial wellbeing in the lives of a new generation.
In this study, Afghans articulated a forceful, policy-relevant message: there is no health without mental health, no mental health without family unity, no family unity without work, dignity, and a functioning economy, and no functioning economy without good governance. More ethical and realistic policy goals UNDP, : would need to address the everyday priorities of ordinary Afghans, who underscore the structural violence of poverty rather than the dramatic violence of war, and the importance of maintaining personal and social dignity as the key to a hopeful future.
National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Sponsored Document from. Soc Sci Med. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Catherine Panter-Brick: ku. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract A critical health-related issue in war-affected areas is how people make sense of adversity and why they show resilience in a high-risk environment.
Study design In , we conducted a school-based health survey of 11—16 year old students and their caregivers in the central and northern municipalities of Kabul, Bamyan, and Mazar-e-Sharif; for security reasons work was not possible in southern Afghanistan. Now I would like you to talk to me about your day-to-day life here. In particular, can you tell me the kinds of problems you face — the things that make you worry, or make you nervous or upset, or just irritate you… Can you tell me, what are your main problems or worries these days?
Which problem or difficulty bothers you the most? How much does this problem affect your day-to-day life? What can you do to overcome this problem? Is there any way to solve it?
Tell me… what are some ways that your life could be better? If you could change anything in your life right now, what would it be? Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything else you want to add? Contextualisation in light of reported health and traumatic life events. Problems categorised as relating to: the economy, housing, health, school, social relationships, and governance.
Solutions categorised as: none envisaged, action by self, action by relatives, or action by the government.
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Open in a separate window. Analyses of textual data Interviews were translated and checked by field staff in Afghanistan.
In the Strength of the Lord
Overview of problems We obtained a gender-balanced sample: male and female students [age Social relationships: domestic violence and marginalisation Poverty and living in overcrowded housing led to a deterioration of social relationships. Ill-health Poverty and its social ramifications placed a significant burden on the physical and emotional wellbeing of children and adults. Chronic headaches, fatigue, fainting, and generalised body pain were linked to socio-economic stressors: I get headaches because I have fishar payin.
Cultural values and social hope The only way to make life better is to be hopeful. Faith [iman: ] Strong religious conviction- iman — was clearly a source of individual strength in the face of misfortune, and one which crossed generations.
A year-old tenant farmer, supporting a household of ten, expressed the centrality of this in verse: Better a poor servant of God than a rich man without iman A life without serving God is a shameful and uncertain one. Family unity and harmony [wahdat: and ittifaq: ] Family unity and harmony were articulated as the ability to achieve consensus in decision-making, peacefully resolve disputes, and share a household without conflict.
Perseverance and effort [koshesh: ] Respondents referred to koshesh when asked to describe how they might overcome particular stressors — finding a steady job, or balancing the demands of work and school. Caregiver mother, age 45 There were many such testimonies to the value of koshesh in fighting both war-related and economic adversity. Sources of conflict and forms of entrapment While the desire to maintain key cultural values underpinned expressions of fortitude and hope, our data make clear that this also generated feelings of entrapment, friction within families, and personal distress.
Poverty and the loss of honour: the trap of social obligations Adults often expressed their material poverty in terms of being unable to fulfil social obligation s , with consequent loss of honour. Curtailment of education: the trap of social aspirations Students worried about curtailment of their education due to poverty or cultural directives. Marriage, collective households, and structural violence: the trap of cultural dictates Marriage arrangements were often a source of conflict within and between families — and a form of entrapment.
Suffering, hope, and entrapment: Resilience and cultural values in Afghanistan
An example of the severe consequences such violence has on women comes from a year old mother, placed into an arranged marriage from childhood: The reason I tried to kill myself was that my husband and my mother-in-law and father-in-law were constantly beating me, severely beating me. A perceptive critique was voiced regarding the links between cultural ambitions, achievable with economic success, and the perpetuation of social injustice for women: Life can get better by having good morals, patience and education… and having money… but unfortunately having a lot of money is bringing misery to my mother, because my father will use it to marry a second wife.
Discussion Our data speak to three dimensions of everyday life in Afghanistan. References Aggarwal N. Exploring identity, culture, and suffering with a Kashmiri Sikh refugee. Almedom A. Resilience is not the absence of PTSD any more than health is the absence of disease. Mental well-being in settings of complex emergencies: an overview.
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Betancourt T. The mental health of children affected by armed conflict: protective processes and pathways to resilience. International Review of Psychiatry. Boyden J. Berghahn Books; Children and youth on the front line: Ethnography, armed conflict and displacement. Canfield R. Suffering as a religious imperative in Afghanistan.