On March 8 2011 Captain Fareed Lafta performed a symbolic skydive over Kabul in a bid to send the message of peace to the world. Scheduled to coincide with International Woman's Day, observers were delighted with the adventurer's stunt-embellished freefall that culminated in a hero's welcome at Ghazi Stadium.
"I hope the young people will take the message to the people to love each other and rebuild without terrorism and violence," beamed Lafta after the jump.
The Iraqi-born Lafta performed his first 'peace jump' over Baghdad in 2009 at the request of the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Already hailed as an idol in his homeland, Lafta has skydived over Mount Everest, qualified as a cosmonaut and aims to because the first Iraqi to be sent into space, a pursuit which has earned him the nickname of 'Arab Gargarin'.
"I really love and value two jumps: my first one in my homeland over Baghdad and this one over Afghanistan."
Lafta already displayed signs of becoming an adventurer during his childhood when he admits to jumping off wardrobes and other furniture in his room. Lafta also experienced violence from an early age when he witnessed his brother being kidnapped by a criminal gang in Baghdad. In 2003, Lafta and his family fled the war-ravaged capital and settled in Dubai where he is now based. Since that time Lafta has undertaken a number of adventure activities including mountain biking, horse-riding, scuba-diving, muay thai boxing and para-gliding.
Performed in conjunction with the Kabul-based Skateistan, the 'peace jump' was organised as a means of using sport to sending a message of unity and hope.
"Sport can spread peace," said the 31 year-old adventurer. "Just look at Skateistan. They are doing really cool stuff and because of this I cooperate with them."
This message was not lost on the excited onlookers, mostly students from the Kabul skate school, Skateistan.
"This is very exciting because we have never seen anything like this before and without this event we would not have the opportunity to learn about these things," said one of the students.
Set up by Australian-born Oliver Percovich, Skateistan has become a worldwide phenomenon. Since coming to Afghanistan in 2007, Percovich saw skateboarding as a means of engaging displaced Afghan street-children in an activity that gave them confidence and where boys and girls could participate as equals. The concept has proven to be a resounding success with the opening of a multi-million dollar indoor skate-park in October 2009. In addition to learning how to board, children enrolled in Skateistan also benefit from classes in photography, writing and journalism, among other activities. Skateistan's popularity shows no signs of abating with the addition of an indoor rock-climbing wall in the facility in November 2010 and a new facility planned to open soon in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
The ability of kids to get engaged in sport in order to give them the motivation to continue their education has proven to be a winning formula and an inspiration to other organisations seeking to pique the interest of children in the same manner. Events such as the 'peace jump' and the achievements of Skateistan demonstrate that a focus on community involvement is the secret to giving the younger generation the sense of identity they need to deflect temptations to enter into a life of crime or violence. Consequently the importance of grassroots organisations should not be forgotten when seeking to restore peace and develop nation-building.
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