Afghanistan is a war-torn country, topping Forbes’ list of most dangerous places on earth in 2010, and it’s not just this last decade that has brutalized the people of one of the oldest inhabited places on earth. For century upon century, Afghanistan’s location has made it the invasion target of many men and empires. It is a land that has known what war truly is.
War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.
~ Jimmy Carter, The Nobel Peace Prize 2002 – Nobel Lecture
But, this is not going to be an anti-war rant or pontification on the evils of war. Instead, I want to focus on the actions of one man and the good he does in spite of war. His name is Alberto Cairo. A quote of his entitles this article. Another one is:
There are no scraps of men.
Alberto is an Italian-born, retired lawyer, who has spent the last two decades living in Afghanistan helping thousands and thousands of war- and accident-disabled Afghans walk and hope again. He is now the head of the ICRC‘s orthopedic program in Afghanistan, and he has published many excerpts from his diary relating to his life in Kabul in Storie da Kabul, though you’ll need to be able to read Italian or French. Thankfully, for those of us who can’t effectively read in either of those languages, Alberto related several heart-rending and heart-moving stories in a 2011 TEDxRC2 talk.
In this talk he relates how the clinic he ran came to be open even during active fighting. He talks about the lives changed be people receiving prosthesis and those around him, such as the little boy who can now attend school because he isn’t pushing his father around in a wheelchair as they attempt to support the family. It’s a talk about finding humanity and dignity in the midst of a war, and watching those thus armed grow and improve themselves and those around them.
Of all the foreigners in Kabul, Alberto Cairo is one who is loved by all, and it is because of what he does for others.
But for long years we healers have only sought to patch the rents made by the men of swords. Though we should still have enough to do without them: the world is full enough of hurts and mischances without wars to multiply them.
~ Warden of the Houses of Healing, The Return of the King
Alberto is a healer who is truly making a difference in the world.