I met both of them at the Adobe Youth Voices Summit in August 2013. The Summit is a biannual event bringing educators and youth from around the world to create short, purposeful media. This past Summit, Danish was a part of my "house", and I got to know the work he and Sana are doing in Lahore, Pakistan.
As I listened, I was reminded of all the stereotyping and miseducation that happens in media. Pakistan is a country that often gets painted as a country of extremism in the mainstream media. It is a considered a place of conservative ideology, of radical Islam, of conflict and strife. And these media messages are used to pacify any negative reaction United States citizens might have regarding bombing Pakistan through drone strikes. The basic message is, "We are only bombing extremists, and they deserve it. See we are making the world a better place."
Let me be frank. No we are not making the world a better place through "strategic" drone strikes. Sana and Danish and all of the folks at Chanan Development Association are making the world a better place. They are using the power of creativity to transform conversations and community. They are using media to reshape narratives. They are, as Martin Luther King Jr would say, creative extremists.
Take a look at this piece of media (mentioned above) from Chanan Development Association titled "60 Seconds".
This past weekend, All Saints church in Peshawar, Pakistan, was bombed by vitriolic extremists. The church has been a symbol of interfaith work and worship since the late 1800s. Sana, Danish, and their family attend this church. Over 85 people were killed and over 100 more severely injured.
Aden, the youth in the video, was critically injured in the bombing. So too were relatives. I was made aware of this tragedy by Sana and Danish's Facebook posts. Developments are still occurring, and I will update this when I know more. (Here is a link to an article in The Guardian that gives more detail.)
I share all of this because we must find ways to communicate and heal. We must fight the radical extremism that is occurring the world over. Rhetoric is continually being used to demonize the "other", to make the "other" less than. This rhetoric is being spewed by politicians, mainstream media makers, and fringe (which are not always all that fringe) religious leaders. It is being internalized by whole populations making it easier for individuals and militaries to bomb places of worship or countries deemed radical, to cyberbully so severely as to lead to suicide, to drastically and inhumanely cut food stamps to those in need because "they are moochers".
I am reminded of this MLK Jr quote, "The question is not if we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."
Extremism is here, and it has been here for generations, centuries even. So the question now is not if, but what. We need the creative extremism of Sana, Danish, Aden, and Chanan Development Association. We need more of this type of expression and media. This is the type of work that heals, bridges, and opens. It is what enables us to find the humanness in the "other".
And we must be inspired by their work for we all have an obligation and duty to take a stand for our brothers and sisters who do not look like us and are being systematically terrorized by politicians, vitriolic extremists, and states.
So... my question to you, the one reading this post right now is: How will you honor the "other"? How will you use creativity to find and showcase our humanity? How will you transform vitriolic extremism into creative extremism?
And please keep Sana, Danish, Aden, and their family in your thoughts and (if you do so) prayers. They are requesting all the prayers they can get for speedy recoveries and healing in these times of tragedy.