Christian and Muslim friends join forces to provide a well in Afghanistan

Christian and Muslim friends join forces to provide a well in Afghanistan

Like thousands of U.S. servicemen, Lt. Col. Christopher Conley of Wolfeboro, N.H., will be spending Father's Day far away from his family, but he will have something special to celebrate, thanks to his daughter Mikaela. The Fairfield University senior, who is Catholic, teamed up with a fellow International Studies major, Aamina Awan, who is Muslim, to raise $3,000 for a well for villagers northwest of Kabul City. Word arrived this week that the well has been finished in time for Father's Day.

A dedication ceremony will take place on Thursday, June 16. And a plaque will be placed with the well that reads:

"A gift to Afghan Children from Fairfield University,
United States of America
Peace Brings All Good Things"

Mullah Gulam Mohudin, an elder of the village, said that "Peace Brings All Good Things" is an Islamic proverb about God's plan for mankind, and is a fitting expression about the new well.

An army officer assigned to the medical service corps, Operation Enduring Freedom, Task Force Phoenix, Lt. Col. Conley is an embedded trainer working with the Afghan National Army (ANA) Central Corp command. He is an advisor to the ANA medical department in the requirements of medical logistics, operations and evacuation.

When his daughter contacted him about her work with a Fairfield University group called Students for Social Justice and said they were starting the Afghan Children's Fund, he contacted the elders of the village that is home to 200 families. He said, "The elders told me there is a serious shortage of drinking water and families spend many hours every week bringing water to their homes."

Mikaela, for her part, had found a way to support her father's efforts in Afghanistan, where he has been coordinating projects that include providing emergency heating to the Kabul Children's Hospital, constructing community centers, conducting field clinics and distributing medicine and digging wells for village communities.

Lt. Col. Conley says there is a shortage of 17,000 wells in Afghanistan. He has seen children as young as six carrying water in various containers that their small frames could handle.

Through the Afghan Children's Fund, Mikeala and Aamina also collected 30 large boxes of clothing items for young adults. Her father brought the clothes to a local secondary school where they were well received.

Lt. Col. Conley says he is both pleased and impressed that Mikaela and her friend, Aamina, put this project together. "The devastation that has befallen Afghanistan by wars, drugs and violence is overwhelming, but it is the little things that have allowed this country to turn the corner to find peace. It will be things like a little girl going to school, trust in the local police officer or a new well in a small village. The Afghanistan Children's Fund was one such thing."

He said this project "reflects the Jesuit commitment to social justice and young people getting involved with world events." The village elders asked him to extend their thanks to Fairfield University and the Students for Social Justice.

Posted On: 06-16-2005 10:06 AM

Volume: 37 Number: 288