Nepal, Jan 18, 2017: The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shaked up Nepal, killed nearly 9000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of buildings – including what many consider to be the country’s oldest Hindu temple in Changu Village. Gradually locals are rebuilding their beloved Changu Narayan temple with help from a British architect, who also helped in the restoration of Angkor Wat in Cambodia through the World Monuments Fund.
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It is believed by the locals that Hindu god Vishnu once appeared at Changu Narayan, the fifth-century temple dedicated to the deity. Only priests had the allowance to enter the intricately carved wooden structure before the earthquake. When locals witnessed the devastation inflicted on the World Heritage Site caused by the natural disaster, they felt their lives had ended. But they didn’t give up hope, and began to restore to its previous store as much as possible. 61-year-old Gyan Bahadur Bhadal, who is a member of a group of villagers maintaining the temple, told AP, “I see now our world coming back alive.”
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Architect John Sanday has always been intimidated by Changu Narayan for decades, and also mentioned he was very emotional visiting the site after the devastating earthquake, which damaged 600 historical monuments, palaces, and temples in Nepal. Out of those 600, Sanday decided he would take on the temple as a project, and take up the role of a technical adviser for locals. He stated, “Sure, it’s peanuts, a little temple, so why is it so special? The detail. The grace. It’s one of the few World Heritage Sites that hasn’t been completely destroyed by development.”
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So far locals have painstakingly cleaned and made some repairs to the temple, but there’s still a lot of work left to be done. The community needs to raise around $300,000 to reach their goal regarding the restoration initiative. Inspired by the dedication of the locals, Sanday has already assisted rebuild a guardhouse-sized shrine. Now he’s looking beyond the shrine to the temple and he is convinced that it is not impossible to save the ancient building.
– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang
New Delhi, August 10, 2017: Prevailing scenario across the globe suggests that the cruelty has almost wiped out the humanity and the disheartening greed of human beings has made everyone egocentric. Increasing crime rate, conflicts, corruption, and negligence, are all symbol of this transition.
Despite the widespread selfishness, a Sikh relief organization is fighting hard to preserve the soul of humanity and keeping the hope alive. ‘Khalsa Aid’ is an international humanitarian aid organization run by people of Sikh community and it is setting a perfect example of peace and compassion among people.
This organization works for providing humanitarian aid to the people affected by disasters or are in conflict areas. Started in 1999 in the United Kingdom with UK Charities Commission, ‘Khalsa Aid’ has volunteers all over America and Asia. They have provided relief aid to most part of the Middle East where the conflicts are much serious. They have led their activities in countries like Lebanon, Haiti, Bosnia, Nepal, and Serbia.
In Lebanon and Serbia, the ‘Khalsa Aid’ has been providing food, medical and educational assistance to the refugees there. It also had supplied food aid to famine and drought struck areas of northern Kenya.
Back in 2015, the organization also rushed to Nepal after severe earthquakes hit the country and arranged food and temporary shelters for the affected citizens. It also helped in conducting missions in rubble clearance and building temporary shelters for 250 families there.
Meanwhile, at the time of Kashmir floods (2014) in India, ‘Khalsa Aid’ had actively taken part in relief measures in flood-devastated parts.
Similar was its role during Uttarakhand floods and the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013.
‘Khalsa Aid’ has also been assisting Yazidi women, escaped from the clutches of terrorist organization ISIS recently, by providing monthly food rations to 250 women.
Ravinder Singh, founder of ‘Khalsa Aid’ was awarded ‘The Sikh of the Year 2014’ for doing humanitarian works all over the world. His first mission was in Albania border where Khalsa Aid provided assistance to the victims of civil war and genocide.
Though there are only a few people working for the welfare of humanity, yet there is a hope and these people are the flag bearer for the same.
– by Sumit Balodi of NewsGram. Twitter @sumit_balodi
New York, August 8, 2017: You’re in Nepal. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake has just struck your village and you must rescue the survivors. This is “After Days,” a video game based on the real-life Nepal earthquake that killed almost 9,000 people in 2015.
Minseok Do was showing the game at the recent Games for Change festival in New York City. The games on display were a far cry from “Mario Brothers” and “Call of Duty.” These developers featured titles that tackled civic and social issues.
Public consciousness about civic and social issues has long been raised by the news and entertainment industries in the United States and other parts of the world, and now video game creators are making their own statements and hoping to reach the younger digital generation in the process.
In “After Days,” players take on the role of Ahsha, a young Nepalese woman who attempts to rescue her neighbors in the aftermath of the massive earthquake.
“Other media, such as novels and movies, require consumers to use their imagination to understand characters’ emotions,” said Do, CEO of GamBridzy. “Games have players be in characters’ shoes by letting them command and control. It is, in my opinion, the most powerful platform.”
In the game, players carry out various missions like transporting injured victims in stretchers and coordinating with rescue teams to restore critical infrastructure.
The first episode is set in Sindhupalchok, one of the hardest-hit districts of the earthquake in Nepal.
“Some say it will take about 10 years to complete all the restoration, but international attention is not focused on this, and it is important that we show our interest and support,” said Do. Twenty percent of proceeds from game sales will go toward rebuilding efforts.
Elin Festøy, a producer from Norway, also was in New York to promote her game.
“We really wanted to create attention and awareness around children born of war … children being born of the most hated soldiers in the world,” said Festøy.
She and her team created “My Child Lebensborn,” a mobile game in which players are the caretakers of World War Two-era children from the Lebensborn project, an attempt by the Nazi regime to create an Aryan “master race.”
Lebensborn involved child kidnappings as well as anonymous births by unwed mothers in and outside of Germany, with their offspring adopted by German families. After the war, many Lebensborn children faced prejudice and discrimination, even from their own mothers.
“It’s about being able to see children as children and not as symbols of [the] enemy,” said Festøy.
“My Child Lebensborn” is targeted at players aged 13 and up. Recognizing that 13-year-olds might not exactly run to play the game, one of the team’s goals includes creating a bundle for schools that includes both the game and an accompanying film on the Lebensborn project.
Video games at the Games for Change festival didn’t shy away from difficult or touchy topics. Indeed, they were a vehicle for discussion and dialogue.
“The problem in a lot of developing countries is that people do not talk about issues. People do not want to share their problems out of embarrassment,” said Dr. Ilmana Fasih, a director at ZMQ.
The New Delhi-based consulting company developed “YourStoryTeller,” a mobile app that is less video game than a digital narrative.
User-contributed stories are transformed into comic strips. Each week, a new story addresses women’s issues in India, a country where patriarchal attitudes are common.
In one example, a young woman’s studies are disrupted for an arranged marriage that takes her from India to Canada, where she is physically abused by her new husband.
Fasih acknowledged the stories are definitely not of the Disney fairytale variety, and they definitely have a point of view.
“Kids grow up watching those stories. We want kids to grow up watching these stories where there are struggles,” said Fasih. “A young boy is able to understand what are the struggles that his mom, his sisters go through. That is probably one of the best ways to defeat patriarchy.” (VOA)
Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS
June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.
Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.
Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.
Confusion leads to mistakes
All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.
Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.
“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”
Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.
Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.
“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.
In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.
IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.
IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.
Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.
“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.
IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.
Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.
IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.
Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.
Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.
IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.
Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.
“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.
IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.
Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.
“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)