" In the last 7 years, in the Amer­i­can me­dia, I’ve heard 2% of the truth about Pak­istan, 100% of the time."

Arsla Jawaid talks to Todd Shea, Founder of Com­pre­hen­sive Dis­as­ter Re­sponse Ser­vices (CDRS), in this ex­clu­sive in­ter­view.

Southasia - - Interview -

A mu­si­cian by skill, Todd Shea is the founder of CDRS, which pro­vides health­care ser­vices and ed­u­ca­tion to mil­lions across Pak­istan. He is also part of Sonic Peace­mak­ers, a mu­si­cal

col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Pak­istani and Amer­i­can mu­si­cians to pro­mote peace pre­vents me, fi­nan­cially, from help­ing oth­ers. You will come across peo­ple like that in devel­op­ment work who will try to take ad­van­tage be­cause it comes with the ter­ri­tory. I’ve learnt to deal with it.

There is a prob­lem of neg­a­tive per­cep­tions both in Pak­istan and Amer­ica. As an Amer­i­can how do you cor­rect that im­age? What do you say to peo­ple both at home and here?

When I was leav­ing for Pak­istan, some of the peo­ple I told, emailed me back say­ing “Why do you want to go help peo­ple who are try­ing to kill us, be care­ful, etc.”

I tell peo­ple in both places to be care­ful of what you read in the pa­pers and be care­ful about let­ting that be your only per­cep­tion. I had learned long ago to be­lieve the me­dia only so much be­cause I had been duped into be­liev­ing pro­pa­ganda. In the last 7 years, in the Amer­i­can me­dia, I’ve heard 2% of the truth about Pak­istan, 100% of the time. And here, I’ve seen the other 98%.

I of­ten tell peo­ple on both sides that hu­man be­ings are hu­man be­ings and are far more alike than they are dif­fer­ent. Peo­ple also like hav­ing an en­emy, lead­ing to an “Us ver­sus Them” fac­tor. When they look at them­selves as the US against Pak­istan, they all feel like Amer­i­cans. And the same is true in Pak­istan.

Amer­ica has a re­spon­si­bil­ity for some of the things that the av­er­age Pak­istani has suf­fered. I don’t think Amer­ica has been in­tro­spec­tive enough to see that some of the things it has done in ar­ro­gance or aban­don­ment or the sim­ple act of be­ing short­sighted, have caused so many prob­lems.

What is your im­pres­sion of Pak­istan and its peo­ple?

They’ve been beaten up pretty good but they’re very strong. They are sur­vivors.

As a mu­si­cian, you also founded Sonic Peace­mak­ers? Tell us a lit­tle about it and why you think it’s im­por­tant for both coun­tries?

It started or­gan­i­cally. I started lis­ten­ing to some of the mu­sic here. My friends would play a tape of Junoon or some Qawwali or a Naat and I be­came en­am­ored with it even though I couldn’t un­der­stand any of the words. I pulled out my gui­tar and learnt some of the words to “Dil Dil Pak­istan!” At first, it was just for my own sat­is­fac­tion to learn mu­sic that I had started to love but then I would play the gui­tar for the kids in med­i­cal camps and vil­lages, and they loved it.

Sonic Peace­mak­ers, is a mu­si­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Pak­istani and other mu­si­cians. We want mu­sic to be the cat­a­lyst and en­gine for pro­vid­ing re­sources and build­ing bridges of peace and en­hanc­ing un­der­stand­ing. We be­lieve that mu­sic can reach into peo­ple’s hearts. There’s a lot of Is­lam­o­pho­bia and anger in the U. S and a mir­ror im­age of that is here. There is a lot to fight against and our weapon is mu­sic. We hope

In­shal­lah that we can over­come the ha­tred and mis­con­cep­tions on both sides.

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