The children you work with today are between 11 and 12 years old. What experiences and prejudices do they bring with them?

Grover: The kids in our project didn't witness the last military conflict in 1999. Still, like all of us, they have been shaped by their surroundings and the experiences of their parents. If there are tensions, terrorist attacks or other clashes in the region today, the situation on the social networks soon heats up. In addition, historical categories are sometimes distorted or shaped by political motives.

That's why we work with the younger generation and not with those directly involved in the conflict. We want the children to have their own experiences, to develop their own values. Using them as a basis, they can then examine what they perceive to be wrong or right and so find their own way.

Young mediators in Suhaliya, Pakistan, hold an f3 session (photo: Sudhaar Society)
Building a community: despite the border that separates the girls in Suhaliya, Pakistan from their "Kick for Tolerance" partners in Rurka Talan, street football has helped to forge ties. Tournaments take place simultaneously, with the children wearing the same jerseys. During cultural festivals they send each other video greetings, or, if tension in the region mounts, messages of peace

Where exactly does the project take place?

Grover: The project takes place in a rural district on the Indian-Pakistani border in Punjab, which straddles both countries. In Pakistan, two communities are participating: Suhaliya, with a girls' school and Heer, with a boys' school. In India we're working with two schools in Rurka Kalan. The Punjab is a beautiful region: rather flat and at the foot of the Himalayas. Translated, "Punjab" means "land of the five rivers". It is very fertile and, so to speak, the breadbasket of the region.

The three communities in which our project is taking place are virtually neighbouring communities. They are only about 200 kilometres apart, but they are separated by a virtually impassable border. It is really crazy: India and Pakistan have several thousand kilometres of land border, but there are no crossings. Wagah in Punjab is the only border crossing – when it's open at all. It's more or less between the communities. I once crossed the border there, on foot, because you can't do it any other way.

Have the children from your project ever been across the border?

Grover: No, unfortunately not. They've never had the opportunity to play football together. Still, they see themselves as a community. We have gradually introduced more and more connecting elements. In the schools street football tournaments take place simultaneously, where the children wear the same jerseys. During cultural festivals they send each other video greetings, or, if tension in the region mounts, messages of peace.

More on this topic