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Letter From Lahore
by Rick DellaRatta
A musical trip to Pakistan to support children’s literacy takes some unexpected twists and turns
Have you ever played a gig where you had to go undercover to keep your life safe? I recently traveled to one of the most dangerous places in the world in order to prove that the art form of jazz can unite people in profoundly positive ways even in the most difficult and challenging of situations.
My organization Jazz for Peace has played all over the world, but our concert last December in Lahore, Pakistan was one of the riskiest and most meaningful concerts I’ve ever played. The goal of the concert was to promote children’s literacy, which is especially important to me. The United Nations estimates that some 70 percent of Pakistan’s rural population is illiterate, with even higher rates for women. In Pakistan, kids don’t learn to read or write because they have to work at a very young age. I believe that both child labor and illiteracy can ultimately create people who feel they have no place in society, which can then lead to frustration, violence and even terrorism.