The jury is out on whether a connection can be made between childhood war games and adult violence. Researchers around the globe are divided on the
subject, with some seeing no scientific link and others arguing that there is, indeed, a causal relationship.
Countless studies have concluded that violence is a learned behavior and that violent video games, action figures, and television and films send the
message that violence is acceptable. Groups have sprouted up in the United States and elsewhere that promote toy trade-ins and peaceful play.
In a reversal from that line of thinking, British authorities in 2007 advised schools and nurseries not to discourage boys from playing with toy weapons,
telling teachers that it could foster healthy development.
Whatever the truth, Pakistani activists are pushing forward in the belief that the foundations of a peaceful society are formed at an early age.
"All buildings reflect the way they were planned and their foundations," says singer Amjad Shahzad, a leading proponent of the campaign. "If we base the
rearing of our children on violent toys, their future personalities are likely to be violent and destructive toward society. We need toys for children that
can help them gain knowledge and improve their educational prospects."
His message resonates 1,000 kilometers away in Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi.
Mohammad Arshad Khan, who heads the nongovernmental Raana Development Trust, says volunteers from his organization have put up banners and posters and are
visiting schools, mosques, and community centers to get the word out.
Janan Buneree, one of the volunteers, says that even shopkeepers involved in the city's estimated $2 million toy-weapon trade have been receptive.
"At first the shopkeepers laugh us off. But on a serious note, they appreciate our efforts and tell us if we are able to convince people to ditch toy
weapons, they will be happy to take them off their shelves," Buneree says.
Peshawar-based sociologist Khadim Hussain is skeptical, however. He sees little value in a campaign against violence that focuses on toy guns.
"I think they need to extend this campaign to talk about the real weapons used in this region," he says. "And more significantly, they need to target the
thinking that turns this area into an arms market. If they don't move in that direction, it will mobilize people but will not fulfill the real aim [of
Raham Zaid, a lecturer of child psychology at Abdul Wali Khan University near Peshawar, agrees. He says real guns and societal acceptance of violence
should be the focus.
"The fundamental issue here is the availability, public display, and use of real weapons," he says. "In addition, society tolerates [violent] acts."
"We don't have the power to end the current violence," counters Shahzad, the singer in Peshawar. "But we can work toward preventing our future generations
from burning in this inferno."
Shahzad says he plans to hold a protest in front of the national parliament and to send a letter to the Chinese Embassy in the hope that Beijing will
restrict the export of toy guns to Pakistan.
This post appears courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.