NOVATO, Calif. — Dressed in a black skirt and black blouse, Roots of Peace founder and CEO Heidi Kuhn stood in the middle of her downtown San Rafael office on Friday, gazing out floor-to-ceiling windows at Mission San Rafael Arcángel glowing in the afternoon sunlight like a beacon of faith and hope.
It was just hours after a Taliban suicide attack on her nonprofit's compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, that left five attackers dead and killed two innocent passersby, including a teenage girl. Miraculously, none of the 11 Roots of Peace staff inside the building were killed or seriously injured.
Admitting that she was still in shock, Kuhn let words pour out of her in what appeared to be a torrent of spontaneous prayer.
"As I peer out the window of my world headquarters in the heart of Marin County, may the angel of healing today bring forth faith, not fear," she said, then paraphrased Isaiah's prophecy in the Bible. "May they beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks so that nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore," she said.
Then she drew a breath and issued a call to action for "millions of shovels to be aimed into the earth to help dig these Afghan farmers out of the fear of terror in a country that is 80 percent dependent on agriculture."
For the past decade, through its Mines to Vines campaign, Marin-based Roots of Peace has been helping Afghan farmers in all 34 provinces clear their fields of land mines and turn them into profitable vineyards.
For Kuhn and her husband, Gary, that dream of prosperity in Afghanistan was shattered before dawn Friday morning, when they were awakened by phone calls from their colleagues in Kabul, telling them that their compound was under attack by Taliban soldiers armed with a car bomb, suicide vests and automatic weapons.
"We were at home in the heart of Glenwood as they were telling us of a car bomb between the Roots of Peace house and a day care center next door," she said.
A mother of four, Kuhn woke her children and led them outside to pray for her friends and staff members in harm's way in Afghanistan. She took it as a sign of hope when a double rainbow appeared after the early morning rain.
"On behalf of that teenage girl who was killed in front of the Roots of Peace compound, and on behalf of children all over the world, may terrorists fall to their knees and see the power of peace, the power of planting the roots of peace on earth," she said, holding up a shovel she said was made from the metal of a Russian tank.
At a press conference in their San Rafael office, the Kuhns told reporters that they had stayed in the Kabul house many times, most recently in February. She remembered the red rug in one of the rooms, then winced when she recalled being told that one of the terrorists was standing on that rug when he ignited his vest and blew himself to bits on Friday.
The family's recent trips were in celebration of the harvest of grapes and other crops in Afghanistan, part of the Mines to Vines program.
"I hope to go back this fall to celebrate another harvest of hope, when the seeds planted this spring will reap an agricultural bounty for the deserving Afghan farmers and their families," she said. "The Afghans have suffered enough. We hope today that our message is one of solidarity with the Afghan people and a renewed commitment to greet this spring with shovels, not swords."