Bringing Relief Inside World's Most Volatile Regions

New Delhi: At the battle lines, war zones and conflict areas where even relief organizations fear to tread, The Art of Living pitches a firm tent for peace. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who recently received India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan, for his humanitarian work, is often found at the frontlines in the Middle East and other volatile regions of  the world, raising the flag of peace with courage. His approach to ISIS was daring. 

While The Art of Living’s breathing techniques offer precious, life-saving trauma relief to those who got entangled in the death machine called ISIS in Iraq, Syria and Egypt, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar asked to meet with the Daesh while in Mosul. In response, they sent back pictures of severed heads. Those who want to strike terror probably knew that a face-to-face meeting with the apostle of peace will wreak their rather cowardly excuses for mindless violence.

As relief organizations focus on material succor, The Art of Living provides a pathway to long-term rehabilitation. Between November and December last year, Tarique Khan, a Delhi-based choreographer and an Art of Living instructor led about 3300 Iraqis from various IDP (internally displaced people) camps, refugee camps in Baghdad and Sulemaniyah through Sudarshan Kriya – the powerful healing breath process taught by The Art of Living. The Art of Living along with its sister organization- International Association For Human Values (IAHV) has been instrumental in bringing back 2,000 Yezidi girls from Daesh captivity. Mawahib (full name held for security reasons), president of the IAHV Chapter in Iraq recalled an incident where, when Gurudev was in Kurdistan in November 2015, a 15-year-old girl came to him and said: "This (sexual assault) happened to me, but now I feel so strong and privileged to see you because now you give me the power to still continue and fight for our girls, to save us and give us hope because we had lost hope."

About 150 tons of food and relief material has been air-dropped for the members of the Yezidi community, stranded in Sinjar mountains. IAHV has been working in 3-4 camps, each housing about 60,000 people. In 2015, for the first time, Kurdish Parliamentarians went through meditative processes that helped open up lines of communication among each other.  

Meanwhile, Tarique Khan and Manal Carara, a former university professor in Egypt, braved the Muslim Brotherhood ban, to teach trauma relief and yoga. They took these peace initiatives to Dahab – an Egyptian town that shares borders with ISIS-controlled territory. Carara talks about another intense testimonial about a 12 year old Syrian boy, Ibrahim in Lebanon who saw both of his brothers being killed by the ISIS.

“Every time he closed his eyes, he would see them. He never slept. On the last day he said - Those ten minutes I am able to meditate here, are worth 8 hours of sleep for me because I am finally able to rest,” Carara said.

In Pakistan, the foundation through its team of volunteers has been at the forefront of providing food and relief material, apart from trauma relief during the floods in 2010 and the earthquakes in 2013. In spite of this, The Art of Living center was attacked and burned down by the Tahreek-e-Taliban, a Pakistani terror group in 2014. Undeterred, Yoga and meditation workshops have continued in conflict areas like Peshawar, Pakhtunkhwa-Khyber, Charshada, apart from the main cities of Lahore and Islamabad. The need for these workshops is realized from the fact that in 2013-14, the number of bomb blasts in Peshawar rose to over 400 in a year.

Art of Living volunteers also took trauma relief programs for the families of the children and teachers killed in the shooting massacre carried out by Tehreek-e-Taliban at the Army Public School in Peshawar.

In Columbia, Gurudev has played a historic role in bringing the state and the FARC, one of the largest rebel groups to the negotiation table, a key dialogue that has come to fruition after 50 long years of conflict, which has cost 250,000 lives. The ceasefire has been in place for over six months now and has not been breached from either side. According to Juan Carlos, a member of the Columbian parliament, “These have been the most peaceful or the least violent six months that Columbia has seen in the last 50 years,” said Juan Carlos, a member of Columbian Parliament. “So many areas that were under attack from Guerilla groups are now easy to access for civilians. In that sense, the ceasefire has given Columbia the taste of what true peace can be because there is not a single Columbian of my generation or any other generation who has not seen war. There is not a single Columbian today who knows what living in a peaceful country means.” 

Courtesy: Orissa Diary