HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar moves Iraqis with his message of peace

Bangalore, Karnataka, India
24th May 2007

Iraq to send youths to Bangalore for leadership training

BANGALORE: Fruitful interactions with people from all walks of life, including Prime Minister Nouri al Malaki, marked the three-day visit of Poojya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to Iraq. During the visit, undertaken at the invitation of Iraqi Prime Minister, Gurudev met senior political and religious officials in Baghdad apart from holding discussion with the Prime Minister.

“I was able to meet a cross-section of people including several Shiite leaders, women, widows, tribal leaders and youth,” Gurudev said on Thursday before leaving for Amman, where he will deliver a talk at the University of Jordan and attend a VIP reception.

“We welcome your delegation with open arms and hearts. We welcome you as our brother and we are ready to work hand in hand with you,” said Shia leader Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Aqaadi welcoming Gurudev to the Shiite holy city of Najaf on the last day of the visit.

Gurudev met many key leaders including Shia cleric Al-Sheikh Bashir Hussain Al-Najafi. The leaders sought his co-operation in bringing peace to Iraq. Expressing his pain over the violence and struggle of Iraqi people, Gurudev said,

“People of Iraq don't deserve the violence and the pain. My heart bleeds for the people of Iraq,” he said.

On his arrival in Najaf, Gurudev was given a warm welcome by governor of Najaf Azad Sultan, who lauded Gurudev's initiatives in Iraq. Gurudev also visited the famous Ali Bin Abu Talib Mosque and paid his respect at the tomb of Hazrat Ali, grand son of Prophet Muhammed.

On Wednesday, over 80 Shia and tribal leaders interacted with him in Baghdad. Gurudev urged them to end all killings. “Give the non-violence philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi a trial, give peace a chance,” he said. Saying that Iraq is Gurudev’s second home, the leaders lauded the work done by the Art of Living in Iraq and said that the initiatives will go a long way in improving the situation in the country.

Later in the night, Gurudev had a meeting with the ministers of youth and human rights and four members of Parliament. On their request, he conducted a meditation session for them. Impressed by the initiatives of the Art of Living, youth minister Jasin Mohammed Jaffer declared that the government will send three youth from each province of Iraq to the Art of Living’s International centre in Bangalore to undergo its Youth Leadership Training Programme (YLTP).

Earlier in the day, Gurudev met a group of grieving Iraqi women widowed by the unending conflict in the country. He also interacted with Red Crescent officials, who praised him for bringing into Iraqi lives the ‘art of living’.

“Till now we have known only the ‘art of dying', an official said.

Gurudev also visited the Art of Living centre in Baghdad and reviewed the humanitarian work carried out by the international NGO with local Art of Living teachers and volunteers. He also interacted with the beneficiaries of the Art of Living’s women empowerment project.

Soon after his arrival in Baghdad from Amman on Tuesday, Gurudev had met the Prime Minister. During the meeting, Iraqi Prime Minister invited the Art of Living to start its prison reform programme in jails in the country. Readily accepting the request, Gurudev said that he would like to bring the Art of Living programmes to all sections of the Iraqi society. Emphasising a key role for humanitarian organisations like the Art of Living in rebuilding Iraq, Mr Malaki said,

“Big powers are big enough.but they are not able to unite humans, people together.”

Since September 2003, the Art of Living has been working under trying circumstances to help the Iraqi people overcome the deep pain and suffering inflicted by the long-drawn warfare and the prevailing uncertainty. Its volunteers have been conducting trauma relief workshops in various parts of Iraq, especially in Baghdad. Even at times when most NGOs were compelled to evacuate their volunteers from Iraq in the wake of heightened unrest and kidnapping, the Art of Living stayed put.

Moved by the effective intervention, several Iraqis have completed special trainings to impart the Art of Living techniques to the Iraqi people. In 2006, a batch of 43, mostly women from Baghdad, Basra, Suleimania and Karbala, graduated to be Art of Living teachers. So far, 5,000 Iraqis have undergone the Art of Living trauma relief workshops apart from attending the Ayurvedic training camps.

Gurudev's visit will provide further impetus to the Art of Living's initiatives to alleviate the trauma and sufferings of the people of Iraq.