Saturday, October 20, 2012

Art of Living's Humanitarian Efforts: In War-Torn Areas

His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, has inspired thousands of volunteers of the Art of Living Foundation to provide humanitarian aid in areas that are torn apart by strife, war and man-made conflicts. The Foundation’s efforts and programs help bring sustainable peace by working from the level of the individual. The Foundation has also been working to promote friendly ties within and between several regions and governments. Significant work has been carried out in many conflict areas.

Work in Conflict Areas: Afghanistan
The Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) and the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) have brought peace and relief to war victims, village women, children and others traumatized by over two decades of war and strife. The first courses were given to children with chronic illnesses, serious health impairments, or were mine victims. Afghan counselors, doctors, nurses and administrators took the course through the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes. UNIFEM, MoPH and the Mental Health Dept. organized several courses for their staff and trauma affected villagers.

Since September 2003, volunteers of AOLF have been working to help the Iraqi people and have set up trauma relief camps in various parts of Iraq, especially in Baghdad, where they have dispensed both material and medical aid. Over 350 Iraqis have now participated in our programs - women’s empowerment with workshops in tailoring and computer skills. Participants shared that they are sleeping better, are more energetic and relaxed and that their confidence has grown. Two AOLF centers are operational in Baghdad. Training has
also been given to 44 Iraqis who are now teaching the trauma relief programs in Baghdad, Basra and Suleimania. 

Our goal is to bring peace and harmony to Israel. Through its trauma relief programs, the AOLF has reached 400 people in the past three years. During the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah, Art of Living teachers worked on both sides of the AOLF volunteers delivered drinking water, and cooked meals while creating a more joyful atmosphere. Our teachers have worked with children, educators and professionals. Most people suffered from PTSD and were grateful to undergo our programs.

Relief activities during the 2006 war in Lebanon began in Baysour. Art of Living volunteers, all of whom were of Druze origin, served Shia refugees and supporters of Hezbollah. The children and women, for whom special programs were conducted, reported experiences such as: : “I didn’t know I could become so relaxed sir! I am so quiet and happy now! How can it be?" The programs reached more than 500 people within a one-month span. Two Art of Living teachers are currently engaged in full-time trauma relief efforts in the region. 

Following the success of Art of Living Programs in Kosovo the Ministry of Health decided to offer the AOLF programs to all mental health workers in every mental health center and hospital in the country. Programs have already been held at a number of Mental Health Centers including those in Peja, Prishtina, Ferizaj, Mitrovica and Prizren. More than 600 UN police officers have been given the AOL Stress Management Program. The Foundation is also continuously working to rehabilitate war victims in Kosovo.

Peace Ambassador: Sri Lanka
Invited to bring peace to the country by Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Mahinda Rajapakse, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been actively involved in brokering peace negotiations between the LTTE separatist guerillas, the government, and civilians in Sri Lanka. He is the first spiritual leader from India to visit the country in 22 years.

80,000 Sri Lankans – Sinhalese, Tamils, political leaders, Buddhist monks, and diplomats convened in a single public gathering with Sri Sri in June 2006 to seek his advice and council. Hundreds of Tamil youth in Jaffna have eschewed violence and are working with Art of Living volunteers to bring comfort to the people of Northeastern Sri Lanka traumatized by more than two decades of ethnic violence.

In 2004, H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was invited to Pakistan by the Gharib Nawaz Foundation and the Daily Times newspaper on a historic four-day peace mission. He was the first spiritual leader from India to visit Pakistan on such a mission. During his visit, Sri Sri held informal meetings with political, religious and business leaders, as well as social activists in Karachi and Islamabad. In his discussions with Islamic clerics, Sri Sri emphasized the need to “build mutual trust for lasting peace.” 

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