Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Claim your peace!

We all deserve peace in and around us. Sometimes people and situations in our life facilitate that peace and sometimes it is the vice-versa. Our environment disturbs the calm within us. In such a situation, we need to take a few deep breaths and claim our peace.

Remember, it is not just the outside factors that may disturb our inner being but also our own reaction/s. The better we are able to handle our own reaction, the stronger our hold is on our inner peace. 

Next time, your inner tranquility is attacked by somebody/something, focus on your own reaction. Try hard to ensure that your response is in accordance to your needs, values and goals. It is not easy but it is very much possible. In the worst of situations, never forget to claim your peace because it is your right!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reports and lack of reports of breaches of International Humanitarian Law and Treaties

Once more, there are reports of civilians and prisoners of war being tortured and killed by the ones who were supposed to protect them. 

Sadly, this is just one report for one country. We know there are many other examples where human beings are mistreated, raped, tortured and killed, many of which are not interesting enough even for organizations such as wikileaks. Where do we go from here and how do we get there?

Armed conflicts and wars start as corrective measures against oppression and end up creating more oppressors, just the sides being oppressed are changed.

Who all are responsible for these despicable acts? How do we make it right for those children who have been orphaned? How do we make it right for those women who have been widowed and for the first time in their life are finding themselves to be the earning member of the family in absence of necessary skills to do?  How do we make it right for those who are handicapped for ever? How do we make it right for those parents who will spend the rest of their lives with tears and memories of their dear children who were snatched from them in the name of 'investigation' or 'escalation of force'? 

Stand up, people, stand up, to your responsibilities towards yourselves and your own. World leaders you are accountable to what is going on and where we go now. Peace is only way to go. Wake up before it is too late!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Raising the Humanitarian Assistance Bar a couple of nudges gives us a glimpse of peace (Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz)

We have followed up the progress of Chile and the 33 rescued miners since the “Miracle of the San Jose Mine” took place. Thirty-three miners were captive in the confines of the San Jose mine for 69 days. Person blame games were rapidly changed for a new strategy, togetherness of purpose. This new strategy called for the country to come together in a humanitarian effort to save the lives of the most vulnerable.

A valuable lesson was learned: Human beings have the innate power to change their ways (save life’s or achieve peace) if there are clear objective accompanied with a good dose of faith , courage and unity.  When actions accompany rhetorical statements of faith and hope then the achieved task of bringing 33 men trapped 2, 100 feet plus under the earth generates hope in the many people that witnessed the act through television.

Well, the men are out of the mine, last week all had been discharged from the hospital with a declaration of clean physical health. A new challenge has emerged this week. What about the mental health needs of these individuals? The calls for assistance due to nervousness, hyper vigilance, helplessness and hopelessness, and yes, even substance abuse call out for a new statement of hope for the emotional well being of these individuals. How can the mental health community address their needs? What are the contingency plans? How do we know if those plans, once implemented, have been achieved? We must embrace the believe, that all the ills will be addressed and that well-being will be obtained by the 33 miners, and their country.

There is no greater believe than the one that brings you peace. There is no better talent than the one that you happiness. There is no better commitment than the one that is made for love. There is no better act of kindness than the one that produces love. There is no better blessing that the one that provokes PEACE. We are aware that  firm believes, identification of talents, acts of kindness, and blessings from Chilean mental health personnel, and their counterparts across the world will bring well being and peace to these 33 miners. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Protecting My Peace

In this world, not everything is perfect, not everything goes the way we would like it to. No matter how much we want to adopt peaceful ways and try to embrace peace, we loose it due to circumstances, people around us or maybe because of our own lack of control on how we think or react.

We must learn to focus on peace, forgiveness, humor, sharing even the most difficult situations. We can develop skills to live the difficult situations in an objective manner.

Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the holocaust has demonstrated how a human being can endure most brutal situations in the right and honorable manner. It was due to his and others' suffering in these camps that he came to his hallmark conclusion that even in the most absurd, painful and dehumanized situation, life has potential meaning and that therefore even suffering is meaningful. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Frankl)

We can't control all the evil but we can and must protect the good within us.

If we are able to conquer our thought process, we can attain peace that stays...!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Who will take the first step towards peace and well being?

During my mission with the International Committee of Red Cross, we were working in Naxalite majority villages in Chattisgarh, India. Even though these villages are rich in natural resources, people struggle for basic necessities: food, clothing, medicines and education. Not many people are willing to go and offer their services as teachers or medical personnel in these villages due the poor security conditions.

During my short visit, we lived in a small town and would travel everyday for hours through the jungles over the land-mines. Since the Red Cross is a neutral and impartial organization, we had the permission both from the government and the naxalites to visit and assist in these villages.

I was conducting psychosocial support assessment, therefore I had the opportunity to sit with the elders, women, children, nurses, teachers and doctors to listen to their stories about their struggle to meet their basic needs for so many years. Their life seems to be the same before the insurgency as well as during it. Many questions arose in my being as a result of this experience...

Most of all why does a government let the poor people get to a stage where they are ready to give or take life in order to get their fair share? And if the people get to that point, does that behavior really enables their fellow community folks to get their fair share or it further worsens the situation for them? Don't most leaders on both sides eventually want power and forget the greater good for their people?

How many children are not getting enough educational opportunities? How many sick are being denied adequate medical treatment? How many women and children are being physically abused in absence of support systems? How many communities are living without enjoying their basic human rights?

Could the situation be better if both sides had decided to talk about the problems and their solutions? Would the situation be better if the priority on both sides was the well being of the people rather than power? Would the situation be better if the elders, woman and children were also actively involved in the negotiations? Aren't these questions relevant in other conflict situations as well?

Looks like we all know the best way forward but who will take the first step towards peace and well being?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Follow up on Miners by Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz

When Florencio Avalos came out of the San Jose mine after sixty-nine underground. He and his peers had been pump up to returning back to the surface. Their families had been prepared to handle the emotional moments to follow the rescue. We acknowledge that these miners are a resilient bunch, we even see the miracle as it unfolded in front of our eyes.  Millions of people celebrated around the world and became a part of this historical moment.  

The experiences of the group in those days really built on the collective resilience of the group. The activities that they undertook let them to affirm their cultural identity as miners and as Chileans (even the Bolivian miner engaged in the cultural activities). They strengthened their social networks and supports, as seen by one of the miners who upon his arrival to the surface acted as a cheer-leader for the rescuers and the viewers alike. We all witnessed the deepening spirituality as expressed by the older miner, who upon his arrival to the surface kneeled in a prayer to the all Mighty for his save return and that of his peers. After all, those various factors contributed to resilience by fostering physical and emotional well-being  and serving as valuable personal goals in themselves. 

Three days after their dramatic rescue we began to hear how lucky this bunch was, appearances on TV, interviews and trips would net each of them about $400,000 US. We4 all rejoiced about that, but questioned the wisdom of exposing them so soon after the rescue to so many stimuli. Was it prudent psychologically for the survivors?  I spoke to a colleague about this and his response was that the emotional well-being would be handled step by step, and that the Ministry of Health of Chile had put in place a safety net to handle their recovery and psychological well-being.

Less than a week has gone by since the surviving miners have returned to the surface, and a different story is emerging from the miners optic...  They report "harassment from the press and other media, lack of basic services (water, sanitation, housing and food, and unemployment). The very basic pre-condition necessary to calm these miners and promote hope in a future without post traumatic stress reactions, has not been assured by the Government of Chile.  The mental health safety net is not in place or has broken down. There were no considerations taken to assure that the living conditions of the miners would be improved during those 69 days. 

What will pave the route to peace, reconciliation and resilience? The miners have asked that (1) their privacy be respected, (2) access to basic services such as water, electricity and basic livelihood, and (3) protection from drug gangs, and other undesirables in their respective neighborhoods who now see them as targets because of the recent publicity, and (4) most importantly work...one of the miners said "we are all poor, and have a lot of needs, but we enjoy working and want to work".


Friday, October 15, 2010

ICRC visits to prisons: In detention - the humane way

Thousands of people around the world are detained as a result of armed conflicts and internal conflicts. Not all deserve to be detained and none of them deserve torture.

The families of all deserve to know about their dear ones, the punishment is for the detainee and not for his/her spouse, children or parents.

The punishment shouldn't be exacerbated as a result of lack of basic living conditions.

Yes, as citizens and authorities of a nation, we have the right to get angry and punish the offender in order protect our land and our dear ones. But we must NOT engage in things and acts that we would not want our dear ones to experience and/or which may worsen the on-going conflict.

The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) has been working since 1863 to protect the rights of prisoners of wars, amongst many other issues that are concerned with the well being of human race around the world.

The documentary below sheds light at the condition of detainees and interventions conducted by the ICRC in several different contexts for over hundred years.

After all, the detainees are humans like us!

More info:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chile Miners: Peace Restored!

For the trapped miners and their families in Chile, peace is restored after 69 days. What a joy to see a separated family member after long days of waiting and uncertainty! 

A victory constituting scientific intervention, humanitarian action and divine miracle! This is a story with a happy ending for few families that has made millions of eyes around the world moist. Although only 17 are out and 16 miners are still inside, the happiness from the ongoing reunions is irresistible to those who are waiting and watching.

This story also reminds us of resilience that we human beings possess, a capacity to bounce back from an adverse event. These brave men have not only survived a very challenging period of their lives, most of them have carried out responsibilities such as a journal writer, camera man, spiritual leader and secretary of the group. Needless to say, this situation will leave some psychological scars on these miners but with support and right focus, they will remain victorious!

A great example of a nation's unity and commitment towards it's countrymen. I hope other countries will learn a lesson from this event. There are millions of families who are still waiting to know the fate of their dear ones who are separated as a result of an armed conflict or a disaster and are asking for sincere assistance from different States around the world.

And finally, for those of us, who are trapped in our own mines where we may not see a ray of hope in a particular situation, loosing hope in the moments of solitude, it is an inspirational story. If they survived, we will survive too and be victorious. Peace will be restored again!

Additional Resources:

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_resilience
  • http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/htmlall/family_links?OpenDocument

Monday, October 11, 2010

"There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for." - Mahatma Gandhi

The video below is of a prayer dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, commonly known as 'Bapu' (father) in India. He led the first non-violent freedom struggle and inspired thousands of people around the world. He demonstrated that peace is the most powerful and forceful weapon to fight a cause.

Born on October 30th, 1869, his life raised many eyebrows for various reasons but he stood by his principles until his last breath. He continued to evolve as a human being and as he himself said, 'experimented with truth' all his life. Sadly, the life that stood for non-violent principles was cut short by a violent attack on January 30th, 1948.

He and his wife Kasturba Gandhi, also known as 'Baa' (mother) led a very simple life and raised their children in the same way. More than often, he and his family had to suffer because of his 'quest for truth' and struggle for freedom, human rights and dignity.

Bapu is honored as the 'Father of the Nation' in India and it wouldn't be wrong if we also call him the 'Father of Civil Rights Movements' internationally!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Liu Xiaobo: Peace and Human Rights go hand in hand

54 years old, China dissident, Liu Xiaobo has been awarded the Noble Peace Prize 2010. What a beautiful way to bring the international attention to human rights struggle in China and to this brave man who has sacrificed his freedom for what he stands for.

Charter 08 is a manifesto developed by the intellectuals and human rights activists in China and was published in 2008 on the 60th anniversary of 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights'. Mr. Xiaobo  is a political prisoner in China, serving 11 years' imprisonment on account of his participation with Charter 08. He is an intellectual, writer and a human rights activist.


Off course, Chinese government is not happy with the news because this serves as yet another message from the international community about its restrictions on its own citizens on freedoms of speech, movement, religion and even having more than one child.

I congratulate Mr. Liu Xiaobo for continuing his struggle for human rights in China in a non-violent manner and hope that someday peace will prevail in his life, his country and in this world!

More Information:

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11499098
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_08
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liu_Xiaobo

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Past is over... No, really!

Psychological pain for too long is neither healthy for the person nor for the environment. One must take time out to understand what is it that hurts within. If there is more than one reason, then segregate them and explore their roots. Only the person that is hurting knows where it hurts and what is it that hurts.

Generally reasons for long term pain are (a) Loss and (b) Anger and (c) both Loss and Anger. Loss can be of a dear one, job or material/property. Anger can be towards a dear one, a perceived enemy or even towards God.

When dealing with Loss, while we lament on what is gone, it is important to also focus on what we still have and build on our strengths. For example, if a woman has lost her family in the war, she must focus on her life, her skills (teaching, embroidery, cooking, gardening, etc), her beliefs, religious values, family and friends that are left behind, and governmental/non-governmental assistance available, if any. Focusing on what we still have in the present situation helps us to move forward.

While dealing with anger, the following steps are helpful:
A. Try to find out the origin of it. When did it all started, who is responsible for it, why does it still bother me, does this anger stop me from doing things that are good/important to/for me? Look for clear answers, they are right there inside us.
B. Another important step is to stop feeling guilty for the mistakes we might have made in the process.
C. Forgive all those who are/were responsible for what happened to us or to our dear one. This is the most difficult thing to do and it may take a long time. Start slowly, cry if we have to, tears will help cleaning us from within. Forgiving will liberate us from the chains that anger binds us with.
D. Smile to the newly found freedom, enjoy it and explore the new path that awaits us.

Both Loss and Anger, require us to focus on our strengths, our skills, our family and friends and choose the best way to move on. We must have a couple of plans based on the resources and the choices we may have, in case one plans doesn't work we must have another option.

Moving forward with your head high is the key! From today on, take charge of your steps and start with small steps!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Respect of Human Rights Critical to Development and Good Governance!

On Sept. 6-7, 2000, the heads of States and Governments gathered together in the UN headquarters in New York to adopt 'Millennium Declaration', wherein it was recognized that there is a direct connection between development, good governance and human rights.

It took some time for the world leaders to declare the obvious but better late than never! Remember, we all are the path as well as the vehicle for the challenging journey between the 'declaration' to the 'actualization' of the declaration. Because if you and I are not actively involved, it would be impossible to ensure the operationalization of any policy or statement, no matter how beautiful it is.

I would like to reiterate the fourth clause under the section on 'Values and Principles' of the 'Millennium Declaration' here:

"We are determined to establish a just and lasting peace all over the world in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter. We rededicate ourselves to support all efforts to uphold the sovereign equality of all States, respect for their territorial integrity and political independence, resolution of disputes by peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, the right to self-determination of peoples which remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation, non-interference in the internal affairs of States, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for the equal rights of all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion and international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character."

Claim your rights and share with those who are deprived of them!  

Recommended readings:

  • http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/MDG/Pages/MDGIndex.aspx
  • http://www.un.org/millennium/declaration/ares552e.htm

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Conspiracy against negative intruders within...

It is a beautiful morning. If I allow myself to be led by the various stimulus around me, I would move closer to inner peace. Sunlight is still mild, the breeze is soothing, the birds are praising the creator, children are waking up to naughtiness...

All I need is to breath all this in and take out anger, disappointments or any other negative intruder that is trying to capture my being.

Every day brings its own challenges but first it brings the opportunity to rejuvenate, cleanse and prepare us for everything else that may follow.

Thanks to the beauty of this morning, I start my day with a bright smile, a smile that will be contagious to many.... what a lovely conspiracy!


It’s all about the roots! Our roots don’t pull us down, they enable us to grow farther away to explore the unknown skies! #roots #trees ...