From Tunisia, with Peace.

Also published on: Peace Revolution


Tunisia, a 12-million people country situated both in the North part of Africa and in the memory of the whole world. Unfortunately, Tunisia’s name has been lately coined by international media as security threats, extremism, and ticking bombs. All of these misconceptions have swept under the rug a great number of freedoms restored six years after the Revolution and the continuous efforts to maintain the democratic transition gained in January 2011.
Six years later, we are still here- chanting the slogans of the Revolution and adding ‘Peace’ to “Work, Freedom, and Dignity”.

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January 4th 2017 was the date that our vision of Peace not Pieces was well polished. The idea of organizing a series of workshops under this name was an answer to all of the shattered efforts witnessed in the society. It wasn’t actually difficult to notice what the Tunisian civil society has been tirelessly trying to achieve to counter violence and build peace in the country. The activism scene is actually still a beautiful river of mixed visions and ideas, bloggers, NGOs, and us - some young people who happen to be enchanted by the idea of achieving Peace and prosperity through developing our own inner peace first.

Indeed, our vision was as simple as inviting whoever is interested in making the change in their community to a series of informative workshops and meditation sessions. We launched an application form that has surprisingly  appealed to over 200 people from all over the country, among which the majority has never tried meditation before.  “What a challenge!” Yassine- an organization committee member said.


As a pilot project, “Peace not Pieces” couldn’t host more than 50 participants coming from the dunes of the Southern desert in Tataouine, till the Eastern seaside resort in Sousse.

 
24th of March 2017. Baggy light-colored shirts and yoga pants, smiles, and curious looks scanning the venue with its traditional rugs and cushions. The first meditation session went amazing with the presence of Louay, a dear friend and Peace Architect. A brief introduction to meditation was given right before saying the magic words: “If you are ready, you can now close your eyes.” And there it started; a new journey for some and a nostalgic moment of reconnection to three of us who had the chance to experience meditation in International fellowships before.


5 minutes into meditation, you can easily sense the gentle breaths getting in and out, rhyming with Louay’s words, softly pronounced- leading everyone’s mind to its safe place.

Following a famous Tunisian song that recites “Just like a sailor, coming back to the sea that drowned him. Just like the butterfly coming back to the fire that burnt me” we, too, came back to the source of our thoughts and worries- our mind. We closed our eyes and started a journey of self-awareness and trust. Undoubtedly, trusting such newly-introduced practices in a culture like ours demanded trust and strong belief- how much we needed that!


What we came to understand is meditation- or like I like to call it “the gymnastics of the mind” is absolutely not about fiercely rejecting your thoughts. It was neither about happy thoughts and finding yourself within the lights. It is actually a way to cope with your thoughts by finishing one thought at the time just like the way you tick those lines off your to-do list. Meditation for us is the simple practice of self-actualization and contentment with the present moment.


How brave can we be for gently embracing some parts in us that we have been in war with! Not only brave, it is beautiful and empowering.

“You can now open your eyes...”   I still remember the first time I felt that I didn’t want to open my eyes when these words were said. Same with some of the participants, the experience went a bit emotional; a bit too deeper than they expected.

In this world of trickery,
emptiness is what your
heart wants. -Rumi


The sessions later on continued with sparkling eyes and energetic spirits. The ice between participants melted and they have all found joy in following the given presentations about non-violent communication, personal branding, project management that allowed them to work on the presented challenge: “How to build Peace in your community.”  They all used the occasion to dare to dream- to get out of their safe comfort zone and unleash their creativity for the wellbeing of their targeted communities. “Peace, same like happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself”- this is what they believed in.

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Blog posts, ‘Pay it Forward’, street art, poems, clubs, campaigns. They are all such simple ideas with an enormous echoe. All teams  from ‘HEIWA’, to the ‘Green Lotus’, and ‘Nirvana’ have given a careful attention to the innovative, sustainable,  and peaceful aspects of their projects. For us, that was the real success; that was the aspired result and the compensation for our hard work.
   
Tunisia, a 12-million people and 50 young “Peace Pals” who  are now ambassadors of social change. Their view of positive systematic change and prosperity is no longer just about joining a political movement or seeking to affect legislation. Their impulse now is to reach out, to help, and advocate for meditation as a practice of spreading their inner peace to the world of shattered pieces.

“We want more of this!”
Nader Oniange- 21 years old
Tunis.


Dr. Jamal Martin about Peace and Justice Studies in UNM

Also published in: The Peace Lens


March 26th, 2015 was the Viola Cordova Memorial Symposium, “Our common ground,” hosted by Native American Studies.
The panel had representatives from Native American Studies, Chicana/Chicano Studies, Africana Studies, Women Studies, Sustainability Studies, Learning Communities, Community Engagement, Global Studies, and Peace and Justice Studies.

“We know peace by its absence and by realizing how much trauma and violence surround us.”

This is how Dr. Jamal Martins started his speech as not only the African diaspora scholar, but also the director of Peace and Justice studies. He chose to revolve his work in public health around social justice because he has always believed that the root of public health is indeed, social justice. That’s why he changed the name from Peace Studies to Peace and Justice Studies. Dr. Jamal explained the vision that he carries, which mainly focuses on the importance of building a generation of students who are given the reasons to be “peace builders, not peacemakers.”

Dr. Jamal’s background in research and activism concerning global health justice and diplomacy, human rights and the use of critical legal theory in international institutional law, empowered him to be the person he is today. It inspired him also to work hard to provide the students with the opportunities to develop “transferable skills.” That’s how he saw the change initiated by the young potentials, who can be well-equipped enough to influence the society and the people that surround them.
He also emphasized that the 3 pillars of social justice are: justice and healing; prevention of violence, resolution and transformation; and structural and institutional development.

Hope will be in our side,” helping us to stand against not only racism, sexism, but, most importantly, materialism and militarism, which are representing the real social issues nowadays.

Dr.Jamal also examined how to consider violence as a public health issue, especially in influencing youth and early childhood development.
Dr. Jamal Martins ended his speech by urging everyone to take part of spreading the word about structural violence.

Western popular culture's portrayal of Arabs

Popular culture, especially mass media have played a crucial role in the portrayal of Arabs, since the horrible events of September 11, 2001. 
Post 9/11 across the United States there has been an emergence of a bold opposition and fear towards the Muslim community in the United States.
This rise of this racist attitudes in the United States results in many challenges for the Islamic community because of the power of the single message being propagated by the media reinforcing the common belief that Muslims are terrorists, and that everyone should recognize “them” by their beards and black veils.

The whole struggle of stereotyping all Arabs for being Muslim and terrorists keep being portrayed not only in films and TV shows, but also in cartoons. For instance, we all have watched Disney movies like Aladdin that introduced to children since early age a common image of the violent and threatening Arabs with the same clothes in every single episode, and especially with the strong Arab accent.
Aladdin was the only one in his society who was considered the “good romantic Arab” who has a perfect American accent and a Westernized characterization of his character.

Muslim women also are usually presented as the uneducated veiled oppressed part of the society who are always waiting for the “American” to come and save her from her extremist Muslim society. An effective example that the article stated is CSI or Criminal Minds police dramas.
Muslim women, with all of the freedoms and liberties they reached over history, are gathered under the same category that delivers to us the image of the typical “Arab” women victim of domestic violence.
They are usually married to one of the terrorists who is the main “bad character” of the series. Similarly men with beards, strong Arab accents, or Middle Eastern looking features may be radicalized as Muslims regardless of their personal identification. A study by The Guardian proved that the system based on the bias against Muslim has been perceived with 62% believing the media to be Islamophobic and 16% describing it as racist.

Only 4% considered its representation "fair".  With all of the researches conducted, it is usually known that African-Americans are presented as over-weighted and rude; French to be snobby and selfish; and Latinos to be the janitors and the drug dealers.
However, I believe one of the most dangerous discriminations against races and religions is being conducted against Arabs, especially after 9/11.

People need to understand that this representation is really dangerous as it racialize people regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. People tend to expect them to not be from the U.S. So they face daily questions like “what country are you from?”
They are also often expected to have limited English ability and that they should be flattered if people get surprised when they hear them talking an unexpected “good English”.
The term racialization is used because although Muslims are of a common faith it is a universal religion and a spectrum of ethnicities exist within this belief community.

All in all, this whole propaganda used by Mass Media has been the effective way to raise us and the next generations over a racist mindset that “reflects and reinforces marginality of minorities” in the U.S. It also increases a racist mentality that classifies people by their appearance, religion, or nationality.

DOWN WITH SELECTIVE MOURNING!


REMINDER: 




While billions are celebrating Easter, there are some other human beings in Baghdad and Lahore who are living 24/7 bloody nightmares in their war-torn countries, are sick and tired of burying their beloved ones.
Let’s remember that media’s selective outrage should not be the reason why to stop condemning ALL terrorist acts, in every single region of the world.
Let’s not forget the over 300 Muslims who have died in the past 48 hours and whose life is apparently not as important as Westerns’ who have succeeded to attract the exclusive sympathy of the international media and decision-makers.
Let’s notice the so-called leaders of the worlds’ inexistent speeches to condemn and take actions against what’s happening in Muslim countries because of the rats who were trained and financed by them.
And please let’s not forget that Muslims by far outnumber any other religious group when it comes to being targeted by the so-called Islamic State.
Let's not forget Palestine whose case is forgotten and normalized because of all of what's happening to the rest of the world.
Let's picture Palestinians collecting rain water to survive another day of water and electricity restrictions on their very own land.
Let's not forget about refugees drowning, shivering, crying, dying, and getting accused of exaggerating, faking, dramatizing wars.


Let’s not normalize our mournings. Let’s not filter and classify the value of people by their religion, gender, and/or color. 


Let’s keep in mind that everyone’s life is precious and only love and unity will take us out of these hard times, hopefully.


May every soul rest in peace. 

Creating World Peace. Is it that hard?

-More than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by fragility and conflict — a majority of which is under the age of 30.

-35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives.
-70% of women in the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

-It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.

-350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.

Shocking ha? 
These numbers were taken from official statistics done by international organizations that probably know only half of the real number of violent acts happening in the world's most remote areas, or even within some households. 
These numbers indeed can be enough for us to raise our voice against the governments, the so-called leaders, and the mindsets that are still refusing to face reality and bound the efforts in order to decrease the alarming rates of violence victims. And by efforts, I do not mean the world leaders bureaucratic efforts that have proven to be far away from being successful, but the efforts of the world's young potentials who are proving day-by-day their commitment to participate in World Peace building. 

Although portrayed to be indifferent, victims, irresponsible parts of their societies, young people are struggling to shut down all doubters and consistently fight for their right to not only be included in policymaking, but also to lead the peaceful process in the world. 

Thankfully, international efforts like the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and Search for Common Ground (SFCG) started acknowledging the importance of including youths in the process of world peace building thanks to their Guiding Principles on Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding initiative. This guideline that included is considered an important step toward the recognition of youths as main partners in the development of the peace building education in the world. 
However, if you are still wondering what can you do to promote peace starting from yourself, to your family, until you reach the whole world, here are small but effective practices that we can all do to step out of the margin and contribute to the World Peace.

1- PLEDGE to never use verbal and/or physical violence.
2- SMILE, it is a charity.

3- BE KIND to kids, to elderlies, to homeless people, to animals, to plants, to mother nature.


 4- Start the Self-development program by Peace Revolution. 
This will be a life-changing experience that will introduce to you the true meaning of life through meditation and Inner peace thanks to a 42-day training guided by monks and Peace coaches.
5- TRAVEL and get to know the world's different traditions, cultures, and religious practices. Travelling is without-a-shadow-of-doubt one of the best answers to your questions related to existence and perception of life.
6- START a club, a movement, an organization 
7- Say 'I love you more often'. It's very important to stop considering showing love as a sign of weakness or commitment. You never know how helpful a simple word can be to people who are having a bad day, or going through psychological issues. Love and spread love, please.
8- VOLUNTEER. TEACH. DONATE. HELP. 
9- SUPPORT everyone who is contributing to making this world a better place.
10- FORGIVE those who once have harmed you. Remember that forgiveness is the first step to your mind and soul's freedom and inner peace.
11- WRITE THIS LIST DOWN and feel free to share it with your family, friends, and colleagues.