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.


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