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April 16, 2016

Finding Inner Peace to Love Our Human Family — Addressing the World Refugee Crisis

A Syrian Kurdish refugee child from the Kobani holds a bucket at a refugee camp in Suruc, near the Turkey-Syria border . Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo

A Syrian Kurdish refugee child from the Kobani holds a bucket at a refugee camp in Suruc, near the Turkey-Syria border . Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo

Last fall, the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation launched Peace3, a campaign to inspire young people how to create a world of peace within themselves, peace between people, and peace among nations, based on the legacy of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Since launching that program, I have been struck by how may people have reached out to us from all over the world, specifically asking us if we can address the issue of refugees .

This situation becomes worse with every passing week. As Pope Francis prepares to visit the Syrian refugees, the nations of Europe turn to fear mongering among their populace, endorsing an attitude of xenophobia. In the United States, a candidate has risen to the top of a major party by promising to build a wall to keep out migrants and refugees trying to enter from Mexico. All the while, people, many of them children, are drowning in the Mediterranean, being forced into slavery, or detained for months on end in camps or detainment centers. From Malaysia to Texas, mass graves filled with the corpses of migrants are being discovered as their families are left to worry and wonder.

Xenophobia toward refugees is a world-wide dilemma, what can we do?

At its very core, our Peace3 program is based in the South African concept of ubuntu —Archbishop Tutu has explained this concept by saying, “my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu listens to Yusuf Batil refugees at a camp in South Sudan. Photo/Adriane Ohanesian

Archbishop Desmond Tutu listens to Yusuf Batil refugees at a camp in South Sudan. Photo/Adriane Ohanesian

When we see refugees suffering, and we choose not to do something, isn’t that deliberately hurting them? No one chooses to be a refugee. Refugees face poverty, discrimination, starvation, physical abuse, and separation from loved ones — but it is still better than the war or genocide they often face if they remain in their home countries.

Many of our leaders, abetted by our media, want us to be afraid of these refugees. They encourage a xenophobic attitude so that we as a society have an irrational fear of these innocents.

But we can overcome this. The first principal of Peace3 is peace within. We can be realistic about our fears and encourage others to overcome theirs. We can educate ourselves, learn about the refugee situation, learn about the economic facts related to immigration. We can make an effort to get to know each other without the blinders of fear that have been thrust upon us.

All of us remember the image of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy who was found dead on a beach off the coast of Turkey last year. That one image shifted the way that so many people throughout the world viewed the Syrian refugee crisis and humanized the issue for so many of us. But that goodwill toward the Syrian refugees ended when Paris was attacked last November and once again, an irrational fear was promoted.

But we can choose to have inner peace which will in turn allow us to change our mindset. What political messages do we listen to? Where are we getting our information? Are we choosing to feed our minds with content that subjects ourselves to fear and violence — or can we choose sources that are focused on love and peace?

It is easy to be influenced by negativity. We listen to the messages that we want to hear. When you look at a refugee, are you looking for a terrorist or a brother? Are you looking for hatred or love? By choosing to focus our minds on positivity, we not only will find happiness — we will find inner peace.

Nelson Mandela said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Those of us living in free societies need to find freedom from our mental chains, and then make an effort to welcome refugees.

But we also need to do more. Not every person can live in the U.S. or Canada or Europe. But we have the resources to help everyone in the world. The financial costs of terrorism and wars is far more than the cost of dealing with the issues that lead to refugees at their source. Most refugees don’t want to be refugees and would stay in their home countries if they could.

As long as people in the world are suffering from a lack of food, a lack of clean drinking water, a lack of education — we will have people wanting to escape those conditions. When people live with corrupt governments or a lack of care for the environment, or are denied their civil rights — those people will not have happiness.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu greets a refugee in a Yusuf Batil camp in Southern Sudan. Photo/Adriane Ohanesian

Archbishop Desmond Tutu greets a refugee in a Yusuf Batil camp in Southern Sudan. Photo/Adriane Ohanesian

Archbishop Tutu says, “We all belong to this one family, this human family, God’s family.” Are we going to fear our brothers and sisters, or are we going to learn about them, embrace them? Happiness comes from our relationships with other people. We can choose not to fear and instead to show love and compassion.

We can find peace within ourselves, share that peace with our brothers and sisters, and it will lead to peace among nations.

February 20, 2016

Inner Peacekeeping For Global Peacekeepers

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 2.28.04 PMAs a human rights lawyer for the United Nations, Amandine Roche worked for 15 years in conflict zones under challenging circumstances. She realized that many of the humanitarians were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and had inadequate resources to deal with it. In her TEDx talk she makes the case for how ancient wisdom traditions such as yoga and meditation can help humanitarians on the front lines to avoid burnout, stress and depression.

She has worked in more than 20 electoral processes in post-conflict countries, mainly in Afghanistan for the last decade, with a focus on civic education, democratization, gender and youth empowerment.

After the kidnapping and assassination of Read More

February 12, 2016

Bay Area Youth Create Song, Video Inspired by Desmond Tutu Peace3 Initiative

#Peace3 video aims to inspire millennial peace builders to find Peace Within, Peace Between, and Peace Among.

The Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation (DTPF) is thrilled to announce the release of the song and music video “Peace3”, which is the result of a collaboration between the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation and Bay Area youth non-profit NegusWorld. The song is the first in a series of collaborations between the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation and youth organizations across the United States in support of their #Peace3 initiative.

The mission of #Peace3 is to be a catalyst for global peace by creating a world in which everyone values human dignity and embraces our essential interconnectedness – using Desmond Tutu’s life and teachings to inspire young people to build a world of peace within, peace between people and peace among nations. The project also aims to inspire one million young adults, aged 17-22, to learn and engage in peacebuilding as their life’s work.

“We launched the #Peace3 program with the idea to inspire young people to take action. The youth of NegusWorld came to us inspired by the idea of peace within, peace between and peace among and asked us if they could write a song about it,” said Brian Rusch, Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation. “They perfectly captured the essence of the program while simultaneously creating an anthem of peace for their generation.” Read More

December 4, 2015

An Invitation to Forgive

by Desmond Tutu

As a young boy, I spent many nights watching helplessly as my father verbally and physically abused my mother. I can still recall the smell of alcohol, see the fear in my mother’s eyes, and feel the hopeless despair that comes when we see people we love hurting each other in incomprehensible ways. I would not wish that experience on anyone, especially not a child.

If I dwell in those memories, I can feel myself wanting to hurt my father back, in the same ways he hurt my mother. My mother was a gentle human being who did nothing to deserve the pain inflicted upon her. It is perfectly normal to want to hurt back when we have been hurt. But hurting back rarely satisfies. We think it will, but it doesn’t. If I slap you after you slap me, it does not lessen the sting I feel on my own face, nor does it diminish my sadness as to the fact you have struck me. Retaliation gives, at best, only momentary respite from our pain. The only way to experience permanent healing and peace is to forgive. Read More

November 11, 2015

Recognizing and Accepting White Privilege

“All the white people in the room, raise your hand.” As I sat in a classroom on Valencia College campus, I looked around as I and the other caucasians or predominantly caucasian people timidly raised their hand, fearing what was going to come out of the mouth Niso Tutu, the teenaged granddaughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “You all have ‘white privilege’. This isn’t a bad thing, you need to use it to make this world a better place.” Read More

October 6, 2015

November Schedule for ‘Conversations on Peace’ Launch

November 2nd and 3rd, the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation will be joining the Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College for the launch of “Conversations on Peace”, a live interactive event taking place in partnership with Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.

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