SOURCE: Art of Living Foundation

May 25, 2007 00:28 ET

His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Brings Message of Peace to Iraq

WASHINGTON, DC -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 25, 2007 -- His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, renowned spiritual leader from India and founder of the Art of Living Foundation, left Baghdad today after spending three days in Iraq on a peace mission at the invitation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This is the first time that an Indian spiritual leader has officially been invited to the war-torn country on a peace mission. During his visit, Sri Sri had a private meeting with the Prime Minister. He also met with a number of senior political and religious officials, including leaders belonging to Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties.

"I was able to meet a cross-section of people including several Shiite leaders, widows, tribal leaders and youth," Sri Sri said on Thursday before leaving for Amman, Jordan where he is scheduled to deliver a talk at the University of Jordan and attend a reception with leaders in the Arab capital.

Upon arriving at the Baghdad airport on Tuesday, Sri Sri was transported to the Green Zone under the protection of US and Iraqi troops, where he immediately met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. During the meeting, Al-Maliki invited Sri Sri's Art of Living Foundation to undertake its prison rehabilitation program in jails in Iraq. Readily accepting the Prime Minister's request, Sri Sri said that he would like to bring AOLF's programs to all sections of Iraq's society. Sri Sri expressed his pain over the violence and struggle of the Iraqi people, saying, "The people of Iraq don't deserve the violence and the pain. My heart bleeds for them."

Al-Maliki emphasized the key role of humanitarian organizations like the Art of Living Foundation in rebuilding Iraq. He stated, "Big powers are big enough... but they are not able to unite humans, people together."

While in Iraq, Sri Sri met with the ministers of youth and human rights as well as several members of Parliament. Impressed by the initiatives of the Art of Living Foundation, youth minister Jasin Mohammed Jaffer committed to send several youth from each province of Iraq to the Art of Living Foundation's International Center in Bangalore, India. The youth will participate in AOLF's innovative Youth Leadership Training Program.

Sri Sri also met with more than 80 Shia and tribal leaders in Baghdad, urging them to end all killings. "Give the non-violence philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi a trial; give peace a chance," Sri Sri said. The leaders invited the spiritual leader to consider Iraq his second home and applauded the humanitarian work of the Art of Living Foundation for their country. "We welcome your delegation with open arms and hearts. We welcome you as our brother and we are ready to work hand in hand with you," said Shia leader Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Aqaadi, welcoming Sri Sri to the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

Sri Sri met many key leaders including Shia cleric Al-Sheikh Bashir Hussain Al-Najafi. The leaders sought his cooperation in bringing peace to Iraq. On Sri Sri's arrival in Najaf, the governor of Najaf, Azad Sultan, lauded Sri Sri's peace initiatives in Iraq. Sri Sri also visited the famous Ali Bin Abu Talib Mosque and paid his respects at the tomb of Hazrat Ali, grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

During his visit, Sri Sri met with a group of grieving Iraqi women, widowed by the unending conflict in the country. He also met with Red Crescent officials. "Up until now we have only known the art of dying," one Red Crescent official said, as he praised Sri Sri for bringing the "art of living" to the victims suffering from the long drawn-out war.

The Art of Living Foundation has been active in Iraq since 2003 and is one of the few non-governmental organizations operating in Baghdad today. Thousands of Iraqi citizens have benefited from the trauma relief programs, holistic medical care and women's empowerment projects of the Art of Living Foundation in cooperation with the International Association for Human Values.

To date 43 Iraqi citizens from Baghdad, Basra, Suleimania and Karbala have completed AOLF's rigorous teacher training program in Bangalore, India. Their aim is to help alleviate the suffering of fellow Iraqis.

The Art of Living Foundation and the International Association for Human Values, both founded by Sri Sri, are international non-profit educational and humanitarian organizations in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. To date, Art of Living programs have benefited more than 25 million people in over140 countries.

To arrange an interview with His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and learn more about the Art of Living Foundation contact Patti Montella at (512)576-7264 or email patti@artofliving.org

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