Over 40 Iraqis are on their way home after a month-long training in trauma relief, with one of them saying what she learnt in India will surely help improve life in war-torn Iraq.
"I have no doubt that whatever I have mastered will help my people in Iraq," Wafa Esmaeel Omara said in a telephone interview from Bangalore, where she was among 43 Iraqis who attended the training at the Art of Living International Centre.
"Art of Living techniques are already popular there," Wafa, 43, a mother of three who works in the office of the Baghdad mayor, told IANS. "We feel more and more Iraqis are ready to benefit."
The Art of Living Foundation claims it is the world's largest volunteer based NGO. Its service projects, programmes on yoga, meditation and stress elimination have benefited over 20 million people from all walks of life, religions and cultures. It is led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and is headquartered in Bangalore, India's IT capital.
The special training for the Iraqis, who were from Baghdad, Basra and Karbala and included lawyers, government officers, journalists and engineers, ended July 20. Most of them have flown home but a few, Wafa included, are still there.
Wafa said ever since she came into contact with Art of Living teachers in Iraq, her life had dramatically turned for the better.
"I came to know about them in July 2003 through my brother-in-law," she said. "It was a five-day programme involving breathing techniques and meditation. You may not believe it, but I began to feel good right from the first breath I took in the classes.
"It was a wonderful feeling. What they taught improved my health, it made me calm and it helped me improve my relationship with my family."
Wafa said she then volunteered to become a teacher - to spread the message.
"I am sorry my English is not that good and so I cannot describe in words how good everything has been," she said, speaking haltingly. "As for the conditions in Iraq, they are bad, how bad I cannot tell you. We just live."
The month-long training included inter-personal and leadership skills, trauma relief techniques and trauma counselling.
An Art of Living teacher, an Indian born in Kuwait, added that the lessons given here would help Iraqis gain peace of mind and tranquillity that are so badly lacking in today's violence-torn Iraq.
"Art of Living is already helping," said Vindo Kumar, an Arabic-speaking 43-year-old who quit the corporate world to join Art of Living project 1991 and was among the first from India to visit Iraq.
"What is important is the mind. Ultimately, it is all in the mind of the people," he said. "Imagine, no mobile phones, no water, no electricity, all this has a psychological impact. So most certainly our techniques help."
Kumar went with Indian ayurvedic doctors three years ago to Baghdad determined to make a difference to the life of ordinary Iraqis.
"We had a mission, and that was to render humanitarian aid to a traumatized people."
While the doctors treated Iraqis for free, Kumar began to teach 'pranayama', breathing techniques and meditation. So far 5,000 Iraqis have undergone the Art of Living trauma relief programme.
He explained why: "Right from children to adults, even the armed forces, everyone goes through trauma during war situations. They have to cope with total uncertainty and total lack of assurance what they will do the next day."
Al Mosawi, head of the ruling Shia Council in Baghdad, who also came here, added: "I have brought with me delegates from (Iraq) so that they can spread the message of peace and love back home."
"I want to make a difference to my country and to my fellow countrymen," said Mariam Al Reyes, a former member of parliament. "That's why, despite all odds, I have come here to learn and share this experience with my people."