Peace not Violence

We have all been in conflict at some time, with someone. Conflict is not unusual. In fact our very individuality is what leads to conflict. Differences in beliefs, values, customs, cultures or opinions are bound to occur because of our unique combinations of personality, intellect, emotions and spirituality.

This is not a bad thing. Conflict however, becomes a problem if we do not learn or know how to manage it. In managing conflict we are able to agree to disagree as the saying goes. Unbridled conflict on the other hand, can easily become unmanageable and lead to violence.

To avoid violence arising from conflict that is not tempered with reason and compassion, we need to resort to a variety of skills and talents, some of which can be taught and learnt.

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Skills to side step violence and lead to peaceful resolutions include critical thinking, thinking before acting, listening compassionately, responding with respect even if you are in disagreement with someone and of course, genuine love for people that overrides the urge to dislike or hate a person because of a difference in opinion.

As Martin Luther King Jr. elegantly put it, “You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.

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Adopt an attitude of love, compassion, humility, respect and peace today. Refuse to hate anyone because they are different than you.

 

 

 

Zebra 101, Stark Contrasts!

Perhaps for me the most outstanding memory of being in Cape Town, South Africa, was the extremes between rich and poor. And perhaps most noticeable was that in as much as some things were different, some things were so similar to home.

The stark differences between the townships, like our local Beetham, and the residential areas was heartrending. Particularly when I viewed District 6 a few days later and saw the areas from which the people were relocated to the townships.

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The cultured speech and bearing of our driver was another contrast as he was well dressed, driving a Mercedes Benz van and going home to his makeshift room in a township.

The townships there in Cape Town consisted of three types of dwellings. There were the houses built by the government, very small and inadequate mind you.  There were the leased rooms  by those who had government houses and there were rented rooms that were like squatters rooms.

The squatters have started building two storey galvanised dwellings as space is definitely a problem in the townships.

My heart was filled with compassion. It is so difficult to see the conditions under which some of us have to dwell. It exists here in Trinidad too. It is so easy to judge others and yet it becomes so difficult to judge when their challenges are considered.

On the one hand though there are people who work hard and honestly to improve themselves and their families. On the other, there are those who turn to crime as a means of survival. What makes one person work assiduously with integrity and another become a criminal?

I was so moved by the performances of some of the young people that we were privileged to witness. We had spoken word performances, singing, musical entertainment, dance and an instrumental performance using buckets and drumsticks only!

Wow!! That is the best sentiment I can offer. Thank goodness my socks were only figuratively blown off. The centre at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens was unheated. I was the only person who had on gloves but I was still extremely cold.

The others suffered in silence except for when I was acknowledged as being smart enough to have gloves! They did not know just how unaccustomed I am to the cold!

The dedication, commitment, diligence, skill and talent of those young persons tugged at my heart strings. I literally cried after one dance performance. The pain was so clearly etched on their faces.

The excellence they achieved with solemn, focussed looks on their faces made me feel as one with them. I felt everything they were expressing and so I could not help but cry.

They performed in an elaborate setting with basic equipment and a tee shirt and pair of jeans or other trousers. Another contrast!

Yes! it is easy to choose to be filled with hate and anger and to be unforgiving but surely at some level we can find it in our hearts to find ways to deal with the unfairness and the beastly behaviour of some persons and not choose to hate a person simply because they bear similarity to another who may have caused pain or hurt.

Tell me how can one not be filled with love for fellow human beings when there is so much we have in common, whether white or black, global north or south, rich or poor…

Peace in Turbulent Times

How do we move past the deep wounds of our turbulent times?

How does one deal with sometimes multiple hurts and misfortunes, that accentuate the unfairness of life and circumstances?

How does a mother or father, a sister or brother, a son or daughter find it somewhere in the heart, the mind, the soul, to get to a point of peace after one or more grievances?

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When you have been dealt with the murder of a loved one, or the ravaging of your personal belongings or person by attackers and if at the same time, you lose your job or have other financial or health challenges, it becomes difficult to believe in the concept of peace and hope.

I have had to deal with multiple losses after a difficult time in my own life. My challenges were not greater or lesser than anybody else’s. They were my unique combination of trials, designed to shape or re-shape my thinking, my approach to life and my destiny.

It can be easy to lose your way and to stay forever lost. To miss out on the blessings and joys that are further along in your journey because you become stuck in the mire of hurt, pain and a lack of forgiveness.

The truth is that for a while remaining in that dark, messy and confusing place filled with anger and frustration is sometimes the best thing to do…providing that doing so supplies the fuel that is needed to create the driving force to pull yourself out of the downward force of negativity.

If you can come to the point of becoming an alchemist of sorts, turning the negative into shining positivity, then you would have found a peace and hope that becomes a beacon for others who have yet to meet their customised difficulties.

Of course bear in mind that good and bad circumstances in life are juxtaposed for greater appreciation of one over the other. This simply means always be alert that life can bring unexpected good or bad.

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So currently in our beloved country of Trinidad and Tobago, there seems to be a negative cloud of darkness overtaking our people. It seems that there can be no hope. It seems that at every turn there is violence, hatred, racialism, killing and destruction. Peace, love and forgiveness have become difficult concepts to grasp.

How can you tell a mother whose only son is brutally murdered that peace will come? How does she relate to forgiving the beasts in human form that committed that criminal act, forever changing the landscape of her life?

You don’t. At least not now. Not right away. She needs time to process. Time to digest and time to come to some form of understanding. The rest of us need to give her the gift of time to come to terms with what has happened. That time can only be determined by her but we will know when she is ready. She will let us know.

In the meantime, we must not allow ourselves to become like the very beasts we wish had never existed. What in their own lives must have molded them into the creatures of destruction that have manifested?

Martin Luther King Jr. and others have postulated that violence breeds violence. True words that are easy to overlook when faced with the harsh realities of murder, rape, kidnapping and other criminal acts.

But we are embarking on an even darker journey if we give in to our base desires for revenge. Violence by “peaceful” men only sends the wrong message to impressionable minds. We must find a peace through doing good not through destroying others, good or bad.

I am not suggesting that you forget the bad but that a way is found to propagate good in the face of evil. Will you stop planting roses or peas because the field is currently overgrown with weeds?

Or will you try to plant the roses or peas in an effort to replace the weeds with the crop?

Maybe not the best comparison but the idea is that peace and goodwill must not be abandoned in the face of seemingly unending negativity.

This morning let us reaffirm our faith in a greater good. Let us pray for a spirit of peace to overcome us all in spite of all the darkness surrounding us.

As we do this, reach out to others in peace and love.

Five ways that we can maintain equilibrium in devastating circumstances:

  1. Allow yourself to experience any feeling to its fullest. Allow yourself to grieve in your own way, at your own time.
  2. Live by the moment. Experience each moment for what it is or what it brings.
  3. Grow into acceptance of what has happened. Not an easy task but a realistic one.
  4. Slowly in your time, reset goals and action plans, short term initially until you get to the point of being able to think in longer time frames.
  5. Get enough rest, nutrition, exercise and hydration. Do not neglect your physical needs. You need to be strong physically so that your body does not collapse inwardly under stress.

Focusing on these five objectives helps to deflect thoughts onto positive pathways, bringing peace where there was only strife, frustration and hurt previously.

Let me know how you dealt with your particular situation or share with me the pain you may be undergoing that seems insurmountable. Someone else may be able to throw the lifeline you need to stay afloat until you can devote and self promote once again.

Yours in faith, peace and education, my friend.

How Victims of Gun Violence Cope

If you were a victim of gun violence, then this blog post is for you. I am reaching out to anyone whose life was drastically affected by an act of gun violence.

My story is told in part on my blog. You may read the older posts. I also wrote a book on my story of survival, pain and healing.

I would like to hear from you if you too suffered as a result of gun violence. I am particularly interested in how you coped, how the healing process is coming along for you and if you are now doing anything that you may not have done if you had not been shot.

The purpose of doing this is to start a blog series with stories from survivors. The intention is to provide stories that imbue hope for others who may be struggling to cope with a desperate situation. Through reading about the overcoming of adversity by others, perhaps someone might be able to make a positive change in their life.

Initially I am focusing on gun violence but I am willing to interview victims of violence generally.

If you are willing to be interviewed so that your story can inspire someone else, please leave a message in the comments below or you may email me at caron_asgarali@yahoo.com

The stories will be published with or without real names depending on your choice. Primary  (actually injured) or secondary (affected but not shot) victims are welcomed.

In my third book, I wrote about the value of deflecting attention away from yourself to help others. It really does work to help you heal when you help someone else. I look forward to hearing from some of you, as we take this leap forward to help others.

Leave a comment in the space below to let me know your thoughts.

A Different Approach to a Book Launch

My third book has been out since December 2016. I have not done, planned nor have I thought about planning a book launch.

This time around things are different. My book is about resilience. The title is “Bounce Back Better 10(+1) Key Steps for Building Resilience.”

It is a follow through from my first book “From Lion to Lamb A Spiritual Journey”.

The first is a memoir based on the incident that changed the course of my life through a severe injury. The third is a self-help book for anyone who has undergone some kind of difficulty and needs encouragement to move forward from that setback.

Both books have come after one act of gun violence. The theme for both books is the same, peacemaking not peace breaking.

Thus after the first book launch which was steeped in formality, planning and structure, I have decided to try a different approach with this third book.

I have put the word out on Facebook that my new book is available. I have my FB page linked to my Balboa Press website. The book is also on Amazon.

In keeping with the theme of the book, I organised an event to launch another of my projects, RARE.

RARE refers to Raising Awareness on the Ripple Effect of gun violence. RARE seeks to raise awareness on the physical, emotional, financial and spiritual effects of of one act of gun violence on the victim as well as those directly and indirectly connected with the victim.

On a deeper level, RARE promotes peacemaking and resilience building.

The launch included four different speakers for each aspect of gun violence. I spoke to pull all aspects together. I did not directly pitch my books but showed the connections between the books and the work being done.

At the event I had all three of my books on display and available for sale. Attendees received a prayer card with one of the prayers from my second book, Gently Powerful Personal Prayers for Collective Grace. Lots of refreshments were available.

 

Critical in this event was:

  1. Ensuring that everyone was clear on their role in the programme.
  2. Having my thoughts well organised before the event day, so that on the day, regardless of any physical setbacks,I was able to clearly communicate to the attendees the purpose of the event.
  3. Having people to handle the distribution of the prayer cards, the sale of the books, the thank you cards and the refreshments. Special thanks to my family and friends.
  4. Sending out much more invitations than the estimated amount of guests.
  5. Having an outline or programme of event so that the evening flowed smoothly.
  6. Outsourcing the refreshments. I already had enough to do without having to worry about preparing refreshments.
  7. Having a good, experienced host for the evening, who was able to hold the fort and bring harmony among the speakers.

There is more but I will leave that for another post.

So a book can be promoted without directly promoting it in a classy way (not that I think I am classy).

Feel free to ask me anything about launching your book.

A Bit About Gunshot Wound Mechanisms

The penetration of a projectile(bullet or fragment) into tissue is categorized as a special form of blunt trauma.
 
A gunshot wound consists of:
  • tissue penetration,
  • crushing and rupturing of tissue,muscle, capillaries, nerves and bones(depending on size and density),
  • the formation of a primary cavity or more accurately a permanent wound tract or channel,
  • the formation of a secondary cavity and
  • for close range shots, greater injury as a result of the blast effect from the bullet’s propellant gases. If the bullet is retained, tissue burning takes place.
 
The movement of the projectile through tissue follows fluid dynamics, a complex engineering topic. The immersed projectile is considered to be moving forward with surrounding tissue “flowing” around it.
The chances of survival depend on the nature of the injury. This in turn depends on how deep was penetration, the type of gun and bullet, the distance, the type of tissue into which the bullet entered, the degree of “yawing” and tumbling of the bullet as well as the amount of blood lost before the victim is treated.
Here is an illustration of the mechanism of a bullet wound for one type of bullet.
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Violence… a learned behaviour

aggressive-violent-behavior-nature-or-nurture

The response of violence to conflict is, to some extent, a learned behaviour. This statement includes gun violence.

It comes from a place of fear of being a target, fear of living daily with the threat of gun violence and fear of not conforming. That is a lot of fear.

Even before a crime takes place, guns, and the accompanying violence, play a significant part in the lives of those in communities with a reputation of violence.

The outcome of such fear and learned violent behaviour is a lack of respect for the value of life, individual, community and national life.

Those who suffer directly or indirectly from the effects of gun violence all reach to the same place emotionally and mentally.

This congruence of feeling and thought creates a hopeful opportunity. It ought to become the catalyst that gives us the will and courage to address the gun violence that is becoming a part of our daily life.

Religious leaders are casting blame on the lack of coherence of family units for the increasing violence in society.

Alternatively a family may be unified but their environment and learned responses of violence precludes the teaching of respect for anything including life.

One leader has included the availability of drugs and weapons as well as the existence of gangs as factors contributing to the rising violence and incidences of gun related crimes.

All of these are true. The reasons are valid and relevant.

However my aim (no pun intended) is not to cast blame or vent anger or frustration against the system or the perpetrators of violence.

Instead my aim is to amplify the message of the sanctity of life and the kind of respect each one of us needs to have for the life of another.

With every pull of a gun trigger, there emerges a bullet that may hit a living target.

That bullet may penetrate through tissue, tendons, nerves, muscles and bones causing physical damage in the immediate area.

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The kinetic energy of that compact piece of lead disseminates to surrounding organic matter causing further damage not immediately visible.

Similarly, that same bullet penetrates the psyche of the victim and his or her family, friends and associates, tearing their lives apart emotionally, spiritually, mentally, financially and in other ways.

The ripple effect of that nucleus of destruction is far reaching and has no time limits.

The learned behaviour of violence in response to conflict can be unlearnt. New, more peaceful responses can be learnt which lead to greater respect and harmony.

Your response?

R.A.R.E.

Raising Awareness on the Ripple Effect of gun violence. R.A.R.E. GuV

Paving the way toward peace.  

The two statements above are representative of the work I am about to undertake. The actual title and tagline are still being worked on but soon enough I will get there.

This work ties in with the availability of my third published book, Bounce Back Better, 10(+1) Key Steps for building Resilience. The idea for working to combat the forces that drive violent actions was born at a Global Leadership Summit I attended in Trinidad during October 2016.

I had plans to raise awareness of the plight of victims of gun violence prior to that, through the book, and I had a vague concept of what was needed to be done but, attending that summit brought a degree of clarity that was missing.

In this post, on this new page, I give you the rationale for such action and the nature of my stance i.e. a position of action not reaction, not blame. So here goes.

Sunday January 29th, 2017 will mark the fourth anniversary of the day that gun violence made its indelible mark on my life and the lives of many within my inner circles.

There are those who would trivialize such an incident by remarking, “It has been four years after all, move on, forget about it.”

Sadly, though it may be easy to utter such words, anyone with a social conscience will know that path of simply forgetting and moving on is obvious only for the unenlightened. For those who have been through the fires of such an adverse situation, the path forward requires more than physical and emotional healing. Recovery is an ongoing process that demands giving of self to elevate society.

As such I have come to that point in my personal journey where I may now serve by sharing from my experience. The prevalence of gun violence in my beautiful twin island home of Trinidad and Tobago is increasing. It has now become almost the norm to hear reports of yet another fatality or injury through gun violence. In fact the current statistic available at the time of writing this piece, taken  from the Trinidad and Tobago 2016 Crime & Safety Report , reveals that 81% of murders in 2015 were committed by the use of a firearm (https://www.osac.gov/pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=19522). No figures were available for 2016.

Being a former victim positions me to speak out in favour of peaceful resolutions instead of violent persuasion. The burden of responsibility for raising awareness about the ripple effect of gun violence is squarely cast upon my shoulders.

The position I have chosen to adopt  is not to cast blame or seek to point fingers at anyone. It is not intended to vent anger or frustration against those who choose the use of guns. Instead the purpose is to raise awareness of the ripple negative impact of the use of guns. Through that awareness, the mission is to generate peaceful resolutions and attitudes. The ultimate purpose of R.A.R.E of gun violence is to bring to the forefront the sanctity and value of life and the respect we need to have for individual lives.

The effect of gun violence has already impacted many of our citizens in the past. Perhaps even as you read this, someone else may be affected. It may have indirectly affected you. Who knows what the future holds? Let us not keep assuming it is going to be someone else and their family. Let us strive to add our one drop to the ocean to make a difference. Let us embrace peace and work toward developing our moral, mental and spiritual consciousness as we systematically reinforce our strengths to defeat the kind of environment that breeds violence.

Let us pave the forward peacefully.

Painful or pain full? Children killing children.

Boy, 10, killed in gun play

http://www.trinidadexpress.com/20150806/news/boy-10-killed-in-gun-play

My heart is filled with so much pain on reading this: pain for the family without one of its members forever; pain for the child who has lost a vital part of his childhood having committed this act; pain for the child who was wounded and is hospitalised; and pain for the larger picture.

What really is the larger picture? In my mind it is the steady decline in morality in our society, the growing lack of respect for life and the frightening sub-culture of weaponry education (not even sure if that makes sense but it so aptly says what is in my mind.)

Many are focussing on the ever-increasing number of photos displaying kids with guns surfacing on social media sites.

These bring into the spotlight the possibility that this may not have been an odd incident of children playing with the gun of an adult without the adult’s cognizance or compliance.

What of the scenario where the children may be encouraged in holding guns to become familiar with the feel of a weapon, to learn how to hold it properly?

You know, like how one would lend a child a cricket bat to become used to holding it so that when the time comes to use it, the child will be suitably prepped.

Time is spent on developing their gun toting skills so that when they are older the gun becomes like a third appendage.

Little time appears to be spent on developing morals and values. There appears to be a corresponding decline in spirituality with the increasing lack of compassion and respect for human life.

I shudder whenever I hear of a shooting, particularly when it results in death. I shudder for the usual reasons. I also react from the perspective of a former victim.

I wondered then and still do, how could someone have watched me, at such close range, and fired at me, with no care if I lived or died? Perhaps whoever it was even wanted me to die!

I wondered how it is that I was such an easy going person and someone would have such hatred for me… and that someone did not even know me.

I wondered what could have gone so wrong that someone had to shoot at me, a harmless person, unarmed, a person who would do almost anything for anyone, where was the compassion?

As a society we really do have to take stock. We cannot go on with superficial caring, being hurt in reaction to some incident, soon to forget when some other sensational news item emerges.

I accept my own lack of conviction. I feel but I do nothing about it. I write in response to the occasional incident.

I have planned programmes, just waiting to deliver them to the right forum, to anyone willing to accomodate me, but that is where I have reached.

I have planned. I now have to execute. I will be starting when school re-opens. I have approached a couple schools and have received positive feedback.

My plan is to attack from a spiritual point of view. I am not restricting my strategy to religion.

There is much to learn about mercy, forgiveness, compassion, humility, integrity, peace, love and purity of heart and purpose.

I end still on a saddened note. What kind of world are we leaving for our children and grandchildren if we do not impart values and morals to them?

Tell me your views on the scourge of violence and lack of respect for life plaguing our universe. What is your individual contribution to dissipate the insidious  and obvious evils of crime and violence which are threatening to envelope  all people?

How To Live In Times of Trouble

We know what it means to walk for health. Walk briskly; keep your heart rate slightly elevated, so that sweating develops as you walk. Walking for health requires walking at least three times per week for at least half an hour per session.

We walk for health reasons because walking and jogging are linked to reduction in the risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

Some walk for the relief it provides from stress by the production of the feel good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine and by the corresponding reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol.

Yet others walk for the social benefits. They walk with friends and make friends along the way.

I knew one man who walked for ice-cream, sweet bread and cake… my dear father!

Barry Murphy, managing director of Paganini, which produces FitFuel ice creams. The products come in single-serving tubs.Photograph: ©Inpho/Dan Sheridan

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/new-fortified-food-from-the-ice-cream-man-is-going-down-a-treat-1.1765628

Walking for health or exercise is something we purposefully set about to do. It is done at fixed times, regularly and with dedication and commitment.

1Thessalonians 5 begins with a reminder that believers in Christ are aware of God’s will, love God and want to walk in his light.

To walk in his light is not an act to be carried out only when we think that the time is near for his return or that our time of death is near. No, walking in his light should be approached just as walking for exercise is approached: consistently, whether we are being monitored or not.

We are reminded that just as a thief comes in the night – unexpectedly, unannounced – so too will be the return of the Christ.

It is our duty as believers to live alert, keeping our actions aligned with God’s will.

So how do we live in times of trouble? It ought to be very much like how we live in good times: aware of God’s will, loving him and walking in his light.

The latter part of 1 Thessalonians 5 is filled with wisdom; there are snippets of advice for living a purposeful life; a life of service. It is part of the manual of how to live in God’s light at all times, troubled or not.

I strongly recommend reading the scripture here, regardless of your religious persuasion or even if you are an atheist.

The reason for my recommendation is that the message contains Universal principles for living with consideration, gratitude, humility, love and responsibility.

These principles may help reduce the perception of hopelessness due to rampant violence and indifference evident all around us. Application of these principles may even counteract the actual acts which cause trouble.

https://hateandanger.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/nonviolence/

Who amongst us would not wish to alleviate the levels of aggression, hatred and animosity in this world? Education, reasoning and love are three critical elements in overcoming the social cancer of violence.

I have summarized some of the main points from the latter part of the scripture below (my list is not exhaustive).

  1. Be self-controlled and alert.
  2. Have faith in your Creator.
  3. Encourage one another, building up not destroying each other.
  4. Live in peace with each other.
  5. Warn the unruly.
  6. Comfort those who need comforting.
  7. Support the weak.
  8. Exercise patience and patient endurance.
  9. Be kind.
  10. Be joyful (embrace all situations, good or troubled times, with grace).
  11. Pray at every opportunity, consistently.
  12. Be grateful and express it.
  13. Surround yourself with what is good, practice what is good and stay away from anything that either is not good or does not appear to be good.

How do you handle times of trouble?