Self portrait wearing my Joy superhero necklace in a taxi in Bangkok.
This week a very dear friend wrote to me in response to my musings on trauma and healing in post-conflict and fragile states like Afghanistan. I've been thinking a lot about what people need in order to recover from the trauma of severe and ongoing violence and violations of their rights. In fact, I've decided to take some time off in the coming years to go back to school and study more about this. I've even discovered that it is possible to study the "psychology of peace and violence", which is an almost perfect match for my personal and professional interests.
So I've been sending out emails all over the world to people who I know and whose experience and insights on these topics I respect and to people I don't know but who are seen to be "experts" and leaders in this field. It is an exciting time, getting responses from friends and strangers alike that show me that I'm not alone in thinking about these topics.
Anyway - back to my very dear friend - she wrote, in reponse to my rambling email about trauma and healing here in Afghanistan, the following beautiful thoughts:
It has been, since the time I spent working through much of this kind of stuff, ... my conviction that the one and only thing that can ever heal the damage done by the cruelty and hatred of humans toward each other, is love. Without it you can never achieve anything but a sterile kind of survival, but through being shown love people can be healed from the worst of abuses and when people themselves learn to give love they can transcend even the most terrible injustice done to them.
Isn't that wonderful! Now you have some idea of why I love her so much. Like me she got her introduction to this kind of work in the intense and complex the Gaza Strip. Since then our paths have been winding in and out of each other and year by year I have the particular pleasure of discovering that we are learning many of the same lessons, even though we keep conspiring somehow to end up in a country just as the other is leaving.
In her words I saw the reflection of something that has been stirring in me lately. After writing my long recent post about "ahimsa" (the principle of non-violence) and the need to be the change we want to see in the world, I've been starting each day with a short meditation on non-violence and a recommitment to "think no violent thoughts, say no violent words and nuture in my heart no violent feelings" throughout the day. I may not be able to end the hatred and violence which seems to be spreading and escalating here again, but at least I can try not to add to it.
I think that my friend is right - if I cannot guarantee justice or even security to the complainants who approach me I can at least guarantee them that I will recognise their dignity and value and that I will treat them with respect and with loving kindness.
So when I go off to do my studies next year, do you think I'll be able to design a research project to show that love really is all we need?