Can yoga and meditation help bring peace to Afghans?

Mon Dec 5, 2011 6:49am EST
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By Daniel Magnowski

KABUL (Reuters) - As the Afghan government's Western backers pour in cash, and tens of thousands of foreign soldiers patrol the country, a French human rights activist is trying a new way to break the cycle of violence in Afghanistan: yoga and meditation.

"In thirty years of war, we've tried everything and nothing has worked," said Amandine Roche, who believes it is better to try to rid the mind of vengeful thoughts than to disarm a fighter at gunpoint.

Her organization, the Amanuddin Foundation, aims to promote nonviolence by teaching techniques of calm.

Volunteering since February as she searches for funds, she has given classes at which she demonstrates yoga and meditation to men, women, children, police officers, soldiers and former Taliban insurgents.

"It's a new solution to an old problem. War starts in the minds of men, so peace starts in the minds of men. You cannot bring peace with the means of war, it's as simple of that."

The most recent conflict, which started with the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001, has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians, and cost tens of billions of dollars. According to United Nations figures, 2011 is the most violent year since the war began: all signs, Roche argues, that the Western military and diplomatic effort isn't working.

"My project might look crazy, but what is more crazy?"

Key to her work is the idea that peace cannot be imposed from outside, but must come from within an individual, she said.   Continued...