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Art of Living Foundation to Train Iraqi Youths

Iraq has decided to send youths to learn meditation from Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who ended a path-breaking visit to the war-hit country Thursday with a trip to the holy city of Najaf.

Impressed by the Art of Living Foundation, Iraqi Youth Minister Jasin Mohammed Jaffer vowed he would send three youths from each province of Iraq to Bangalore to undergo the group's Youth Leadership Training Programme.

He made the announcement late Wednesday as Ravi Shankar met the ministers of youth and human rights as well as four MPs, an Art of Living statement said. On their request, he conducted a mediation session for them.

The Indian guru flew into Baghdad from Amman Tuesday and met Iraqi leaders as well as grieving widows and urged people to end the cycle of violence that has left hundreds of thousands dead since 2003.

On Thursday, Ravi Shankar visited the holy city of Najaf, where Shia leader Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Aqaadi welcomed him.

"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," the statement quoted Aqaadi as saying.

Ravi Shankar met many Iraqi leaders including Shia cleric Al-Sheikh Bashir Hussain Al-Najafi. All of them sought his cooperation in bringing peace to Iraq.

Expressing his pain over the violence in Iraq, Ravi Shankar said: "People of Iraq don't deserve the violence and the pain. My heart bleeds for the people of Iraq."

He also visited the Ali Bin Abu Talib Mosque and paid his respect at the tomb of Hazrat Ali, grandson of Prophet Muhammed.

Ravi Shankar said ahead of his departure from Iraqi to Jordan: "I was able to meet a cross-section of people including several Shia leaders, women, widows, tribal leaders and youths."

On Wednesday, over 80 Shia and tribal leaders interacted with him in Baghdad. The Indian guru tol d them: "Give the non-violence philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi a trial, give peace a chance."

Saying that Iraq was the Indian guru's second home, the Iraqi leaders lauded the work done by the Art of Living in Iraq.

Ravi Shankar also visited the Art of Living centre in Baghdad and reviewed the humanitarian work carried out by the Art of Living teachers and volunteers.

He also interacted with the beneficiaries of the Art of Living's women empowerment project.

Several Iraqis have completed special trainings to impart the Art of Living techniques to the Iraqi people.

In 2006, a batch of 43, mostly women from Baghdad, Basra, Suleimania and Karbala graduated to be Art of Living teachers.

So far, 5,000 Iraqis have undergone the Art of Living trauma relief workshops apart from attending the Ayurvedic training camps.


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