March 2015 By Life Positive Even though much of media space is given over to the rattle of the machine gun, the thunderclap of the bomb, and the clamour of raised voices, there are thousands of people and dozens of organisations working silently in the background to usher in the music of peace. One such organization is Religions for Peace, a multinational and multi-religious organization with presence in 92 countries, committed to pulling together different religions in the service of peace. The organisation stands for causes such as transforming violent conflict, promoting just and harmonious societies, advancing human development, and protecting the earth. The principles of the organisation are broad-minded, standing for respective religious differences, acting on deeply held and widely shared values, and preserving the identity of each religious community. Deepika Singh, Director of Programmes for Religions of Peace was recently in India to attend the Global Interfaith Wash Alliance in Rishikesh. A fresh-faced and confident young woman, she made an impact with her crisp delivery, lauding the initiative that brought together so many religious leaders to support the cause of water, sanitation and hygiene. Formerly working with NGOs, Deepika was drawn to the organization because of the dedication of its staff. “Despite the challenges of limited human and financial resources, we are making a difference and that feels great,” she says. Broad ideals and universal principles are best illustrated with examples at the ground level. Deepika talks of her experience in Ethiopia, where she and her colleagues were working with a religious organisation. In the course of the work they went to a village harrowed with HIV cases. In one family consisting of a couple and an eight-year-old daughter, both husband and wife were down with HIV and it was the little girl who looked after them both. Deepika and her colleagues provided them with a home-based care provider, got the girl re-admitted to school, provided her with books and also got her home tutored. Thanks to the good care given to her, the mother eventually recovered. She was given training in income generation, as well as some seed funding. She began to raise chickens, and eventually expanded to raising goats. She learnt to keep accounts, maintaining one for the house and one for the business. Says Deepika, “Something she said really struck me, because it underscores all that we are trying to achieve. She said, ‘I am very happy that my family and I are getting well, but more than that, I am so grateful that I have got my dignity back.'” The last Deepika heard of her was that her business was steadily growing and she was going to gift a calf to her neighbour. If health and dignity can be restored, surely peace will not take long to follow?
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