Breathing for peace and reconciliation in Liberia

A mindfulness breathing technique born of Buddhism and the Vietnam war is helping peace and conflict resolution in Liberia. Harper Karmon, executive director of the Peace Hut Alliance for Conflict Transformation (PHACT), says the simple practice has greatly helped his organisation’s work with ex-combattants, including many child soldiers, and with war widows and children.

“This training has helped us to be very easy in working with people, helping them regaining their self esteem and reuniting families. Also, most especially, this training has also helped us in making great changes to our lives and our families,” he says.

Karmon was interviewed at Plum Village in southwest France, where he is taking part in the monastic centre’s month-long summer retreat.

Liberia’s civil war spanned two periods of fighting between 1989 and 2003. Almost 150,000 people died, mostly civilians, according to United Nations figures. Of the hundreds of thousands of people displaced, some 850,000 refugees ended up in neighbouring West African countries. PHACT’s work is intended to help heal the great suffering induced by war.

“We feel very strongly that this mindfulness training can make a great impact on the lives of the Liberian people,” Harper added.

PHACT uses a mindfulness training developed by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh to help people live happily in the present moment, using their in and out breaths to sharpen their awareness. The idea is that by developing peace in themselves, people help build peace in the world. Nhat Hanh was exiled from Vietnam in 1973, settling in France.

Contact: peacehutalliance [@] – removing the square brackets and spaces to form a complete email address.