As part of our aim to embed critical thinking and peace, Aaghaz-e-Dosti through interview series – “Voices for Peace” features inspiring peace personalities who have worked significantly for Indo-Pak Peace.
We start this series with Ms. Kia Scherr, an inspiring Peace Personality. She is known to the world as the 26/11 (Mumbai attack of 2008) victims’ family member who forgave the terrorists, thereby refusing to submit to hatred which is the goal of terrorism.
We are proud to start this series with her as we feel that her story is not only powerful and inspiring but gives strength to all us peace activists to continue our work, irrespective of the political fluctuations, resulting jingoism and baseless accusations to bog us down.
Kia Scherr was born and raised in a Navy family in the United States. She became a teacher of Transcendental Meditation in Vittel, France in 1974. She raised her children in Washington, DC and then moved to Virginia (USA) with her young daughter and husband.
On November 26th, 2008, the unthinkable happened for Kia. While on a spiritual journey to India, her husband Alan and 13 year old daughter Naomi were killed when terrorists attacked their hotel in Mumbai. Another unthinkable happened but this time for the world. Kia declared that she has forgiven the terrorists and thereby refusing to submit to hatred which was the goal of the terrorists.
Kia co-founded One Life Alliance, an organization dedicated to increasing world peace by raising the standards of behavior in business, education and government.
Kia has been living in Mumbai since 2010 and has become a roving ambassador for world peace. She is currently working with Mumbai Police on a customized pro-active peace training program. She has spoken at conferences all over the United States, Mexico and India. Her story has been featured on major news media throughout the world.
She is the author of “Pocketbook of Peace – A 30 Day Companion” which outlines 30 positive behaviors to increase both inner and outer peace.
- Tell us something about yourself, your native place, educational and professional background?
I was raised in a Navy family and moved every 2 years within the USA. I attended University of Maryland, majoring in English and Business. I was also a teacher of Transcendental Meditation and Synchronicity High-Tech meditation for many years. My husband, daughter and I settled into the Sanctuary for Modern Spirituality in Virginia in 1998. I coordinated retreats on meditation and holistic lifestyle.
- What inspired you to work for peace?
I was inspired to work for peace when the opposite of peace occurred on November 26, 2008. My husband and 13 year old daughter were at the Oberoi Hotel restaurant in Mumbai when terrorists attacked. They were both shot and killed in the attack.
- What was your thinking about Peace and Indo-Pak relations prior to starting your work for Peace?
I did not know much about Indo-Pak relations until after 26/11. Prior to that I knew that outer peace had to start with inner peace, and was working towards that and helping others do the same. After 26/11, the ‘one world family’ became a reality. I felt compassion for those who lost their connection and were capable of killing their fellow human beings. We are all connected by the fact we share this sacred life. We are human beings sharing life and this life must be honored in each of us. Lack of the respect for the dignity of our differences has caused breakdowns in our ability to connect, collaborate and find solutions to our challenges together. Together we can find a way. Together we can do anything with love and respect for our differences. This inspires me.
- Tell us about the initiatives that you have undertaken for peace.
I have written a guidebook to create inner and outer peace – The Pocketbook of Peace – and have offered this experiential, self-directed program to schools, businesses and the Mumbai police department. The Mumbai police program is designed to build police/community trust by creating people friendly police. This is done by a 30 day practice of positive attitudes and behaviors that raises sensitivity and emotional intelligence – both personal and social. We have also created Mission Cricket – which is meant to bring expat businessmen and police together for a Cricket Match for Peace. This is another way to inspire trust, friendship and cooperation in community.
- What were the challenges that you faced/face?
Working in a foreign culture takes a lot of time, patience, and determination. I found local people to help me coordinate with the police department. Challenges are situations that needed to be handled creatively.
Because of aggressive nationalism that marks both countries, whenever there is any clash, there is a lot of jingoism. How do you tackle it?
We must focus on the positive – the benefits of cooperation, collaboration to reduce conflict and violence in all forms. This means willingness to communicate, listen, forgive, and be open to combining resources to solve all disagreements. Use the disagreements to learn more about each other and come to a greater understanding so that all needs can be met.
- Have you ever visited Pakistan? (If yes, please share your experience. If you haven’t, do you wish to visit and why?)
I have not visited Pakistan but I attended a 9 lecture course on ‘Understanding Pakistan’ held at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC. I have conversed with many Pakistani Americans and skyped with Pakistani citizens in the field of education and interfaith harmony. I did an interview on Voice of America at the Pakistan Embassy that was aired all over Pakistan in 2013 and again in 2014.
- In your opinion, what kind of efforts should the governments take up to strengthen relations between India and Pakistan?
Be willing to communicate with respect, listen, understand and come to an appreciation of the benefits to both countries of creating harmony and cooperative efforts for economic growth. Be willing to let go of past history from both sides and start again with renewed commitment to create peace for the benefit it all.
- How do you see Aaghaz-e-Dosti in building bridges and creating a culture of peace between India and Pakistan?
I see Aaghaz-e-Dosti as helping facilitate communication, cooperation and collaboration. Creating conferences to dialogue, share, connect and appreciate each other as human beings while respecting the dignity of differences.
- What is your message for people working on peace between India and Pakistan?
Hold the vision of peace as a reality. Maintain love and compassion for all concerned. Reach out, never give up. Join hands. Find ways to join together and celebrate this life we all share. Love, love and love some more.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti extends its sincere thanks to Ms. Kia Scherr for her valulable time and inputs. This interview was conducted by team members of Aaghaz-e-Dosti.