Attack in Islamabad March 2014

On 10th of March 2014, in Islamabad, Pakistan, armed men burnt down a yoga center inaugurated by a world famous Indian Hindu guru who once offered to teach inner peace to the Taliban. The Art of Living center was torched on Saturday night in the a suburb of the capital. A police official told AFP some eight to nine people men armed with pistols and guns were involved in the attack. They tied up three employees on duty that day and spread petrol, burning the place down. Happily, the employees survived.

The yoga centre was the Pakistan branch of an international non-government organization, namely The Art of Living, founded by Nobel peace prize nominee Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The organization is an educational and humanitarian movement engaged in stress-management and service initiatives. The organization operates globally in 152 countries and has touched the lives of over 370 million people.

The programs are guided by Sri Sri's philosophy of peace: "Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace." To help individuals get rid of stress and experience inner peace, The Art of Living offers stress-elimination programs which include breathing techniques, meditation and yoga. These programs have helped millions around the world to overcome stress, depression and violent tendencies.

The Art of Living movement and its sister organizations, dedicated to a vision of violence-free world, has spread peace across communities through diverse humanitarian projects, including conflict resolution, disaster relief, empowerment of women, education for everyone, environment, prisoner rehabilitation.

Shankar last visited Pakistan in 2012, telling AFP in an interview: "I would love to stretch my hands to Talibans because I would like them to see from a broader perspective of the universe." Its adherents in Pakistan were mainly drawn from the country’s urbane, educated elite.

But the branch, built in 2004, has attracted some criticism by some in the media who see yoga as un-Islamic. So despite its beautiful message of peace and non-violence, the yoga centere was completely devastated, most probably due to its peaceful message in a troubled region, whereas human rights are blatantly being breached in such situations, when brutal assaults take place on innocent people, merely for the reason they are different, against the stream or preach a non-violent way of living, not to the liking of everyone, perhaps.

Soteria International pleads for the right of all such organizations to act freely, according to all human rights laws internationally recognized, expresses its sorrow that such actions are happening and appeals to everyone for an open, free, violence-free dialogue aimed at improving the conditions of our lives and respecting all basic human rights, like the fundamental freedom of belief and religion.