Calming Conflict and Violence
Since the US attack on Iraq, there have been more than 95,000 civilian deaths, most due to suicide bombings, IEDs (improvised explosive devices), or mortar or rocket attacks. These deaths are the result of the sectarian warfare which is currently ongoing in the country, with some seven civilians killed each day. This continual conflict has disrupted many aspects of “normal” life in the country. For example, only 30 percent of the country’s 3.5 million students are attending school.
Yet, starting in 2006, one individuals in particular—Brian Pinkowki—has made inroads into Iraq using The Way to Happiness. Brian has delivered dozens of TWTH seminars to over 2,500 people and has distributed nearly 30,000 The Way to Happiness books.
His training sessions have touched people from all walks of life—women in leadership positions, state workers, university students and employees of local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
In addition, his team has published precepts from the book in a local paper, giving them tools to confront the issues in their communities.
Here is some of the impact of The Way to Happiness on the lives of those participating:
“We should not base our lives on the loss of others’ lives; it is absolute selfishness to build our happiness on other people’s tragedies. True happiness springs from ideal relationships with others; the criteria for happiness is determined by our relationship with others.”
“This training session has taught me how to leave my little cocoon and think about the external world. Now I am not only thinking about my problem but I am thinking about other people’s problems and solutions. I have learned how to manage my time. During the past two days I have changed my daily program and now I am trying to change my behavior. This is the first step towards happiness.”
The head of one of the NGOs explained after the seminar:
“The book taught me how to bring happiness to myself, by using the power of persuasion and distancing from trouble, deceivers and evil people. I can bring happiness to the people I love by providing assistance and care.”
Today, The Way to Happiness is continuing to be distributed through Iraqi society to help bring calm and prosperity.
For decades, Colombia has been one of the most troubled nations in the Western Hemisphere, suffering from continual social violence and conflict. In the 1940s and ’50s, the countryside was torn by extensive violence, generally called, “La Violencia.” In the 1960s the left-wing guerrilla movement, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), arose, which was in turn countered by a right-wing paramilitary response. The country was further torn apart by several major drug cartels in the 1970s and ’80s. Upon the collapse of the cartels, the FARC and paramilitary became involved in the dispute over Colombian cocaine production and trafficking—a conflict which generated hundreds of kidnappings, murders and violence throughout the society. While to top it off, Colombia’s military had a long record of human rights abuses. In 2004, the United Nations summed up this social turmoil by describing the Colombian conflicts as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere.”
It was at this point that The Way to Happiness entered the scene, when Colombian actor and comedian, Andrés López, decided to address the problem. He created a unique show in which he fully presents each of the twenty-one precepts of The Way to Happiness. Through these performances and events, he has influenced not only tens of thousands of citizens, but many of the country’s top civil and military officials.
To date, Andrés has delivered The Way to Happiness events and seminars to over 14,000 military personnel. Accordingly, in 2008 the Minister of Defense bestowed upon Mr. López an award for his work as a “Soldier of Happiness.”
While as much as Andrés has addressed the military, his major focus is to bring The Way to Happiness to all the Colombian people. Since 2005, he has delivered his performances to more than 50,000 people, providing each one with their own copy of the book.
As just one example, in May 2008 Andrés and The Way to Happiness spokesperson, Venezuelan actress, Ruddy Rodriguez, organized a six-hour show featuring well-known Latin performers Nicolas Tovar and Alberto Plaza. Attended by more than 11,000 people, the event culminated in Andrés’ The Way to Happiness performance.
In total, over 3 million copies of The Way to Happiness have been distributed in Colombia through the actions of Andrés López and Ana Mercedes, who directs The Way to Happiness campaign in the country.
Recognizing the power of The Way to Happiness and the pressing need to change conditions on a grass-roots level, in 2000, Danny Vidislavski responded to the crisis of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising), which provoked renewed conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
With the help of staff and volunteers, Danny set out to distribute Arabic and Hebrew copies of The Way to Happiness throughout the region. Since that time, they have distributed more than 4 million copies of the booklet to both Palestinians and Israelis, as well as delivered more than 8,000 lectures and workshops attended by more than 300,000 people. The group also developed a series of short plays, especially for young people, which have been performed both in the open air where public gather and more formally on stage and in classrooms.
Following is one response amongst many from those attending presentations delivered by Danny and his team, “We want to thank you for this workshop. We learned a lot from it. We learned how to be patient and tolerant. I hope there will be peace in the world and a time when we can all enjoy life and be happy.”