Can meditation help with integration? Could it help refugees become a part of our society? From May 30 to 31, I had an opportunity to participate in a seminar about working with third country nationals, including refugees, that took place in Babīte, Latvia. I represented World Peace Initiative Foundation (WPI) and introduced participants to meditation.
The seminar was rich in information about working with refugees. It brought together 20 people, mostly social workers from local municipalities, the refugee centre and other people who work with refugees directly or not. All activities were facilitated by lawyers and representatives of the NGO “Shelter Safe House”.
I was especially touched by the stories from all over the world that become daily life experiences as people migrate from one country to another: a boy from Gambia who lives with Latvian step-parents, has learnt Latvian and wants to stay in the country and become a journalist. A family from Syria trying to adapt to the Latvian climate. Reasons why so many people leave Eritrea. A positive example of how a refugee, a sewer, finds a job in his occupation. A challenge for a Muslim refugee while working during the Ramadan.
While listening to all the stories, both positive and negative shared during the seminar, while understanding the reality of very low financial support that refugees receive, intercultural challenges, like learning and understanding the language, adapting to the weather and food, dealing with bureaucracy of obtaining an official status, I was thinking of how meditation could help both to refugees and nationals of the country to accept the situation and feel more empathy towards each other.
It is very often that the mentioned challenges may cause aggression, anger and disappointment which can lead to unhappiness in life. Could meditation help? Could we still take care of our mind and inner peace despite the external conditions happening to us?
In the morning of the second day of the seminar, I was honoured to share with the group how Teaching Monk from WPI has used meditation in a refugee camp in Belgium; this experience resulting in several benefits that refugees felt, for instance being able to sleep at night. Moreover, I guided a 13 minute-long session to allow the group to try meditation by themselves and feel how it can affect one’s mind.