First Ever Mind-Body Spirit Symposium at the United Nations

Organized and chaired by Dr. Kalayjian
Press Release (April 2007)

United Nations Ambassador Mr. Francois Oubida, from the government of Burkina Faso, together with the non-governmental organizations Human Rights Committee, held a unique briefing at the United Nations with invited panelists to discuss human rights violations and recovery issues on February 15, 2007.

Entitled Human Rights Violations and Recovery: Mind-Body-Spirit Practices, Ambassador Oubida welcomed attendees and panelists to the first ever combined government/NGO UN program to include examination of mind-body-spirit practices and stated that he was looking forward to hearing from other representatives on how they work to protect the human rights and indigenous rights of their nation’s citizens.

In support of Mr. Oubida, Dr. Ani Kalayjian, President of Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention (ATOP), who organized and chaired the symposium, emphasized the importance of addressing mind-body-spirit interventions to restore individuals and communities. Dr. Kalayjian, who also holds the office of an NGO Representative for the Armenian International Women’s Association, set the stage by identifying a few of the many emails she had received earlier in the day that all related to human rights violations. She brought attention to women “mules” dying in drug trafficking between Mexico and the US; violations to women in the sex-trade industry in Russia; injuries to the Tibetan community in China, child prostitution in Asia, the conflicts between the Tutsi and Hutu in Africa, and she remarked on the recent assassination of her friend, a Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who offended Turkish loyalists by publicly claiming his Armenian heritage.

After a moment of silence in honor of Hrant Dink, Dr. Kalayjian introduced Dr. Beth Hedva, a transpersonal psychologist from Calgary, Canada, who, under the auspices of SEFA (Save Emergency For Aceh), trained recovery workers.  In Aceh, which lost 170,000 souls, everyone is a survivor of double trauma due to suffering 30 years of civil war at the time of the Boxing Day Disaster. Dr. Hedva briefed the group on The Bio-Psychosocial and Spiritual Model – case study in post tsunami Banda Aceh.

Dr. Hedva showed slides of both human-made and natural disasters, outlined six- steps to recovery based on field research of Dr. Kalayjian’s Biopsychosocial and Spiritual Model, and described how she extended Kalayjian’s model through the practice of using ancient and indigenous cross-cultural rites of passage as described in Hedva’s book Betrayal, Trust and Forgiveness.  Dr. Hedva reported on the experiences of local recovery workers who learned to train themselves and others to use both psychological and intuitive, spiritual resources to recover from shock, loss or traumatic stress, and to renew courage, faith and self-respect for both personal healing and community renewal. With 83 percent of donated funds held back as “already allocated,” mind-body-spirit healing and community renewal in Aceh, Hedva concluded, need to also include a global healing that addresses and closes the “rich-poor” divide between more developed nations and those nations that were hit hardest hit by the tsunami.

Dr. John L. Bolling, a psychiatrist who works with at-risk youth from Harlem, New York, briefed attendees about his Soul-Centered-Model – case study with inner city African American youth and how he utilizes his Soul-Centered Model with his clients who do not respond to traditional interventions. Dr. Bolling emphasized the importance of incorporating feminine spirituality as part of ‘soul’ and referred to African and indigenous cultures identification of the Earth as our Mother (Mother Nature) who teaches us to focus on our interdependence upon each other, by understanding the relationship between the individual and the whole.

Dr. Bolling discussed how he incorporated traditional, pre-Christian African approaches in his work. He used the example of the African traditions, which honor one’s ancestors, including speaking to one’s ancestors and “hearing” their voices, without being labeled as “crazy” or suffering from a psychiatric disorder worthy of sedation or anti-psychotic medications. Dr. Bolling spoke about the importance of the soul and how its affect on a person’s functioning has been overlooked. He stressed the importance of uniting both a person’s right, more spiritual, side of the brain with their left, more rational or concrete, side of the brain to develop a more complete soul-centered model.

After a period of questions and answers, Dr. Kalayjian invited Dr. Hedva to instruct attendees in some of the breathing practices that release anxiety and foster stability and relaxation under stressful conditions.  Dr. Kalayjian concluded the session with the statement “When one helps another, BOTH are strengthened.”

Good intentions are no longer enough. I wanted to support humanity in my own way. Meaningful World was a natural way for me to help the victims of tsunami.

So many systems have failed us and as we transition from failed models, attitudes and behaviors that are polarizing, destructive and failing all around us I could not just sit back, be overwhelmed and do nothing… I am doing something with Meaningful World.

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