On 21st September, 2016, Shanti Ashram celebrated the International Day of Peace, guided by the UN theme, ‘The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace,’ at Kongunadu Arts and Science College, India. Two hundred and forty four (244) students and 11 members from Shanti Ashram participated in the programme. Religious leaders Swami Gopalanadha, President, Vishwa Yoga peetham, Rev. Ruban, Harvest India Mission, Mr. Abdul Hakeem, PRO, and Jamad-e-Islam hind headed the interfaith prayer. For the event, Shanti Ashram coined the theme ‘Violence, stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDS,’ aimed at: building peace between HIV/AIDS individuals and the community, creating awareness on how to live with HIV/AIDS, empowering students on the importance of building peace and strengthening unity in the community as well as creating awareness on the importance of the International Day of Peace.
Through the session it was revealed that individuals or families infected with HIV/AIDS face various forms of violence from the community including: stereotyping, exclusion, and denial of employment among others. It was noted that most of the citizens in India still perceive HIV/AIDS as a curse and one who has encountered it should spend his/her remaining days in seclusion. Led by G.Vijayaragavan, Head, Youth Leadership Program, Shanti Ashram, facilitators took the participants through panel discussions on Stigma and discrimination and peace building in the society. Students were taught on the different types of violence in the community and the role of children and youth in curbing it.
Students pledged to support the International Day of Peace so as to build a sustainable world for children to live in.
Voices from the young leaders:
“Since 2011 onwards I am doing social works through NSS program, today I have learned new things on spreading inner peace and outer peace to the world. I have also understood the ways of living with HIV/AIDS.” – Ms.Vinothini, Guest faculty, Kongunadu Arts and Science College.
“It’s an eye opener to us to learn and understand that people with HIV/AIDS are just normal only that they have some deficiency in their immune system. Anyone can get infected and it is up to each one of us to protect themselves. We also need to create awareness to our friends and the society by using social media as a tool to spread peace and teach each other.” – Mr. Manikandan, Student, Kongunadu Arts and Science College.