Monday, 27 April 2009

World Peace Initiative

The following from The Daily Telegraph is a heart-warming story of one person's courage and ability, not only to forgive but to want an end to humanity's addiction to the use of violence in resolving conflicts.

Her initiative deserves the support of every thinking person but not, I believe by attending the 'event' in Trafalgar Square but by sitting quietly for ten minutes each day to create spiritual light within your mind. Once you become aware of that light, imagine it being projected towards a single individual who is in a position of power. Focus on one individual, say Benjamin Netanyahu or Osama Bin Laden, for one week, then switch to someone else for another week and so on.

I believe the power of the light of the spirit works best when the focus is tight. To focus generally on say Al Qaeda or World Peace is too general and the light will be dissipated.

Should it be considered silly or na├»ve to expect to bring world conflict to an end? With this pre-emptive question, Gill Hicks, who lost both legs below the knee in the July 7 bombings, launches a peace initiative next week that asks people to “draw a line” on conflict, on a festering rift or a stand-off, and start afresh – not only renewing themselves but doing their bit for wider harmony.

She has good reason to believe in the transforming power of individual actions. The terrorist attack four years ago almost killed her. Three times her heart stopped. If it hadn’t been for a chain of rescuers, each one refusing to give up on her after she was pulled from the burning carriage – too disfigured for them to know if she was a man or a woman – she would not have come through. To be alive is miraculous enough; to be so joyously alive is something else.

“Through my own experience,” she says, “I have learnt how precious life is. It takes great inner strength and courage to be the person who says, ‘Enough, let’s stop’ or ‘Let’s find a way other than violence’. I’m not Mother Teresa. I’m not an activist. I have no experience of peace-building. But I am not alive without conditions: I have to try to make a difference.”

She reveals her prosthetic legs, defiantly sheathed in zany black-and-white socks and gold trainers. “We have to make peace real, something you do, because this [she jabs her legs] is the product of the world of unrest that mustn’t happen again.”
Hicks has a funny-peculiar relationship with her legs, as though they are brilliant, wayward children and she never quite knows what they will do next. At night, they are just stumps – “my boys”, she calls them affectionately. But by day, extended by titanium rods, they are capable of astounding things.

Last summer, they took her from Leeds to London, a “Talkwalk” initiative to bring people of different backgrounds together – Leeds being the city from which most of the bombers came. Her prosthetist doubted such a feat was possible – he’d never had a double amputee wanting to walk 270 miles – but designed a pair of special suspension poles. They bounced her along at a cracking pace. “Can’t stop! Talk among yourselves!” she’d call out, leaving other walkers trailing in her wake.
On the last lap, the stumps became excruciatingly blistered but she made it to the finish at Trafalgar Square. The prosthetist came out from the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, and advised alternately plunging them into hot and then ice-cold water. “It was hysterical,” she recalls. “I was sticking my stumps into each bucket for two minutes and thinking: this is how it feels to be an athlete. Champagne buckets were all the hotel had.”

Conversations with Hicks soon veer towards hilarity. From the moment she regained consciousness in the mangled carriage somewhere between King’s Cross and Russell Square, and decided this was not where she wanted to die, she has rejected victimhood and found humour in unpromising places. “I never compare the old life and the new,” she says. “Life Two is so extraordinary, so unpredictable, that I never wake up thinking: I can’t be arsed. I am too busy celebrating being alive.”
In 2006, she became ambassador for the charity Peace Direct and later an advocate for Leonard Cheshire Disability. She was awarded the MBE earlier this year and was named both Australian of the Year and Australian Woman of the Year in the UK. Mad (Making a Difference) for Peace is her latest conduit for change. On May 8, she invites people to “draw a line” – human lines or graphic ones – for peace and positive action.

“It is a symbol that change starts from within,” she says, “and that we can all shape the world around us. Inherently, we are better than the way we behave.”
With that, she abandons her walking stick, marches across a London street and unself-consciously dances with a lamp post, her shadow making a line on the pavement.

Gill Hicks and artists will be drawing lines for peace in Trafalgar Square on the morning of May 8. Email your Draw a Line pictures and story via

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