Darine Abdulkarim is Generation Change fellow and a medical doctor from Sudan who works on the physical and psychological rehabilitation of internally displaced women and their reintegration into society. She is one of 25 young civil society leaders from a dozen nations facing violent conflict whom USIP gathered in 2017 for training and mentorship with the Nobel peace laureate and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. In recent years, USIP and the Dalai Lama have joined to strengthen such young leaders, recognizing the outsized role that youth can play in halting the world’s violent upheaval and warfare, which is concentrated in countries with relatively young populations.
Darine describes her experience in the essay below:
Inside the Dalai Lama's compound in Dharamsala, along with 24 other youth leaders from different countries, religions, ethnicities and cultures, I sat in a circle with the world's most iconic figure of peace. It was a gathering that no words can justly describe. For me, it was nothing short of a healing experience. Most of us openly shared our most painful stories and engaged with the Dalai Lama in a dialogue about loss, resilience and inner peace.
I was very excited to be given the opportunity to participate in the 2017 USIP Youth Leaders’ Exchange. Before taking part in the program, I was fascinated that a globally influential religious leader was so keen to reach out to young peace builders around the world, but after meeting him I realized that he prioritizes interacting with youth and finds the younger generation to be a key element in peace restoration.
As we started to share our stories, the Dalai Lama listened carefully, sympathized and reflected back on his own traumatic experiences. Sometimes he gave answers but other times he told us that it's us who have the answers to our own problems, conflicts and insecurities.
In Sudan, I work on the rehabilitation of women and girls who have survived the trauma of armed conflict. They are usually people who have lost their homes and families and, on top of that, most were subjected to sexual exploitation. I'm always faced with the challenge of helping those victims process their suffering. So, it resonated deeply with me when the Dalai Lama said, "There are going to be sufferings in life. The question is not how do I escape? It is how can I use this as something positive?"
He also said, "Violence leads to more violence, if you want to build, you must be committed to non-violence," which is a universal truth that conflicting parties who are claiming to seek peace need to acknowledge.
Finding Peace to Make Peace
“Only through compassion and inner peace, can one spread peace in the world. Inner peace leads to a peaceful individual and then this peaceful individual can build a peaceful family, then a peaceful community, then a peaceful world," the Dalai Lama told us. Those words have changed me. I am often labeled as a "change-maker" and throughout the years I viewed change as a vigorous, painful and emotionally draining process. But there was I sitting a few steps away from a nation's leader who lived most of his life in exile and still believed that change comes from a place of compassion and inner peace.
I learned to become compassionate with myself when I fail to deliver results or when the impact I'm looking for seems to be taking a little bit longer to come to fruition. The Dalai Lama taught us how to adjust our attitudes toward our surroundings. This was reinforced for me when I read in his book, The Book of Joy, that peace builders should "seek to be an oasis of care and concern as you live your life."
I was deeply impacted by that week I spent in Dharamsala and I will forever cherish the memories I have of the Dalai Lama, young Tibetan monks and my fellow participants.
Other reflections in this series:
- My Generation Will Bring Peace to the World
South Sudan’s Aluel Atem created a women’s development organization, Crown the Woman-South Sudan, and helps other civil society organizations advocating for women and children’s rights.
- A Young Refugee Reflects on Meeting the Dalai Lama
Mahmoud Khalil, a refugee living in Lebanon, is a Syrian-Palestinian-Algerian student majoring in computer science and working with an international education-focused NGO called Jusoor. He was a key member of a team of young people that founded an innovative education program for out-of-school Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.
- Letter from Erbil: The Dalai Lama's Message for Iraq
Lourd Hanna, an Iraqi health sciences graduate, co-founded a youth-led organization that works to heal divisions among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian communities. Lourd, a member of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic minority, lives in Erbil, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.