My journey has taken me many places, both on the inner realms and out in the world. This includes a special annual trip to Australia, where another chapter was written in September.
My sacred journey of forgiveness started with the tragic violent murder of my only son Tariq on January 21, 1995. Next January marks the 20th anniversary of this life-changing event. Seeing that there were victims at both ends of the gun, I made the decision to forgive my son’s killer, and nine months after his passing I founded the Tariq Khamisa Foundation and reached out to Ples Felix, the grandfather and guardian of the young man who took Tariq’s life.
Ples and I are still together and have collectively given over a 1,000 grade school presentations and reached over a million children live. We have over 100,000 letters from kids who have been impacted by our message of empathy, compassion, forgiveness and peacemaking. In addition, I speak frequently to university students and adults at various conferences, both domestically and internationally, teaching the principles of nonviolence and peacemaking. Needless to say in the world we live today where violence is rampant and on the increase this message is important, urgent and timely.
Each year Ples and I visit Australia. We just returned from a two-week trip to Perth and Adelaide where we gave presentations at seven secondary schools impacting 1,500 students. I also gave a community talk on the topic of my third book “The Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit – How to Bounce Back from Life’s Hardest Hits.” Ples spoke at these events and helped set the stage for my talk. The message has never failed – given to young or old, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist or other faiths, rich or poor, black or white, male or female. It resonates with all irrespective of their nationalities or circumstance. Another incredible experience was speaking at a detention center, the Covan Training Center. Ples and I talked with 60 here: 20 staff and 40 kids (36 boys and 4 girls). The kids paid rapt attention and had many questions. Every one of them came and shook our hands. We later learned from staff that they had never experienced such a talk before. I spoke at length with the director of the facility and there is hope of bringing the CANEI program in the detention center if the politics can be navigated. We could have stayed another hour, but we had to make another meeting at the Attorney Generals’ office.
In the recent trip to Australia, while all the presentations were extremely well received, there is one experience that really surprised me:
I had the opportunity for the first time to teach “Spiritual Resiliency” to teenagers. It was extremely well received. There were some 80 high school girls from seven schools who joined me at Seymour College. The host there is the brilliant Service Director and a great fan of ours: Lynne Moten. (She is quoted in the next article.) She organized and introduced this talk.
I told the girls here: “I wish I knew what I know today when I was their age.” My life would have been much different, and I would have made better choices. With this new talk I hope to reach more teenagers who are our future leaders. (Comments from two of the attendees Alexandra and Dharini are in the below article.)
It’s humbling to look at the big picture sometimes. About 20 years ago when I made the decision to forgive Tony the murderer of my son and start the Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF.org), I had no clue of the impact this decision would have. In those years, there have been four books, including the recent “From Fulfillment to Peace” (in which Tony wrote the foreword), the founding of the CANEI (Constant and Never Ending Improvement) program, which is an intervention program where we work with youthful offenders and turn them around, Forgiveness “Train the Trainer” workshops for social workers, clerics and other victim supporters, a corporate workshop for management teams to transform conflict into unity, and over 500 keynote speeches reaching millions of adults and children on the topic of non-violence. In November 2012 I took the position of President with the Child Safety Network (CSN.org) founded by my good friend Ward Leber. Our collective vision in the ensuing year is to develop a national and international center for child safety where parents can go and get all the resources they need to raise healthy, successful and safe children.
So what is most exciting for me is that the work done by TKF, CANEI and CSN and the many talks and workshops I do on a regular basis carries the principles of empathy, compassion, forgiveness and peacemaking. These are principles that are not only teachable, but the audiences are hungry for them! And this includes our younger audiences who are going to be the future leaders.
My vision is a world where we create a 1000 Gandhi’s and a 1000 Martin Luther King’s so that they can promote these principles of nonviolence on a global basis. With these principles living in the mainstream, surely war will become obsolete.
Please join the movement I joined 20 years ago, through a decision of forgiveness, by espousing these principles of nonviolence … thus creating peace within yourselves, your families, your workplace, your communities and in our global village.
Azim N. Khamisa
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