Ms. Dena Merriam
Vice-Chair, Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious & Spiritual Leaders
“Namaste. I’ll be brief because I know that we all need to go get some refreshments, but first I want to express my deepest gratitude to Amma for having taken birth at this moment in time when the world so desperately needs Her love. I also want to express my gratitude for all of the beautiful chelas [disciples] that She has given birth to, who can be expressions of Her love around the world. They say that you know the Guru by the chelas, and Amma these chelas are like many moons reflecting Your love, so thank You. And I want to express gratitude to my Mother India for having given to the world such a one as Amma.
“When I began working in the Millennium World Peace Summit to bring religious leaders to the United Nations, I travelled around the world with Bawa Jain and met many religious leaders, but I noticed that the voices of women were absent, and I noticed that the concerns and perspectives of women were absent. And I saw that this was tremendous imbalance that was causing enormous suffering in the world and this had to be corrected.
“So after that major event, we went back to the secretary general of the United Nations, His Excellency Kofi Annan, and asked him if we could arrange another meeting for women religious leaders so that we could create a global platform for these women. He gave us his blessing and graciously offered us the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in Geneva, and I began planning that event.
“Well I had no idea at that time what an enormous challenge this would be because all of the doors that opened to us for the Summit, closed when I went back to ask for the women. Again and again, I heard, ‘Women are not a high priority for us. The mother’s of the human community are not a high priority.’
Well, it was a enormous challenge, and there came a point when I said to Bhagavan, ‘Maybe you’ve chosen the wrong chela for this task, maybe I’m not up to it. Who am I but just a mother?’ I had this thought with me and it was much later I realized that that was the point: I am just a mother, but the world does not yet know the power of a mother’s love.
“For her children, a mother will move mountains. As mothers, we can move mountains. As mothers, we must. If the human community is to survive, if our Mother Earth is to survive, we must begin to come together and have our mother’s love lead the way. There was a time in organizing this global peace initiative when I felt like a pregnant woman in her eighth month who suddenly decides she can’t go through with the birth, but there is no choice, there’s no going back.
“It was at that moment Bawa said to me, ‘Amma’s in New York. Let’s go see Amma.’ I had met Amma before but at this moment it was a different meeting. I didn’t express to Her the challenges, but a transmission took place, a transformation took place. And I am ever grateful because it was that transformation that enable me to move forward and enabled our Global Peace Initiative in Geneva to be the success that it was.
“Because what I tapped into was the Mother’s love, was the Mother’s power, was the Mother’s energy, and I knew that no force could stop us. So we gathered in Geneva from all over the world and the women made a commitment to form a global network of women peacemakers to help in the healing of the planet, to help in the transformation of conflict, in the healing of communities post-conflict and the healing of the earth that is being destroyed.
“It’s been one year, and we’ve already had groups go into Rwanda to work with the widows left from that Holocaust. We’ve had groups go into Afghanistan to help the women develop business skills. I’ve been to Cambodia and Bosnia and sat with the women and I’ve heard their deep, deep sorrow. But most of all, we are focusing on the Middle East because the Middle East, the people there are worn and tired and that conflict could engulf the world.
“It was in Geneva that a group of women from Palestine and Israel called us desperately. They stood up and said, ‘Won’t anybody come help us?’ So I pledged that we would. We called a group of women together, Palestinian and Israeli women, to Oslo in June, and we began our initiative, the Women’s Partnership for Peace in the Middle East. It was a very difficult meeting. For four days they moved through anger to sorrow to the beginnings of hope. They began angry at each other, finger-pointing who’s fault it was, who started the conflict—loud words, loud voices. And then they moved to tears, and they told, Israeli women told what it was like to send their children out, not knowing if they would come back because of suicide bombers. The Palestinian women told what it was like to have no country, to have no land, not to be able to travel from one village to the next to see their families, to be victims of the violence.
“After a period of time, there was one Palestine woman who was telling her story, she worked with UNICEF, works with the children throughout Palestine. And as she started describing the plight of the children, she began to cry. Another Palestinian woman spontaneously began to sing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ I don’t know if you all know that anthem. It was the anthem sung by Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. All of the Israeli and Palestinian women joined her in chanting this song, as did the European and American women. That was a transforming moment, just like my moment with Amma before the Global Peace Initiative was a transforming moment, because after that, they saw each other, not as enemies, but as allies on the road to peace. Who was the enemy? Not each other-it was violence that was the enemy.
“They ended with hugs, Amma’s hugs. So a gathering that had begun with tremendous anger ended with deep bonds. The Palestinian and Israeli women went back to begin to organize their communities. Their goal is to call out a million women around the world to stand with them against violence.
“Yesterday, Bawa mentioned that we had just come from Israel and Palestine. Before we left, there was an outbreak of violence: two suicide bombings in Israel and encroachment by the Israel military into Palestine. Everyone in the US told us not to go; the United States government cautioned us not to go. Every day I was getting urgent emails from the Palestinian and Israeli women, ‘You must come, it’s more important than ever. Please don’t cancel on us.’
“The night before I left I wrote back to them, and I said, ‘We are coming, and we are coming with an army of angels.’ You are that army of angels.
“I have come Amma to lay at Your feet, the tears of the Palestinian and Israeli people. They are worn; they are tired; they want to find a way to end the cycle of violence. It is all that I can do but offer these children at Your feet. And I implore You, on their behalf, to come with us when we return to walk through the streets of Amallah and Jerusalem and to shed Your love on them, because I know that only that love can bring them the peace they yearn for.
“And I have said to the Palestinian women, ‘We will come stand with you, but then I will ask you to come stand with us when we go to Tibet and to Kashmir and to Iraq. Because we will go to all those places, no place will be forgotten. Wherever there is sorrow and trauma, women will come, the mothers will come to bring their love, and to awaken that love in the men and women who live there.
“I want to just close by saying to my brothers, I have seen many men with the love of the mother, and I have seen many women with no mother’s love in them. So I know that what we are called to do, each one of us, men and women alike, is to awaken that Mother within us. This is not a gender issue. Is that correct, Amma?
“I know that we have a lot of work to do, and I don’t think we have enough years left to do it. And I’m sure this will take more than one lifetime, but I am so grateful to be here with all of you, asking for your blessings and for your accompaniment as we go to the places of suffering around the world. Be with us. If you can’t be with us in the body, please be with us in your prayers and your spirit. Thank you.”