Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Resisting revenge over the Bali Bombings

A terrorism victim seeks to stop the cycle of violence

On the day after the 2002 bombing in the tourist district of Kuta on the island of Bali, Hayati Eka Laksmi received a call from the representative of a car rental firm. The car her husband had rented with some friends had been caught in traffic in the nearby tourist district of Kuta and a bomb had exploded just three vehicles away.

Eka had already heard about the bombing, which took the lives of 202 people and injured another killing 240, but it never crossed her mind that her husband could have been affected. Her initial horror that a group could perpetrate such an attack in the name of Islam gave way to personal grief. She began a frantic search for information, trying to find out if her husband was still alive.

It took seven days before Eka found her husband’s body lying in a mortuary. “I had to identify his body based on marks pointed out by the forensic team and through DNA testing,” said Eka. “I was deeply shocked when it was confirmed that ‘Mr. X’ in Bag Number 145 was the body of my husband.”

The loss of her husband left Eka to bring up her two young sons on her own. “I relied on my husband’s income. My two boys were very young at the time, two and three years old. We were all deeply affected. I became traumatized and depressed.”

Eka noticed that her children were also becoming angry, sad and sometimes aggressive. On the first anniversary of the bombing, she felt that she must do something to move her family out of the grief into which they had sunk.

For six months, Eka received counseling from at a non-governmental organization that actively helps survivors and victims’ families. Once she completed therapy, the organization asked her to start working for them, which allowed her to earn money. Like many women affected by terrorism, she had lost the household’s main breadwinner, and struggled to keep the family going economically. With the help of her mother, she opened a small shop selling domestic goods like sugar, coffee and gas.

Once she had resolved the most pressing needs of everyday life, Eka turned to the emotional needs of her children, taking them to counseling. She recognized that many families were going through the same trauma, and decided to bring friends who had also lost relatives in the bombings to counseling as well.

Gradually, Eka helped create a network of victims called Isana Dewata (Wives Husbands Children of Victims of the Bali Bombings). Through discussion and mutual support, victims were able to find the strength and spirit to overcome their hardships and turn their grief into positive action. The group now consists of 22 families, including 47 children.

The Bali bombings killed people from 22 countries around the world and from several different religions.

Eka recently travelled to Vienna for the Mothers MOVE conference, organized by SAVE-Sisters Against Violent Extremism, the world’s first female counter-terrorism platform. SAVE aims to break through barriers of nationalism, religion and ethnicity to create a global network of women dedicated to ending violent extremism, and to highlight the voices of victims to expose the human cost of terrorism.

In Vienna, Eka joined women from Nigeria, Yemen, Egypt, Pakistan, Palestine, Israel and Northern Ireland, all of whom have lost relatives to terrorism or who are working actively to counter violent extremism. Eka shared her own story and learned from the experiences of others. Over the three days, the women built up an intimate trust. They gained inspiration from each other’s stories and recognized that even across cultures, the pain a mother feels on losing a husband or child is the same.

Eka recognizes that a mother’s influence is very important: “Mothers are the basis of the family. [A mother] can give her children direction. Those children who were affected by the Bali bombing might have anger in their hearts. Mothers can explain to them that it is no good to seek revenge. Through cooperation with other mothers, women can better support their children.”

“My children’s lives were changed because of cowards who acted in the name of religion, but these bombings are not about religion,” Eka adds. “Islam does not teach us to kill each other. Religion is a basic need, and it is my foundation for life. I have learned to appreciate the blessings that God has given to us and accept all of this with a sincere heart and without a grudge against anyone, not even against the terrorists who killed my husband.”

By Helen Thompson Information Officer for SAVE-Sisters Against Violent Extremism, the world’s first female anti-terrorism platform. SAVE functions as a strategic platform to promote women's voices and victims’ testimonials in international security, counter-terrorism and peacebuilding debates. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

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