Linked with The Bhagavad Gita – Part Three.
She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
Savitri MacCuish, born in Scotland in 1959, lives in the Netherlands as the founder and director of the World Peace Flame Foundation and Life Foundation International. She has pioneered unique detraumatization programs in crisis areas and teaches practical peacemaking techniques in workshops all over the world. In 1999, she was the driving force behind the creation of the eternal World Peace Flame (WPF), lit by peacemakers from five continents. The WPF burns in monuments in cities around the world. In 2004, it brought together ambassadors from every country to sign a statement for peace. There is one key event that moved Savitri MacCuish to become the sensitive peacemaker she is today, without fear to face the suffering of people wherever she is confronted with it: One day in 1994 she was driving in war-torn Bosnia, working for the British non-governmental organization (NGO) Life Foundation. She was stopped by a group of old women in black who stood in the middle of the road and stared at her, not saying a word. One woman came to the open window of the van, which was loaded with aid material … (1000peacewomen 1/2).
Savitri MacCuish is Global Ambassador of Peace, international speaker, retreat leader and author, Savitri trains people in business and organisations around the world in authentic leadership and management skills. As one of the pioneers of the Dru’s war-zone detraumatisation work, Savitri has seen much suffering in the world. Her search for an authentic symbol of hope and peace has led her to become the prime instigator of the World Peace Flame and she is now Director of the World Peace Flame Foundation and Dru Netherlands. (on her Homepage).
She says: “Peace cannot be delegated! It begins with you and me, and the choices we make today. (1000peacewomen).
Savitri MacCuish – Netherlands
Her book: Guide to Personal Freedom: Nine key principles for inner transformation, by Savitri MacCuish and Anita Goswami, Paperback 100p ISBN 90-805999-7-2 – This book is a treasure trove of practical advice, techniques and wisdom; a guide to your personal freedom. Savitri and Anita share nine important principles and techniques to re-create and nurture you, to redirect your life, to make it an expression of an inner revolution that is necessary to meet the new challenges in life … (full text).
(on 1000peacewomen 2/2): … Savitri offered her food and seeds for planting, but there was no reaction, no thanks. Savitri could hardly stand her glance any more and felt like panicking. Suddenly it came like a flash to her mind: “What if this were my mother?” In that moment something changed, “Then I looked straight into her eyes, straight at her pain,” Savitri says. “It was a healing moment. I realized that you can heal people simply by not being afraid to be with their pain.” Still silent, the old women started patting Savitri’s hand.
Savitri MacCuish calls this moment a “turning point” in her life, although she had been working with traumatized people for years. Before that she travelled the world, training horses to Olympic standard and later studying management training and working as a successful businesswoman in the USA and Middle East. In 1986, at the age of 27, she returned to her home country, Scotland. “All the money could not buy what I was looking for. At the end of the day there was a big empty space. Something was missing.”
What she was missing Savitri found first in her work with women survivors of incest and rape and later with the North Wales based Life Foundation. This non-governmental peace-making organization works in the daily life of war zones to promote the use of self-help approaches for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. The Life Foundation is guided by the motto, “Transform the world by giving people the tools to transform themselves,” and is inspired by the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi.
Savitri started to develop techniques that most peacemaking efforts do not provide, including self-help tools that enable people to transform painful emotions into personal empowerment and creativity, and to build their sense of self-worth and confidence: “All human beings disagree, but it is when the emotions get in the way that disagreements – from family arguments to national wars- become so difficult to solve.”
Savitri began working in the war and crisis areas of the 1990s, and the program has included the Balkan states, North Caucasus, Sudan, South Africa, Northern Ireland and more recently Nepal. A main focus is to train and support aid workers, local peace workers and community leaders suffering from burn-out.
Savitri felt strongly that once people’s basic needs were met – such as food, shelter and medical care –there was still a glaring hole: “After the bombs had stopped, many people were still at risk of dying through lack of hope.” Her focus became to help people find the purpose and strength to rebuild their lives, to heal them both as individuals and as a society.
In one seven-day seminar in Bosnia, where people from all the hostile groups met, the tension was high until one Muslim woman started telling her story. After the immense trauma of losing her son in the war against the Serbs, she was sitting one day on the beach gazing out to sea, absentmindedly allowing the sand to slip through her fingers. Suddenly she realized that she was holding a shell. In tears, she related an experience that had changed her life: as the ocean gently touched her feet and she looked at the shell, she realized that this same ocean connected her with the children of Africa, and all the world. The same water that was touching her feet would also be touching theirs. In that moment she knew that there were children who needed her, and that her life still had meaning.
This story built bridges. A Serb women went up and embraced her and they cried together, meeting as two mothers. “This was one of the most powerful moments,” Savitri says, “because they realized that love and pain are the same regardless of all political differences.”
Experiences like this made Savitri think about the power of symbols. In 1999, Savitri and a small group of her Life Foundation colleagues were sitting up late one night talking about their work and how to really give people what they need. The result of this night of discussions was to be the World Peace Flame. In only a few weeks, Savitri and the team organized the lighting of seven flames of peace by eminent peacemakers on five continents, and mobilized military air forces and commercial airlines to fly these Flames to North Wales where they were united into one eternal World Peace Flame. It is testament to Savitri’s dedication and vision that such a feat could be achieved, for the first time in history.
The World Peace Flame is now the symbol of hope that accompanies Savitri around the world. “The Flame helps me to explain to people the side of life that many do not connect with so easily: it is a universal symbol that is accepted by people of all different faiths and social backgrounds, and it is there to remind them of the invincibility of the human spirit.”
Based in the Netherlands, Savitri is Director of Life Foundation International and its sister organization and registered charity, the World Peace Flame Foundation. She is increasingly reaching out to people from all walks of life: not only the refugees and survivors of violence she started working with, but also people with more access to global opinion and decision making: politicians and diplomats, progressive business leaders, and even Hollywood stars and international religious leaders. And in a new project, Savitri reaches out to the peacemakers of the future with an Education Program for Schools.
The World Peace Flame burns eternally in monuments at the Peace Palace, home of the International Court of Justice, in The Hague (the Netherlands), in Memphis (USA), in Snowdonia National Park (United Kingdom), and in Sydney (Australia). Monuments are being planned in Berlin (Germany), Brugge (Belgium), Venlo (the Netherlands), Glasgow (UK) and Hanoi (Vietnam).
On 27 April 2004, Savitri realized one of her greatest dreams and once again made history: She brought Ambassadors of every single country of the world together to endorse a Statement for Peace. Each Ambassador also gave a special stone from their country to symbolize their hope for peace, and these were placed in a beautiful pathway around the World Peace Flame Monument in The Hague.
At the inauguration of the World Peace Flame Pathway, Savitri MacCuish explained her vision: “The power humanity is discovering lies within the power of cooperation, unity, and friendship. It lies in dedicating its actions to the generations of the future rather than the gain of our present. It lies in understanding that peace cannot be delegated, but rather starts with you and me and the choices we make today.”
More than 10 million people burn the World Peace Flame in their homes, workplaces or communities, and peace groups have been formed in several countries to take the work forward on a local level.
One of Savitri’s strongest motivations comes from her childhood. She was born to a poor farming family on the west coast of Scotland in 1959. Their house was on the route to the island of Iona and German tourists would often stop to ask the way. When Savitri’s father invited them in for a cup of tea, her brother reacted angrily: “How can you do that?” He knew that his father had been detained in a German concentration camp in Dachau during the Second World War. Her father explained that of course there were Germans responsible for mistreatment in the camp, but also others who, at great personal risk, smuggled in food for the detainees. These meager rations kept them alive. “Never judge a nation on the action of a few,” he told the children.
Savitri never forgot this message of peace and tolerance, and she strongly believes that everybody can do something to build peace in the world, “as long as they are not paralyzed by the bad news and hopelessness in the media.”
Asked for the source of her own inner flame to take the peace work forward from year to year, Savitri MacCuish answers: “It is the faith in life and humanity. I am an optimist. And I never give up.” (1000peacewomen).
The Life Foundation;
World peace flame to burn in National Park, January 30, 2003;